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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Organized Labor Should Ratify Great Lakes Fisheries

As I've been poring over newspaper articles and other traditional news reports for the past several months regarding the Asian Carp invasion of the Great Lakes, I couldn't help but consider the similarities surrounding the potential effects the Asian imports might have on the Great Lakes fisheries and the effects over-advantaged imported goods have had on our national manufacturing industry over the past several decades.

Single Asian Carp found in Chicago-area fish kill
JG Excerpt: (Dec. 3, 2009)
Environmentalists fear that if the silver or bighead species of giant Asian carp reach the lakes they could starve out native fish species and devastate a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry.
Similarly, around thirty years ago, some economists feared that if Asian products and other cheap imported goods were brought into America, whether welcome or not, they could starve out good paying jobs and devastate the $400 billion-a-year American manufacturing industry. Most critics were shouted down as false alarmists and protectionists.

So, I thought about some of the high-handed rhetoric leveled against labor unions over the years and how those themes might relate to this latest threat on the Great Lakes.

Is the Great Lakes Fishery past its usefulness?

Should the government prevent competition from decimating the fishery?

Without government intervention, what effect will global free market fishery imports have on the Great Lakes?

Should Congress legislate "Free Fish Trade Agreements" to sell out Great Lakes fish to foreigners and treat the alien invaders as a commerce opportunity instead of a scourge?

Have Perch, Walleye and Bass priced themselves out of the market?

The black humor and sarcasm here could be endless. But there are plenty of hard truths as well.

The Great Lakes Watershed is probably the last of the late great American manufacturing industries. The lakes manufacture those chunky American Walleyes, Yellow Perch, Lake Trout and Bass just to name a few. Are the fish so underworked and overpaid that they can't compete for their own survival? Of course I realize the obvious inherent and competitive differences between species in nature and man-made products crafted by labor union workers, but at the same time I also see plenty of parallels.

By comparison, the Asian Carp is the "Toyota of the Sea." They are voracious eaters that can apparently out-compete our well-fed and stock-pensioned American fish. Heck, some of our prized domestics swimming the Great Lakes require extensive government welfare (stocking programs, strict fishing regulations, etc.) just to survive, they obviously must be free-loading Socialists. Yikes!
Chicago Tribune Excerpt: (Dennis Byrne) Dec. 8, 2009)
The carp are just one of a long list of "invasive" species that over the years purportedly threatened the Great Lakes ecosystem and fishing industries. Somehow, they have survived. Could the dire predictions about the carp be overstated?
Another blog noted the apparent soft pedaling on the dangers posed by the alien fish by the Chicago media, again reminiscent of the nonchalance by the MSM during the invasion of imported merchandise over the past several decades.

Another scary assumption is: If our defense of the American manufacturing worker is any sign of our resolve to defend future industries from unfair and overly advantaged competitors and commerce, the Great Lakes are doomed.
Highbeam Excerpt: (May 29, 2009)
While the United States was losing 1.4 million manufacturing jobs from 2002 to 2006, China was substantially increasing the number of workers in its manufacturing sector, according to a new report on Chinese manufacturing employment and compensation costs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unfortunately for the American manufacturing worker (also known as the common sucker at election time), nobody decided to do much until after the job-kill was over. After first negotiating our jobs away through ill-conceived trade agreements, Congress has now granted hundreds of millions of dollars to further educate and retrain those losing their job to foreign competition. Of course the educational programs are intended NOT to advantage American workers the ability to compete against the foreign workers that now manufacture most of our consumer goods. Instead the programs are meant to help us compete for jobs against each other. The effects of globalization are relentlessly cruel.

With that said, it does appear like the Great Lakes fisheries are held in a higher regard than our manufacturing industry.
Chicago Tribune Excerpt: (Dec. 22, 2009)
"We don't want to have to look back years later when (Asian carp) have gotten into Lake Michigan and say, 'What was the matter with us? We should have done something,' " Cox said. "Clearly, (closing) the locks are easiest, the most reliable and the most effective steps we can take in short run."
At this point, I do hope the prized fish of the Great Lakes are not trashed on and spit upon like union laborers have been in the past. Which leads to my final point.

I think American labor unions are missing the boat with the Asian Carp invasion of the Great Lakes. It is more my suggestion than an opinion that the AFL-CIO, UAW and other unions should officially identify the Great Lakes fisheries as an American manufacturing sector (Made In America) and union, and stand up in its defense against all enemies. Few know more than labor unions how devastating the high costs and ill effects of imported goods, overly-advantaged competitors and alien invaders are on our economy. This episode should be a great opportunity to relate American labor's plight to the very same dangers the Great Lakes now face. They are one and the same.

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