Smith: ‘Fight back against that corporate culture’

SEATTLE — U.S. Rep. Adam Smith says he supports foreign trade – but not the kind of trade deals he’s asked to vote on in Congress.

AdamSmith3“Good for American business does not mean good for American workers and I represent the American worker,” Smith told more than 50 trade unionists at an Oct. 12 dinner hosted by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 at its Seattle Union Hall.

Union leaders thanked Smith for his support of working people and his opposition to fast-tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Smith’s statements on the trade deal so far have been “the best we have seen from our Congressional delegation,” IAM 751 President Jon Holden said. “We’ve endorsed him and we will support his re-election campaign.”

Speaking to the group of trade unionists – which included members of SPEEA and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades as well as District 751 – Smith touched briefly on the current turmoil in Congress caused by the abrupt announcement of House Speaker John Boehner’s intention to retire.

That has set off a nasty internal fight among Republicans who hold the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, which is just the latest crisis caused by hardline conservatives in the GOP, Smith said.

“The big issue is that a small minority of the Republican majority has hijacked the country,” he said. “We’ve had a whole series of problems.

“I really, really believe we need to change the majority in the U.S. Congress,” he said to applause from the friendly crowd.

Until then, Smith said he and fellow progressives are working on a “straight-forward agenda” in Congress.

“It’s about the middle class. It’s about working people. It’s about income disparity,” he said. “It’s about more than the minimum wage – it’s about wages across the board.”

Smith said he would favor stricter limits on corporate stock buy-backs. Today’s rules allow chief executives and boards of directors at the top of corporations to skim off profits generated by workers “far more than what is healthy for the economy.”

Workforce training and education must also be a part of the solution, but “not everyone is going to be an engineer,” Smith noted. “Not everyone is going to be a genius at software.”

America must take steps to ensure that all working people – from teachers to janitors – have the chance to earn a decent living and enter the middle class, he said.

“Don’t tell me ‘Oh, these are low-skill jobs,’” Smith said. “Why should hard-working people work for minimum wage when pay for CEOs goes up and up and up and up?”

AdamSmith1Smith said he gets frustrated talking to supporters of Wall Street and Big Business who seem to believe that billionaires deserve all the money they have because somehow they are smarter and harder-working than everyone else.

Some billionaires did work hard for their money, he conceded, but then again, “my father took bags on and off airplanes for 32 years,” Smith said. “He worked hard.”

Smith said for him the problem “isn’t about a trade agreement, it’s about what Boeing did to the Machinists here locally. Why wouldn’t (Boeing executives) take care of their workers? There is no good answer to that question, other than they did what they did because they could. They should reward them. Instead, they constantly find ways to undermine their workers.

“The biggest problem we have in this country is that corporations don’t value working people,” Smith said. “We’ve got to fight back against that corporate culture and that way of looking at the world.”

Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 working men and women at 52 employers across Washington and California.

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