The nation's largest federation of labor unions is planning a series of events around the country aimed at forcing candidates to address the offshoring of American jobs.
Billed as America Wants to Work, the AFL-CIO's campaign will kick off on Friday in Milwaukee, Wis., where Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) is scheduled to join members of the United Auto Workers union in a show of support for padlock manufacturer Master Lock for its role in employing local workers. Baldwin is a candidate for a Senate seat.
The labor federation will put on another event criticizing corporate labor practices in Allentown, Penn., on Friday, when a local T-Mobile call center will close, eliminating 600 jobs. The company has said it is consolidating 24 call centers into 17; the AFL-CIO claims the jobs will be relocated in the Philippines and Latin America.
In all, the AFL-CIO hopes to host nearly a hundred events around the country by mid-July, praising certain politicians while criticizing others, said spokeswoman Amaya Tune.
Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's government affairs director, said the campaign's primary goal is to highlight a persistent economic problem while showing support for a bill addressing outsourcing sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and backed by President Barack Obama. Samuel acknowledged that the campaign dovetails with efforts by Democrats and unions to paint GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as having been a job outsourcer while at private equity firm Bain Capital.
"It's a very clear contrast not just with Romney but with Republican economics," Samuel said. "They really don't have any policy or prescription for outsourcing. They think the free market will solve all of our problems."
Stabenow's bill would provide a tax break for an American company that brings overseas jobs back to the United States, while eliminating a tax deduction for expenses incurred when a business moves positions out of the country. The bill will probably arrive at the Senate floor sometime after the July 4 holiday recess.
The White House laid out a similar proposal after the president's State of the Union speech earlier this year. "Moving jobs is not something we should be subsidizing," Gene Sperling, director of the president's National Economic Council, told reporters in January.
"The companies have a right to do it, but that doesn't mean we should subsidize it," Sperling said. Saying he wanted to discourage outsourcing while rewarding "insourcing," the president proposed a 20 percent income tax credit for companies that return previously outsourced jobs to the States.
Next week, the AFL-CIO will host outsourcing-themed rallies in Portland, Ore. as well as in San Diego, Calif., the site of the next round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
"With the president making it part of his to-do list and the Senate taking it up, it's the perfect time for us to call attention to this problem and build a campaign around it," Samuel said. "And it's helpful that it comes around Independence Day. We do consider it the patriotic duty for companies to do what they can to bring jobs home."