Last month brought welcome news for former Wood-Mode employees. The Patriot News reported that Wood-Mode had rehired more workers, bringing the total to 240 — a number Bill French, the new owner, hopes to increase to 500 in the near future. In September, The Daily Item also reported that all 938 former employees are now eligible for assistance under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Program participants receive help with job training, applications, family relocation and income support. By late September, 180 workers had found other employment. This is celebratory news for a dedicated workforce that has seen too little good news lately. Yet, two lingering issues require further attention: trade policy and workers’ rights.
The petition filed on behalf of employees for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program states the company’s reason for closure as cheap competition from countries like China and Vietnam. This is precisely the challenge that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) intended to address. A landmark agreement between the United States and 11 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, TPP would have created an integrated trading market twice the size of the EU. More importantly, TPP excluded China, making its admittance contingent upon improving labor standards and ending unfair practices like forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft. In 2017, the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, dealing it a serious blow — and handing China an opportunity to bend global trade policy to its own goals.