You can knock us Americans down, but you can’t keep us down.

For example, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were crashed to the ground on 9/11. But now, a new tower is rising from those very ashes—a soaring steel and glass monument to the American spirit, a powerful symbol of our national resilience.

Well—except for the glass. A company named Beijing Glass got the government contract to provide the window panes that’ll cover the first 20 stories of the tower. Yes, the monument to our national spirit is being sheathed with made-in-China glass.

What? Can’t American’s make glass? Of course we can, but our biggest corporations, like Corning Incorporated and Guardian Industries, have been quietly and quickly moving their production and our jobs to China. In just the past nine years, 30 percent of these jobs have been lost. “Those who’re looking through the rearview mirror waiting for the glass industry to come back,” snorts the chairman of Guardian, “should know it isn’t going to come back.” Indeed, Guardian now employs more workers in its 36 foreign plants than it does here.

U.S. GlassWell, chirp the usual flock of free-trade economists, it’s all about China providing “economies of scale” for manufacturers. Hogwash.

The glass industry’s rush abroad is all about getting cheap labor and massive subsidies from the Chinese government. For example, shipping heavy glass from Beijing to Manhattan would be prohibitively expensive—except that China subsidizes the transportation.

This isn’t free trade, it’s a raw deal. There should be a stiff tariff on all subsidized glass coming from China—and the new World Trade tower is so symbolically important that every inch of it should be American made. For more information, contact the United Steelworkers glass industry department: www.usw.org.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

Jim HightowerBy

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and winner of the 2009 Nation/Puffin Prize. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.