PARMA, Ohio – At a town hall meeting held in the community center of this Cleveland suburb, Tom Frisbie, president of Cleveland’s AFL-CIO, denounced the loss of 766,000 jobs since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“This loss of jobs will escalate many times if the Free Trade Area of the Americas is passed,” said Frisbie, who is also district president of the Machinists Union. The FTAA would cover 34 countries, causing further bleeding of jobs in the machine tool and other industries, he said. Corporations move to Mexico only to leave for greener pastures in other countries. “There is no end to corporate greed,” he concluded.

Amy Hanauer, from Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit policy research organization, reported that 185,000 Ohio jobs were lost between March 2001 and March 2003, including 118,000 in manufacturing. “Unemployment spiked more than 51 percent in Ohio since Bush took office,” she said.

In January, 600 Ohio machinists lost their jobs when their plant closed and moved out of the country.

Tony Panzo, a third-generation LTV steelworker from Parma, said he and his brother both lost their jobs in November 2002 when their mill closed down. “We cannot give up. We can and are fighting back,” Panzo said, describing the fight which led to saving 33 percent of the jobs at the former LTV plant. The entire community rallied around those not called back to the steel plant in a “largely successful fight to find jobs for our people. We must continue to carry on that fight until we turn this loss of jobs around,” he said.

John Jamison, from Parma’s Tax Collection Department, detailed the devastation suffered by whole communities when manufacturing plants move out. “Wealthy people vote to elect people who work in their interests. Workers must vote to protect their jobs and families,” he said.

Ohio State Representative Gene DePiero (D-Parma) lauded the unions and their coalition partners who forced the Ohio Prescription Drug Fair Pricing Act on an otherwise hostile Republican-controlled state government. The drug bill is the best in the country, and “the first thing we won for a long time” from a “government working for a right-wing program,” he said.

Rally speaker Anna Carney, a high school student, said she hopes for a future where she and her generation can find work. Bruce Bostick, USWA staff and organizer for the town hall meeting, said, “President Bush is trying to jam through FTAA. The best solution for the FTAA problem is to put Bush on the unemployment line in 2004!”

In a written message, local congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich described NAFTA, FTAA, and the WTO as “beyond improvement or amendment. They should all be scrapped.” The message continued, “Saving jobs and the economy is not possible as long as these statutes and corporate organizations exist.”

According to literature distributed at the rally, busloads of workers will be transported to Miami to give the WTO a “proper greeting” on Nov. 20.

The rally was called by a coalition that includes the newly-created Industrial Union Council, and the Cleveland chapters of the Fair Trade Coalition, AFL-CIO, Jobs With Justice, United Labor Agency, Americans for Democratic Action, Inter-Religious Task Force for Central America, Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, and the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club. Fifteen members of the United Auto Workers were also in the standing room only crowd, brought to the meeting by Linda Romanek, their assistant sub-district director.

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