United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard released the following statement last week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that an additional nine Japan-based auto parts producers, along with two executives, pled guilty and agreed to fines of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars for their illegal activities to fix prices on auto parts.
“Today’s announcement is a success in an investigation that has identified broad price-fixing by Japanese auto parts companies that has affected more than 25 million car buyers in the U.S. The Justice Department’s investigation has now netted agreements to plead guilty from 20 companies and more than $1.6 billion in criminal penalties. In addition, 21 executives have been charged with 17 already sentenced to prison.
“But the investigation highlights the broader problem of doing business with Japan, especially its auto and auto parts sector. For decades, they have engaged in exclusionary and illegal trade practices that have kept our exports out of their market and flooded our market with their products. Our largest trade deficit in autos and auto parts is with Japan, a number that grows higher year by year. But, what’s really important is not the size of the trade deficit in that sector, but the pain in terms of lost jobs, shattered dreams and shuttered factories all across America.
“Today’s announcement may be celebrated by the prosecutors, but it only adds to the concerns of workers who see the Administration embracing Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Japan cheats, it’s that simple. We do not want the trade negotiations to grease the way for Japan’s auto and auto parts companies to capture more of our market and jeopardize more U.S. jobs. In coming days, some will try to promote Justice’s actions as proof that they will be tough on Japan but real action on Japan’s currency manipulation, its predatory and illegal trade practices will have to take place before those arguments will have any resonance.
“The fines may penalize the companies and the executives, but they do not compensate their victims. The money the government collects should be used to restore production, rehire those who have suffered and refund the excess prices consumers have had to pay. I expect that the penalties being paid would only cover a fraction of the pain that has been felt.
“The proper approach would be to require Japan to clean up its act and earn the right to be a preferred trade partner. The lesson of today’s action should not be to reward them after they have been found to have damaged our producers, their employees and the communities in which they operate and live.”
The USW represents 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It is the largest private-sector union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.