Union leaders are against President Obama's trade bill because they are fearful that increases in wages and employment in the export and foreign trade sectors will further diminish the role of unions and the huge salaries and many perks they receive. Those established trade unions carry heavy weight, and in some cases the key vote, in many 'blue' states.

The key reason that trade union membership in the United States is below 10 percent and struggling to find new members in the low-skilled and semi-skilled worker areas is that management in the U.S. (with the birth of human resources management which exploded in the 1950s) brought a new breed of managers looking to find areas for cooperation with employees. Improved communications, inclusion in planning, and other recognitions of the role and potential of employees created a new kind of worker who saw no value in paying union dues, and found the contentious attitudes and attacks on the basic American economic system obnoxious.


Yet, the trade union leaders in the basic and metal working industries in the U.S. maintain their anti-capitalism, anti-establishment policies. Until recently, the boards of directors and executive management in those industries (steel, auto, and engineering) have been far less successful in building bridges.

There are also distinct differences between labor and management in the U.S., where contentiousness is the common thread, and the Germanic model where under the law, unions and their officers have no direct contacts with company management. In Germany, all key issues of pay and benefits minimums are established in negotiations between the recognized industry union and the recognized Employers' Federation at both provincial and national levels. Companies can and do exceed the minimums but must meet those minimums in all cases. All other management and employee matters are defined by co-determination at Worker Council levels. This covers 99 percent of all matters where employees are impacted by management policies and procedures.

As a result, in the Germanic model, managements and employee representatives and their unions have since WWII worked together in a cooperative, where everyone is for capitalism and profits and agrees on goals.

Members of Congress should be aware of the major differences between businesses in the U.S. and those in Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Holland -- countries that are very important economies and trade partners. With very few exceptions, in these foreign countries, union leaders and members are pro-capitalism, pro-profits, and pro-cooperation with both business management and government leaders for effective economic policies for the nation and their companies.

Having served both companies and governments on several continents as an advisor on market entry strategies and operational plans, I am a solid supporter of greater trade means, higher wages, and growing economies. U.S. exports create good jobs at home, and cheaper imports of needed and wanted goods reduce consumer expenses.

James is a professor at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and chairman emeritus of its Center for Global Governance, Reporting and Regulation.