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About Rachel Mussenden

Rachel Mussenden is a writer and former communications fellow at Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

TTD Urges Senate Commerce Committee to Exempt Commercial Vehicles from New Self-Driving Car Bill

Big Rig Truck-SafetyDriver FLIKR CC

On Wednesday, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Larry Willis urged the Senate Commerce Committee to exempt commercial vehicles from a new driverless car bill after they held an open hearing on the matter.

While Willis thanked the committee for providing the hearing, he also cautioned against “moving too hastily and putting millions of jobs and lives at risk.”

With millions of Americans employed in commercial driving jobs, Congress would be foolish not to heed Willis’ warning. Automation could revolutionize commercial driving in a way that benefits both employers and working people, but only if applied thoughtfully and regulated deliberately. Anything less will violently disrupt one of the largest employment sectors in the country, putting millions out of work at a time when many families are still recovering from the Great Recession and the economy is still fragile.

We need only look around the country for examples of what happens when industries collapse. We have seen the devastation of closed mines and relocated factories, and the communities that suffer when working people lose their livelihoods. The upending of the commercial driving industry would have the same effect, but on a grand scale.

Commercial drivers are integral members of communities across America, in big cities and small towns, red and blue states. Rushing through new legislation without considering the effects on the commercial driving workforce will not just rattle one community; it will rattle the entire country. It is a dangerous game, one that will not be played out on the floor of Congress but in households from from Boston to Boise, from Los Angeles to Louisiana. Willis’ calls for care and caution are not protectionism, as some might argue, but a call to reason.

The Senate Commerce Committee has an imperative to work in the best interest of the American people, and until there has been a full dialogue between industry leaders, working people and lawmakers, new legislation concerning commercial vehicles and driverless technology will prove to be irresponsibly inadequate. Congress ought to reexamine the issue once the implications are clear, but until then Larry Willis and TTD are right: for the sake of working people and the economy, commercial vehicles must be exempt from its driverless car bill. The threat of disrupting the commercial driving industry is currently too great, and too unknown, to risk.

 

 

With New NAFTA Recommendations, Labor Leaders Outline ‘Bold, Necessary’ Changes to Trade

During a teleconference on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, joined by USW President Leo Girard and CWA President Christopher Shelton, announced the AFL-CIO’s comprehensive recommendations for reworking NAFTA to benefit working people. Pointing to staggering job losses and flat wage growth, Trumka minced no words in calling current U.S. trade policy “a bipartisan disaster,” with NAFTA being a particularly egregious failure.

Donald Trump has been highly critical of NAFTA in the past, constantly decrying it on the campaign trail and appealing to the millions of working people whose livelihoods have been affected by the deal. “It’s no secret working people voted for Trump,” said Shelton, “largely because of the promises he made [on NAFTA].” Now that he is in office, labor leaders expect him to make good on those promises to rework the deal, or face the consequences.

If [the new deal] further rigs the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him,” Trumka warned. “And if he breaks his promise, workers will never forget it.”

In addition to the recommendations outlined by the AFL-CIO, Edward Wytkind, President of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, released a statement calling for stronger protections for the transportation workforce, including prohibiting bus and truck traffic from Mexico that violates U.S. safety rules and requiring participating nations to make minimum investments in infrastructure.

Our trade agreements should be designed to put money in the pockets of America’s working families, not large, multi-national corporations or foreign governments,” said Wytkind.

However, leaders have made clear that the goal of this new framework is not to pit workers in different countries against each other. When asked whether there was a middle ground for protecting both U.S. and Mexican workers, Trumka answered, “Mexican and Canadian workers are not our enemy. It’s the trade agreements that are our enemy.”

Both Girard and Shelton agreed that trade agreements should not put workers against each other. Girard said in a closing statement,“It’s not one country’s workers against another’s, it’s all workers rising together.”  Shelton advocated for policies that raise wages and encourage collective bargaining specifically in Mexico.

One thing is certain: a few small tweaks will not fix NAFTA. The recommendations put forth by labor leaders are far-reaching, comprehensive and necessary in order to protect working people from further devastation. And labor leaders have made clear that they will not sit quietly if the administration’s changes are insufficient.

This is bigger than trade itself; it’s about the system of democracy,” said Trumka. “We’re gonna fight and fight hard so that workers can have a fair shot.”

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