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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.”

Trump Signs Executive Order To Withdraw From TPP, Wants To Renegotiate NAFTA

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order to withdraw from the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As of right now, we are unsure of what the order says as it has yet to be released by the White House.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who made his opposition to the TPP a cornerstone in his campaign for President, was “glad” to see the TPP go down in flames.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals – including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others – which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multi-national corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this an “important first step” in building a “fair and just global economy.”

“Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today’s announcement that the US is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.” 

The Hill is also reporting that President Trump plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has “dispatched his son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner to Calgary on Tuesday to begin talks with the cabinet of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was quick to point out on facebook that Trump’s feudal attempt to renegotiate NAFTA is only a distraction from the Republican attacks on working people.

“Trump stirs up symbolic controversies as diversions from what he and the Republicans are really up to.

Take NAFTA for example. He’s gearing up to “renegotiate” it, whatever that means. Expect lots of angry talk on both sides of our southern border.

But NAFTA’s a hill of beans relative Trump’s and the Republican’s pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That will directly hurt millions of working Americans. But Trump wants to distract attention.

Same with Obama’s overtime rule, now hung up in the courts, which Trump is going to axe. It have delivered $12 billion of wage gains over the next decade to American workers.

Ditto labor unions. Trump’s Republicans are busily killing off unions with so-called “right-to-work” laws. The result is less bargaining power for workers to get better wages. But Trump doesn’t want to talk about labor unions. He’d rather beat up on Mexico.

And keep a careful watch on Medicare and Social Security, which have been in Paul Ryan’s cross-hairs for years. We don’t even know what Trump and the Republicans are planning for them, but whatever it is, average working people will take the brunt.”

So the question now becomes will withdrawing and renegotiating the TPP and possibly renegotiating NAFTA really help working people or will it be another chance for Trump and his billionaire buddies to cash in on unbalanced trade agreements?  Only time will tell.

AFL-CIO Releases Blueprint on Rewriting NAFTA to Benefit Working People

The AFL-CIO outlines six key provisions that need to be changed to help working families.

(Washington, DC) Today, the AFL-CIO is releasing a blueprint for how to rewrite NAFTA to benefit working families. This past election there was much needed discussion on the impact of corporate trade deals on our manufacturing sector and on working class communities. The outline below puts forward real solutions that should garner bipartisan support if lawmakers are truly serious about realigning our trade policies to help workers.

1naftaImproving NAFTA for Working People

Over the last year the country has shown that we want a different direction on trade. This movement has been largely driven by workers. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, it is important that workers’ perspective lead the debate. In the coming months, the AFL-CIO will highlight how NAFTA should be rewritten.

The AFL-CIO has long supported rewriting the rules of NAFTA to provide more equitable outcomes for working families. To date, the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA have been multinational corporations, which have gained by destroying middle class jobs in the U.S. and Canada and replacing them with exploitive, sweatshop jobs in Mexico. It doesn’t have to be this way. With different rules, NAFTA could become a tool to raise wages and working conditions in all three North American countries, rather than to lower them.

Key Areas for Improvement

Eliminate the private justice system for foreign investors.

NAFTA established a private justice system for foreign investors, thereby prioritizing corporate rights over citizens’ rights, giving corporations even more influence over our economy than they already have. This private justice system, known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, allows foreign investors to challenge local, state and federal laws before private panels of corporate lawyers. Although these lawyers are not accountable to the public, they are empowered to decide cases and award vast sums of taxpayer money to foreign businesses. Under NAFTA, these panels have awarded millions of dollars to corporations when local and state governments exercise their jurisdictional power to deny things like municipal building permits for toxic waste processing facilities. ISDS gives foreign investors enormous leverage to sway public policies in their favor. Scrapping the entire system would help level the playing field for small domestic producers and their employees.

Improve the labor and environment side-treaties (the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation).  Add them to the original agreement, and ensure they are enforced.

The NAFTA labor and environment agreements were not designed to effectively raise standards for workers or to ensure clean air and water. Instead, they were hastily patched together to quiet NAFTA’s critics. These agreements should be scrapped and replaced with provisions that effectively and robustly protect international labor and environmental standards.  Violators should be subject to trade sanctions when necessary—so that we stop the race to the bottom that has resulted from NAFTA. Without stronger provisions environmental abuses and worker exploitation will continue unchecked.

NAFTA-protest-bad-for-workers-1024x768Address currency manipulation by creating binding rules subject to enforcement and possible sanctions.

Within months after NAFTA’s approval by Congress, Mexico devalued the peso, wiping out overnight potential gains from NAFTA’s tariff reductions. This devaluation made imports from Mexico far cheaper than they otherwise would have been and priced many U.S. exports out of reach of average Mexican consumers. Countries should not use currency policies to gain trade advantages—something China, Japan and others have done for many years. All U.S. trade agreements, including NAFTA, should be upgraded to create binding rules, subject to trade sanctions, to prevent such game-playing.

Upgrade NAFTA’s rules of origin particularly on autos and auto parts, to reinforce auto sector jobs in North America.

NAFTA’s rules require that automobiles be 62.5% “made in North America” to qualify for duty-free treatment under NAFTA. Even though 62.5% seems high compared to the TPP’s inadequate 45%, it still allows for nearly 40% of a car to be made in China, Thailand or elsewhere. The auto rule of origin should be upgraded to eliminate loopholes (through products “deemed originating” in North America) and to provide additional incentives to produce in North America. This, combined with improved labor standards will help create a more robust labor market and help North American workers gain from trade.

NAFTADelete the procurement chapter that undermines “Buy American” laws (Chapter 10).

NAFTA contains provisions that require the U.S. government to treat Canadian and Mexican goods and services as “American” for many purchasing decisions, including purchases by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Veterans Affairs and Transportation. This means that efforts to create jobs for America’s working families by investing in infrastructure or other projects, including after the great financial crisis of 2008, could be ineffective. This entire chapter should be deleted.

Upgrade the trade enforcement chapter (Chapter 19).

NAFTA allows for a final review of a domestic antidumping or countervailing duty case by a binational panel instead of by a competent domestic court. This rule, omitted from subsequent trade deals, has hampered trade enforcement, hurting U.S. firms and their employees. It should be improved or omitted.

Berry Craig: Trump Could Create American Jobs Right Now

trump-lies-720

Image by Bill Day all rights reserved

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

To hear GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump tell it, jobs will fall upon the land like manna from heaven if he’s elected.

But why wait, Mr. Trump? You can prove you’re a job creator right now: Start making your duds and other stuff stateside instead of abroad.

“Trump’s products have been made in 12 other countries,” claims an ad from the campaign of Hillary Clinton, his AFL-CIO endorsed Democratic foe. TheWashington Post verified the charge.

“We know of at least 12 countries where Trump products were manufactured (China, Netherlands, Mexico, India, Turkey, Slovenia, Honduras, Germany, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea),” wrote the Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee. All but the Netherlands and Germany are low-wage countries.

“Further, Trump products traveled through other countries through the packaging and shipping process — meaning workers in more than 12 countries contributed to getting many of Trump’s products made, packaged and delivered to the United States.”

Two western Kentucky labor leaders are on to Trump’s hypocrisy on jobs. “He says he wants to bring jobs back to America, but all of his signature lines are made somewhere overseas,” said Jeff Wiggins, president of Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City and president of the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council in Paducah.

“Why doesn’t some reporter stick a mike in Trump’s face and say ‘When are you going to bring your jobs back?'” asked Jimmy Evans, business manager of Paducah-based IBEW Local 816 in Paducah and a council delegate.

Meanwhile, Trump, though a proven big league outsourcer, continues to lambast outsourcing and trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which grease the skids for American companies like his to shift production and jobs—and often bust unions in the process—abroad, usually to cheap labor countries.

So think about it.

Would a President Trump really deep-six trade deals and stop outsourcing, moves that would hit him where it hurts him the most—in his bank account?

Oh, Clinton, as Trump loves to point out, was for NAFTA before she came out against it. But mum’s the word from Trump about how he was cool with outsourcing before he ran for president.

But here’s another point to ponder: Clinton doesn’t make a pile of money off products made in low wage countries and shipped stateside. Trump does. Hence, who’s more likely to put the kibosh on trade deals and outsourcing–the candidate who fattens his wallet off outsourcing or the candidate who doesn’t?

Anyway, the other day I heard a Bernie Sanders booster, who I’d bet the farm won’t vote for Clinton, blame her and the whole Democratic party for NAFTA and other job-killing trade deals. Trump would love this guy who fancies himself a liberal and claims to be a Democrat.

It’s true that President Bill Clinton backed NAFTA in 1993. But most Democrats in Congress didn’t. The Republicans got NAFTA passed.

In the House, 102 Democrats voted “aye” and 156 “nay.” The Republicans were for NAFTA 132-43. One independent voted no. His name is Bernie Sanders and he’s now in Clinton’s corner and in the Senate.

On the Senate side, the GOP went for NAFTA 34-10. The Democrats were 28-27 against NAFTA. (One Democrat did not vote.)

Donald Trump Right to WorkTrump, too, is fine with American companies moving jobs and production from one state to another. Almost always, the migration involves a unionized company closing down and pulling up stakes in a non-“right to work” state and reopening non-union in a RTW state.

Trump prefers RTW states to non-RTW states.

Trump is like the Kentucky horse trader of old. He’s happy to show you his teeth, but not the horse’s.

Trump’s NAFTA Baloney

trump-lies-720By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Either Donald Trump is flat fibbing about the North American Free Trade Agreement or he’s clueless about the deal unions say has cost thousands of American jobs.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee wants voters—especially working stiffs–to believe he’ll ditch the trade deal when he’s president.

Trump is short on specifics about how he’d put the kibosh on NAFTA. So let’s get specific.

A President Trump couldn’t repeal NAFTA by himself. Only Congress could. So is Trump just trying to dupe John and Jane Q Citizen into voting for him, or does he really not know how government works?

Either way, the odds of getting rid of NAFTA—or successfully renegotiating the trade pact—would be better under Hillary Clinton, Trump’s almost certain Democratic foe–or Bernie Sanders should he somehow edge Clinton at the finish line.

First some background: Republican President George H.W. Bush finished completing the deal with Canada and Mexico about three months before the 1992 presidential election. Bush was seeking a second term, but he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.

The spouse of this year’s all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, Clinton got behind NAFTA. In 1993, Congress passed the trade deal, and he signed it.

The Democrats enjoyed majorities in the House and Senate, but the Republicans got the NAFTA bill passed. Most Democrats voted against it. The House endorsed NAFTA 234-200; the Senate 61-38.

In the House, 156 Democrats voted “nay” and 102 voted “yea.” Republicans favored the NAFTA bill 132-43. (The naysayers included an independent Vermont congressman named Sanders.)

The Senate split similarly: 28 Democrats opposed the legislation, and 27 were for it. Republicans favored NAFTA 34-10.

Okay, back to the present, where the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Most House and Senate Republicans still favor trade pacts like NAFTA, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which unions also vehemently reject. 

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, favors the TPP, which he says will really create more jobs. Most Democratic lawmakers side with unions and against the president.

Here’s the bottom line: If Trump is elected president, the GOP will almost certainly retain its majorities in both chambers, if not boost them. So the chance of NAFTA’s demise with a Trump presidency is virtually zero.

On the other hand, if Clinton or Sanders wins, the Democrats are apt to increase their House and Senate numbers. If the she or he wins big, the Democrats might take back the Senate and the House—or at least significantly whittle down the GOP’s margin the lower chamber.

The TPP would be toast, and NAFTA would be in big trouble.

Admittedly, Hillary Clinton backed NAFTA when the Big Dog was president. She has since changed her mind.

“Hillary has said for almost a decade that we need to renegotiate NAFTA, and she still believes that today,” maintains a Clinton campaign online Factsheet. “And she would review all of our trade agreements with the same scrutiny.”

The Factsheet also declares that Clinton would “say ‘no’ to new trade agreements that don’t meet her high bar – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary will hit pause and say ‘no’ to new trade agreements unless they create American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. After looking at the final terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, including what it contains on currency manipulation and its weak rules of origin standard for what counts as a car that can get treaty benefits, she opposed the agreement because it did not meet her test. And she will hold every future trade agreement to the same high standard.”

Trump, too has changed his tune. Before he ran for president, he was fine with outsourcing. While he never tires of trashing U.S. companies that ship jobs and production abroad, he’s a big-time outsourcer himself.

Trump flip-flops almost every time he opens his mouth, but he’s shown uncharacteristic consistency on unions. He’s anti-union.

He says he prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states. Both Clinton and Sanders are staunchly anti-RTW.

While Trump insists union members love him, he’s determined to keep his hotel workers in Las Vegas from having a union. Clinton and Sanders support workers’ right to unionize.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Trump “a bigot. From his anti-American proposal to ban Muslims to his horrendous comments about women and immigrants, Trump is running on hate. It seems the only group he won’t criticize is the KKK.”

Added Trumka, a former president of the United Mine Workers of America: “Those statements and positions are bad enough. But what’s getting less attention is how Donald Trump really feels about working people…

“First, Trump loves right to work. He said it is “better for the people” and his position is ‘100 percent.’ Meanwhile, he is fighting tooth and nail against workers at his hotel in Las Vegas.

“Second, Trump was a major financial backer of Scott Walker and says he admired the way Walker took on public unions in Wisconsin.

“Finally, and most disturbingly, Trump says our wages are already too high. Can you believe that? Trump is advocating the polar opposite of our raising wages agenda.

You see, Trump says he’s with the American working class, but when you look close, it’s just hot air.”

Hillary Clinton’s Connections To Wall Street Show Her True Agenda On Free Trade

hillary clinton (WisPolitics.com FLIKR)Hillary Clinton is acting in a desperate and short sighted manner by constantly attacking Bernie Sanders.  She seems completely unaware of the current political atmosphere. She clings to endorsements by the elite while turning a deaf ear to ordinary Americans. The times for endorsements by the political establishment having any meaning are long gone.

The NH political elite lined up en masse behind Hillary and she lost NH by 22.4%.  I think that tells the story. The Clinton’s Wall Street connections and being proponents of disastrous trade deals are issues they don’t want to expound on. Instead they try to change the subject and criticize Bernie.

A vibrant Democratic Party must include the younger voters currently joining the party because of Senator Sanders. By her relentless attacks on Sanders she risks having these voters sitting out or opposing her if she wins the Democratic nomination.

The leader of the corporate democrats is President Bill Clinton and he also has no problem attacking Bernie Sanders.  “When you’re making a revolution you can’t be too careful with the facts,” Bill  Clinton said, deriding Bernie Sanders’s oft-mentioned call for a political revolution. Well the fact is Mr. Clinton’s most lasting legacy is pushing through NAFTA with Hillary’s support.

“I think NAFTA itself will be remembered for as long as this generation draws a warm breath,” Richard Trumka said in an interview. “When I talk to people about it, they don’t remember that it was a Republican majority that passed NAFTA. They remember that it was President Clinton.”

Lopsided trade deals that both entrenched the political elite and screwed over working people is the pivotal political issue that has defined these times. The Clinton’s have firmly lined up with the corporate America. While Bernie has steadfastly been opposed these disastrous deals.

In 2003 Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir “Creating a free trade zone in North America — the largest free trade zone in the world — would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our economy was reaping the benefits, not the burdens, of globalization. Although unpopular with labor unions, expanding trade opportunities was an important administration goal.”

So why would NAFTA be an administration goal?  Then in 2004 she added “I think on balance NAFTA has been good for New York and America” Do we need any more proof that the Clinton’s are completely out of touch with ordinary Americans?

Fast forward 10 years and now Hillary is selling us all the virtues of the TPP (before she recently changed her position) a trade deal that will most certainly continue the race to the bottom for American workers.

This quote is from a November 15, 2012 speech promoting and selling the TPP. “So it’s fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP.  Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. When negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment”…..

A few weeks ago Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue noted that if elected Hillary Clinton will again support the TPP. Reporting on that interview Inside US Trade concluded: “The Chamber president said he expected Hillary Clinton would ultimately support the TPP if she becomes the Democratic nominee for president and is elected.” He argued that she has publicly opposed the deal chiefly because her main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has also done so. “If she were to get nominated, if she were to be elected, I have a hunch that what runs in the family is you get a little practical if you ever get the job,” he said.

We all know who benefits from these trade deals and Hillary will not release the transcripts of her highly paid Wall Street speeches. This is more money than almost all of us will make in a lifetime but she has no problem dismissing these talks as not an important issue.

“It was pretty glowing about us,” one attendee told Politico. “It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”

Nobody will dispute that Bernie Sanders was an outspoken opponent of NAFTA and has been quite vocal in speaking out against the TPP. Basically the fact is Bernie represents the interests of ordinary Americans while Hillary constantly reminds us she is a proud member of the Democratic Party elite.

Hillary has not yet realized the walls are starting to crumble and she will surely need an energized Democratic party if she is to defeat any Republican opponent in November. That is IF she can withstand the rebellion in her own party. The authentic energy that is thriving in the Democratic Party belongs to Bernie Sanders and she would be wise not to alienate them.

Will Hillary Clinton Push Fellow Democratic Supporters To Oppose The TPP?

Will Clinton Spend Some Of Her Newly Acquired Political Capitol To Do What Is Right For Working Families?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York, NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2015 IAM National Staff Conference in New York, NY. (Photo: Bill Burke/Page One Photography)

Yesterday, the Bernie Sanders campaign hit Hillary Clinton on her newly adopted position opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If Clinton wants to prove that she is as whole-heartedly against the TPP as she claims, there is something she can do to prove it and would generate more grassroots labor support for her Presidential campaign.

For years now Sanders has been speaking out against these so-called free trade agreements that have led to the offshoring of jobs and the decline of the middle class.

“You are looking at a senator and former congressman who has led the effort since his first day in Congress back in the early 1990s against disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China and today against the TPP,” said Sanders. “My record on trade is very, very different than Secretary Clinton’s. I am glad that after talking about how good the TPP would be, finally, under great pressure, she decided to oppose it. But I think it is a real area of disagreement.”

It is a fact that before Sanders officially jumped into the race Clinton was on the fence about the TPP, refusing to officially take any position on it. As Secretary of State, Clinton had some roll in negotiating this multi-national trade agreement.

Countless times Clinton praised the agreement she now opposes but did strongly come out in opposition to the TPP after the final text was released by stating:

“I hoped it would be the gold standard,” Clinton said. “It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, ‘this will help raise your wages.’ And I concluded I could not.”

This is what progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate and Rep Keith Ellison and Rep Rosa DeLauro in House have been saying since the first drafts of the TPP were leaked to the public. Their efforts combined with strong opposition from all of organized labor pushed the TPP to the forefront of the Presidential primary.

It is good to see that Clinton is now on our side by opposing the TPP, but will she really put her money where her mouth is? Will she do want is necessary to actually stop the TPP?

Clinton has been lining up political endorsements for months now. Democratic Congressmen and Senators have enthusiastically signed up to be a part of her campaign for President. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire was one of Clinton’s first endorsements. The endorsement from one of the Granite State’s most beloved political leaders is a massive boost to her Presidential campaign in the First in the Nation primary state.

Shaheen was one of the 13 Democratic Senators who voted to approve the “fast track” legislation that allowed the TPP negotiations to continue. If Shaheen, and the other Democratic Senators, would have opposed the TPP then, the whole agreement could have been stopped dead in its tracks.

Will Clinton push those fellow Democrats, who are supporting her campaign, to stand up and oppose the TPP when it comes up in Congress in the coming weeks? Her advocating against the TPP and calling out these Democrats who voted for the fast track legislation could be just the push we need to finally kill this disastrous trade agreement.

Or is Clinton’s newly found opposition to the TPP just lip-service to the progressives and labor unions who oppose the TPP to gain their endorsement and support?

Actions speak louder than words. Getting her fellow Democrats to fall in line behind her in opposition to the TPP would go a long way and would show that she can lead the party, and the nation, by whipping the votes when needed.


(See the 28 Democratic House Reps who voted to approve the TPP fast track)

(See the 13 Democratic Senators who voted to approve the TPP fast track.)


 

Coalition Tests The Strength Of Labor Protections In International Trade Agreements

Testing Labor Protections Within International Trade Agreements, Coalition Files Complaints Against Multinational Supermarket Chain 

Coalition of Labor and Consumer Groups File NAFTA and OECD complaints to Halt Worker Abuse at Mexican Retail Giant Chedraui Commercial Group 

WASHINGTON— As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) debate intensifies, a coalition of U.S. and Mexican labor and civil society groups are taking an unprecedented legal approach to protect workers’ rights that will test the strength of labor protections in international trade agreements.

The coalition filed “double barrel” complaints today under the NAFTA labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines to challenge workers’ rights abuses in both Mexico and the United States by Mexican retail giant Chedraui Commercial Group. The groups were led by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770 (UFCW) union in the United States and the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) union in Mexico.                                          

“Chedraui is a multinational firm that should live up to the labor standards set by NAFTA and the OECD guidelines,” said UFCW Local 770 President Ricardo Icaza. “In both Mexico and the United States, the company has silenced employees’ voices and trampled their rights, and we believe an international solution is necessary to this international problem.”

Chedraui is Mexico’s third-largest retail chain with 35,000 employees in more than 200 stores throughout the country.  Through its 83 percent ownership stake, Chedraui controls California-based Bodega Latina Corporation, which does business as the El Super grocery chain. El Super has 50 supermarkets employing more than 5,000 workers in California, Arizona and Nevada. 

The joint complaint has implications for the upcoming Congressional review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“President Obama is pushing for TPP approval in the face of strong opposition from unions and others who see it as a giveaway to multinational companies that will only intensify inequality and downward pressure on jobs and wages,” said University of Maryland international labor law professor Marley Weiss, who was formerly chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on the NAFTA labor agreement.  “If the administration fails to take strong action in this Chedraui case, critics will see it as a signal that the United States is falling short on linking trade, investment and labor rights.” 

The OECD complaint calls for a halt to El Super’s aggressive, multi-year campaign of coercion against workers seeking a living wage, adequate sick days and affordable health insurance. After a series of unfair labor practice charges, the U.S. federal government sought a rare injunction to force the company to rehire a wrongfully fired union activist and reinstate unlawfully changed benefits, and return to the bargaining table.  The Federal Court issued injunctive relief and as a result of the government’s actions the company agreed to return to union contract negotiations with the UFCW.  However, the company has continued to ignore its obligations under the National Labor Relations Act and the two sides remain far apart in bargaining.

The NAFTA complaint alleges that Chedraui has cultivated dozens of sham unions in Mexico through so-called “protection contracts” that represent the interests of management, not workers, and prevent the formation of independent unions. Union officials said they are examining additional claims related to the NAFTA labor agreement’s strictures against child labor, discrimination, health and safety hazards, and wage and hour violations. 

This filing is the first time complaints about a company’s international labor abuses have been simultaneously submitted under both the OECD and NAFTA complaint mechanisms. The groups filing the complaints believe this approach will produce results tailored to the situation in each country. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and the Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) in Mexico co-filed the complaints with the UFCW and FAT.

 

About the organizations

The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers in retail food, drug stores, packinghouses, food processing plants and other industries. Local 770 has been representing the interests of retail workers in Los Angeles County for 76 years and has 33,000 members, including El Super employees.

The FAT (Authentic Labor Front in English) is an independent confederation of labor unions in Mexico. 

The LAANE is a national leader in the effort to address the challenges of working poverty, inadequate health care and polluted communities.  

The PODER is a regional non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve corporate transparency and accountability in Latin America and to strengthen civil society stakeholders of corporations as long-term accountability guarantors. 

Additional information on the filing process 

The UFCW, FAT, LAANE and PODER filed the NAFTA complaint with U.S. Department of Labor. The NAFTA complaint seeks an investigation into Chedraui’s practices in Mexico and an evaluation of what the unions say is ineffective labor law enforcement by the Mexican government. The U.S. labor department has 60 days to decide whether to accept the NAFTA complaint for review, and it could ultimately lead to fines and other penalties.

Information on the NAFTA labor agreement (formally the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation or NAALC) and its complaint mechanisms is available at the website of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/trade/agreements/naalcgd.htm 

The same coalition filed a complaint against El Super in the United States under the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the 34-nation OECD. The organization adopted the guidelines in 2011 to promote good corporate citizenship by firms investing in other member countries. On industrial relations, the guidelines require good faith collective bargaining, respect for workers’ organizing rights, and fair pay and conditions. 

Each OECD country maintains a National Contact Point (NCP) to receive complaints about labor abuses by foreign investors.  Based in the State Department, the U.S. NCP has three months to decide whether to act on the unions’ complaint against Chedraui’s El Super chain. It can offer a mediation process that aims at resolving the dispute within six months.

Information on the OECD Guidelines and the U.S. National Contact Point is available at the US NCP website at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/oecd/usncp/index.htm. U.S. NCP confidentiality rules do not allow disclosure of the text of the unions’ complaint. However, information on El Super’s conduct is available on the union website at http://www.ufcw770.org/content/contractupdate-el-super

 

What NAFTA Foretells For New Proposed Trade Deal (InZane Times)

My colleague Gabriel Camacho and I wrote this a year ago, timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  With President Obama in China touting a new “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this seemed like a good time to re-post it here.  The original article was published in the NH Business Review.

NAFTA

In the twenty years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, millions of Mexicans have been pushed by NAFTA to make the dangerous journey across the border into the United States, many without legal authorization. The U.S. government has responded by turning the border into a militarized zone, jailing hundreds of thousands of people, and deporting record numbers back across the border.

Militarization of the border began in 1994 with Operation Gatekeeper, which erected fencing, walls, and other barriers between San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico, forcing migrants into dangerous desert terrain.stop corporate rule

This was not supposed to happen.

According to NAFTA’s backers, the agreement was supposed to promote prosperity in both countries and actually reduce the pressure to migrate.

President Bill Clinton asserted NAFTA would give Mexicans “more disposable income to buy more American products and there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.”

Mexico’s former President, Carlos Salinas, offered a similar opinion: NAFTA would enable Mexico to “export jobs, not people,” he said in a 1991 White House news conference alongside President George H. W. Bush.

William A. Ormes wrote in Foreign Affairs that NAFTA would “narrow the gap between U.S. and Mexican wage rates, reducing the incentive to immigrate.”

So what happened? As a precondition for NAFTA, the U.S. demanded drops in Mexican price supports for small farmers. The agreement itself reduced Mexican tariffs on American products. These changes meant that millions of Mexico’s small farmers – many of them from indigenous communities – could not compete with the highly subsidized corn grown by U.S. agribusiness that flooded the local Mexican market.

Dislodged from the places where their families had lived for generations, many people did in fact seek employment in export-oriented factories and farms. But there were too few jobs to go around, and those jobs that were created did not generate the “disposable income” President Clinton had promised.

A 2008 report on “NAFTA’s Promise and Reality” from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concluded that while half a million manufacturing jobs were created in Mexico from 1994 to 2002, nearly three times as many farm jobs were destroyed.

As for Mexican wages, they went down, not up, during the same period. “Despite predictions to the contrary, Mexican wages have not converged with U.S. wages,” Carnegie observed.

Unable to earn a living at home or elsewhere in their own country, Mexicans did what people have done for ages; they packed their bags and headed for places where they thought they could find employment.

The experts shaping NAFTA knew that the deal would disrupt the Mexican agricultural sector. That’s why Operation Gatekeeper was implemented the same year as NAFTA. It’s impossible to integrate national economies without disrupting local ones – something that should give pause to those proposing new trade agreements today. The realities of NAFTA should not be replicated.

As the American Friends Service Committee outlines in “A New Path Toward Humane Immigration Policy,” the U.S. should advance economic policies that reduce forced migration and emphasize sustainable development. Instead of policies like NAFTA that elevate rights of transnational corporations above those of people, we need alternative forms of economic integration that are consistent with international human rights laws, cultural and labor rights, and environmental protections.

Modern-day free trade agreements are basically arrangements that take rights away from citizens and bestow expansive benefits to multi-national corporations.

Workers on both sides of the border have one thing in common: they need the ability to organize for higher wages and decent working conditions. Without the opportunity for workers to benefit from the rewards agreements like NAFTA generate for corporations, “free trade” becomes just another driver of the widening gap between the ultra-rich and everyone else.

With the Obama administration pushing hard to create a new arrangement linking the economies of eleven Pacific rim countries, and another that ties the U.S. economy to that of the European Union, it’s time for a new path.

Unfair Trade Policies Lead To More American Jobs Lost

Vacant steel mill outside Detroit. (image by Jo Guldi on Flickr)

Vacant steel mill outside Detroit. (image by Jo Guldi on Flickr)

There are few things as heartbreaking than hearing that more steelworkers are being laid off. It is not that America does not need new steel, it is foreign manufacturers that are undercutting the American steel industry. This dramatic increase in foreign imports is causing American manufacturers to cut more jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute just released a new report showing how the vast increase in foreign steel is damaging American workers.

“Surging imports of unfairly traded steel are threatening U.S. steel production, which supports more than a half million U.S. jobs across every state of the nation. The import surge has depressed domestic steel production and revenues, leading to sharp declines in net income in the U.S. steel industry over the past two years (2012–2013), layoffs for thousands of workers, and reduced wages for many more.”

Yesterday U.S. Steel announced plans to halt tube operations in Pennsylvania and Texas, which will lead to an indefinite furlough for 265 workers.

“For months, our union (The United Steelworkers) has warned the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the public and others that a flood of illegally subsidized and unfairly traded oil country tubular goods (OCTG) poses a significant and immediate threat to American steel companies and the jobs of our members,” said USW President Leo Gerard.

The EPI estimates that over “583,600 steel-related jobs are at risk if the U.S. does not fully and effectively enforce its trade remedy laws.” The importing of foreign steel has “increased from 28.5 million net tons in 2011 to 32.0 million net tons in 2013, an increase of 12.3 percent.”

Why is this happening?Why is the country that led the world in steel production now taking a back seat to these foreign suppliers?


“The USW demands an immediate investigation into how a trade partner such as South Korea, which produces 100 percent of its steel tubular goods for export because it has no domestic market, has managed to conduct business here without regulation or any kind of fair tariff in place,” Gerard stated.

The importing of foreign manufactured steel is only one piece of the problem that has led to the destruction of millions of American jobs. Our trade policies have led to the erosion of our pay, and have pushed up our national debt.

The problem is that we as a nation are buying more than we are selling, and this is causing a $540 billion dollar trade deficit.

Foreign manufacturers play games with their currency to undercut their competitors. Currency manipulation and slave wages are how these countries are able to charge less for their products. They have rigged the game so badly that it is almost impossible for Americans to win.

For the sake of our entire manufacturing base we must put a stop to the unbalanced trade, and currency manipulation.

“For the workers and families in McKeesport, Pa. and Bellville, Texas, the USW pledges to continue fighting for a fair and level playing field so that American workers can get back to their rightful jobs as soon as possible,” Gerard stated.

“The USW will continue to be an outspoken advocate for workers who have paid and continue to pay the price for unfair ‘free’ trade, which remains the single most dangerous threat to the good, family-supporting, community-sustaining jobs the USW strives to create and protect,” concluded Gerard.

Programs like NAFTA, and the proposed TPP, are exactly what is hurting the American worker. We need to stop the hemorrhaging now, before it gets worse. Restoring our trade balance and reducing our trade deficit would create upwards of five million new jobs.

We talk about a global economy, however it seems we are the only ones buying.  Always remember; support American workers, buy American.

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