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Trump Re-Opens NAFTA, Activists Fear It Is The TPP In Disguise

Like a steady drumbeat, candidate for President, Donald Trump, said he would “renegotiate NAFTA,” the North American Free Trade Agreement that has cost millions of American jobs.   As talks begin this week to make changes to NAFTA some fear that this “new NAFTA” will just be another “grab bag of corporate handouts.”

“NAFTA was a radical experiment,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “NAFTA subsidized offshoring, making it easier for corporations to move American jobs overseas.”

Working people across the country blamed NAFTA for destroying our manufacturing base. “910,000 jobs have been lost due to NAFTA and we have seen our trade surplus with Canada and Mexico shift to a trade deficit,” Wallach added.

“NAFTA went far beyond what we think of as trade,” said Ben Beachy of the Sierra Club. “NAFTA is a grab bag of corporate handouts.”

Beachy explained how this new NAFTA negotiations are being conducted in the same way the Trans-Pacific Partnership was conducted, in complete secret by corporations. There are no representatives for labor or the environment allowed to be a part of the negotiations.

The Sierra Club has been fighting the harmful pollution policies laid out in NAFTA. Due to weak environmental protections in Mexico, NAFTA allowed corporations to export their hazardous waste. The number of toxic waste facilities in Mexico, owned by foreign corporations, grew by over 40% in the last 25 years.

“Underweight babies are being born with elevated levels of lead in their blood because of led battery exports,” said Beachy.

The Sierra Club also opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s poor environmental protections and fears that Trump’s new NAFTA will fail to raise environmental protections.

When a country does try to fight back against these corporations they take their case to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The ISDS has been incorporated into more than 3,000 trade agreements worldwide 50 of which the United States is included in.

The ISDS is a corporate court, where three corporate lawyers decide the outcome of the dispute. Murshed Zaheed, the Executive Director of Credo Mobile said, “The ISDS puts corporations over people.”

If the corporation wins their case in the ISDS, the taxpayers of the State (i.e. the country being challenged) are forced to pay for the “damages.” The United States alone has already paid out over $400 million in ISDS disputes.

“The ISDS circumvents American sovereignty,” said Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN). He explained who Phillip Reynolds won their ISDS dispute with the country of Uruguay over the labeling of their cigarettes. Uruguay wanted to put a warning label on all cigarette packages, however they were shut down by the ISDS.

(Watch this video from Credo Mobile featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren, explain how the ISDS works in her opposition to the TPP.)

 

The prior history of NAFTA is well known. It crushed our manufacturing and cost millions of people their jobs. But every story has two sides.

Erika Andiola, an immigration activist and a director in Our Revolution, talked about how NAFTA “decimated the Mexican economy” which forced a massive Mexican migration

“Local farmers lost their farms due to the influx of cheap American corn,” Andiola said. After they lost their farms, these farmers were forced to move into the cities to find work. “The economy shifted as local shops and markets were replaced with Wal-Mart and Costco.”

Ultimately, when they could not find work in Mexico, some headed north to the United States in search of work.

Andiola added, “We must talk to our members of Congress to ensure that NAFTA will help American workers but raise the living standards for the workers in ALL countries.“

Yesterday, the Trump administration began the first round on negotiation on NAFTA. Beachy said, “Trump wants to begin by copying the Labor and Environmental protections from the TPP into the new NAFTA.”

We beat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and if we use our collective voices we can make our demands for a better NAFTA heard.

“As renegotiations begin today, there is an incredible opportunity to replace this fundamentally flawed trade deal with new rules that work for working families,” said AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka in a statement. “But how we do it matters. The administration can choose to use this opportunity to benefit working families, or it can further rig the rules to favor corporations and CEOs.”

Rep Ellison said “we must demand”:

  • No ISDS
  • Labor standards are lifted instead of dropped.
  • Environmental standards are lifted instead of dropped.
  • Food standards are lifted instead of dropped.

“We are setting the bar high. We will only accept a deal that is renegotiated the right way. That means having a transparent process in which working families have a seat at the table, and ensuring that our freedom to stand together is protected and that all of us can receive a fair return on our hard work. We need to replace benefits for the few with a fair deal that raises wages, stops outsourcing and provides a path to the middle class, no matter where working families live or what their background is. America’s working people have earned this. We deserve nothing less,” Trumka concluded.


This story compiled from speeches by Rep Keith Ellison, Lori Wallach, Murshed Zaheed, Ben Beachy, and Erika Andiola at Netroots Nation 2017.

Full video of panel here or below.

Leo W Gerard: Fire Ants Killed The TPP

The defeat of the TPP is a tale of ants slaying a dragon.

It seemed a fearsome task, challenging the powerful behemoth that is Wall Street, Big Pharma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Ag, Big Oil, all their lobbyists, and all the Congress critters they’d “campaign-financed” to support their money-grubbing 12-country trade scheme.

The battle was engaged, though, for the sake of workers’ rights, clean air and water, food safety, reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, national sovereignty, internet freedom, financial regulation, public control of public lands, the right of governments to pass laws for the public good without corporations suing for so-called lost profits in secret tribunals adjudicated by hand-picked corporate jurists, and the freedom of local governments to buy American-made products for taxpayer financed projects to create American jobs. And, frankly, so much more.  For a righteous, just and equitable society. That’s why there were so many ants.

Literally thousands of civil society groups coalesced to combat the TPP. These included labor unions, health care organizations, food safety advocates, environmentalists, churches, family farmers, social justice societies, indigenous rights organizations and allied groups in the 12 TPP partner countries. My union, the United Steelworkers, was among them. It was an overwhelming number of groups with an overwhelming number of members who conducted an overwhelming number of events over years to make it clear to lawmakers just how strongly citizens opposed the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

It began slowly with warnings about the secret negotiation process itself. Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which was instrumental in organizing the collaborative action against the TPP, said groups started telling politicians early on that they weren’t going to tolerate another NAFTA. No one listened. As a result, he wrote:

“. . .first thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then literally millions of Americans signed letters and petitions urging the Obama administration and Congress to abandon TPP negotiations that gave corporate lobbyists a seat at the table, while keeping the public in the dark.”

Let me tell you about the fire ant. They mostly live in mounds. If an animal steps on the mound, the ants will attack. A few ants are irritating. A bunch are annoying. Half a million fierce fire ants with tiny venomous stingers working together can kill a 10-pound animal. That’s what happened to the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

The anti-TPP forces conducted call-in days that resulted in hundreds of thousands of calls to Congressmen and women. When Congress was weighing whether to fast track the TPP, in other words to approve it without even bothering to amend it to fix it, the anti-TPP forces conducted an encampment on Capitol Hill for three weeks. This, and many other anti-TPP demonstrations, occurred a year before either party chose its presidential nominee.

The USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Political departments worked with USW members to send to Congress more than 350,000 postcards protesting the TPP. USW members met with their Senators and Congressmen 1,500 times this year to oppose the deal. They held rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings and even rock concerts to inform their communities about the problems with the TPP. They conducted large rallies and other events in Washington, D.C. They built support with their state legislatures and local governments, persuading cities and towns across the country to pass resolutions officially opposing the TPP.

And that’s only what the USW did. The AFL-CIO was an important leader on this issue. And many other unions were just as active, and so were groups like the Sierra Club and the BlueGreen Alliance. The effort was relentless and concerted. And that’s why it was successful.

For the USW, this win was a long time coming. It began 22 years ago when the USW took on NAFTA. The union filed a federal lawsuit trying to overturn that scheme. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court refused to hear it, and the USW lost. Workers continue to suffer devastation from NAFTA today, as manufacturers close profit-making American factories and re-open them across the border in Mexico where greedy corporations can make even more profit by destroying the environment and paying slave wages then shipping the goods duty free back to the United States.

For example, Carrier announced in February that it would close two profit-making factories in Indiana and reopen them in Mexico. The result is 2,100 workers, members of the USW, will lose their good, family-supporting jobs.

That’s NAFTA. That’s a trade deal negotiated by corporations for corporations. After that came Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China in 2000. The USW strongly protested that as well, because the union believed none of the hype about how China was a huge market, and the United States was going to do all of the selling there.

As it turns out, the USW was right. China has relentlessly dumped government-subsidized products on the American market, baldly defying the international trade laws it agreed to abide by when it signed that agreement in 2000. That has devastated companies that want to manufacture in America, including steel, aluminum, paper and tires producers. These manufacturers have repeatedly had to pay untold millions to file trade cases to obtain limited relief in the form of tariffs, and tens of thousands of workers have paid in the terrible form of lost jobs.

The USW has protested virtually every so-called free trade scheme proposed since NAFTA, most particularly those with Korea and Colombia. In the case of Colombia, where more trade unionists were murdered than in any other country in the world, we asked for a delay in approval of the deal at least until safety for collective bargaining could be assured. We were ignored. And more trade unionists have been murdered every year since the deal took effect.

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Image from the Rock Against the TPP concert in Pittsburgh and is by Chelsey Engel, writer, photographer, singer.

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Then came the massive, hulking dragon of a TPP, the likes and size of which had never been seen before. This time, the corporatists really stepped in it. This time it wasn’t just a few angry trade unionists stinging their ankles. This time the self-dealing free traders had pissed off far too many civil society groups. And they were organized. And they weren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s not over, though. None of us oppose trade. We just want trade deals that, as economist Jared Bernstein and trade law expert Lori Wallach put it, are “written for all the cars on the road, not just the Lamborghinis.” For that to happen, all the groups that protested this deal must be at the table to negotiate the next deal – not just the corporations. The Lamborghinis are one interest group. We are many.

When I was a kid, Frank Sinatra sang a song called High Hopes, and the most famous verse was this:

“Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant, can’t

Move a rubber tree plant.”

No ant can move a rubber tree plant. But let me tell you, a couple million ants just killed a TPP monster. There’s high hope in concerted action.

Guest Editorial: Exposing Trump’s Trade Appeal To Working-Class Voters For What It Is

(This is a special guest editorial from Dave Johnson who works for Campaign for America’s Future.  The original post is here)

Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.

Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.

That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Trump’s Trade Speech

Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.

From the speech:

The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.

But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.

Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.

Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.

[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)

Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.

President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.

Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”

“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”

[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”

Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears

Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.

Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.

Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.

Brexit Warning

The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.

Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:

Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.

This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.

Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”

Trump Is A Fraud On Trade

The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:

“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”

“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.

“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”

EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:

It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.

Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform

British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.

Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.

Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.

Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:

● Campaign for America’s Future: Sign our petitions to Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tell her she and other democrats to send Obama a message: Don’t undermine our nominee. No vote lame duck vote on TPP.

● CREDO Action: Sign the petition: The Democratic Party platform must include unequivocal opposition to the TPP

● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?

Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”

AFL-CIO Launches Online Ads Targeting Senators On A Variety Of Issues Including The TPP

Ads to Target Senate Candidates in Six States

To view ads click here: http://bit.ly/293dN2i

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Washington, DC) – Today the AFL-CIO launched the first round of ads in six key battleground states: Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida and Wisconsin. The ads are uniquely targeted to reach working people and draw attention to Senate candidates whose policies are against the interests of working families.

“Working people will be a force in this election,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “These ads are just one of the many tools we will use to speak to our members and the community about what’s at stake. Our job is to educate working families on the candidates who aspire to lead America. We will stand together with politicians who share our values and oppose those who do not.”

The ads will run initially on Facebook and drive traffic to specific petitions on issues that matter to working people, including restoring the Voting Rights Act, comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure investment and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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.”

Leo W Gerard: American Workers Crushed Under China’s Deliberate Overproduction

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

I went to Washington, D.C., last week to ask trade experts and lawmakers to stop the relentless, lawless, callous dumping of Chinese steel, aluminum, paper, rubber, glass, chemicals and other products, which has closed mills, killed jobs, destroyed lives, devastated American communities and imperiled national security.

American steel is made in the most efficient, cost-effective mills in the world by the most skilled, productive workers anywhere. That’s a fact. It’s a fact that steel executives testified to last week in hearings conducted by members of Congress and trade law enforcers. We want the trade enforcers and Congress to stop the dumping and to force China to dramatically cut its steel production because China has kept none of its promises over the past seven years to voluntarily do so. In fact, it has continuously increased production.

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China makes way, way too much steel. In 2015, it produced nearly 500 million tonsmore than it needed. It did that to keep its citizens employed, its mills running and its country free of civic unrest.

That would be fine if China just put all of that extra steel in a warehouse somewhere. But it dumped more than 100 million tons in overseas markets in 2015. Production of that steel was subsidized by the Chinese government in ways that violate international trade rules, so the price was artificially low. And Chinasuppresses the value of its currency, further falsely reducing the cost of the steel.

Even the most efficient mills in the world can’t compete with a country. So they shut down.

On Tuesday, Sam Pantello, a maintenance mechanical technician at EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo, Colo., told the U.S. Trade Representative that 260 of his fellow workers are laid off and EVRAZ is running at 65 percent capacity all because of Chinese dumping.  Here is what he said:

“We produce high-quality steel cost-effectively and efficiently and are the only manufacturer of steel rail west of the Mississippi. And yet, because of steel dumping, I have co-workers out of a job, worrying about making their next mortgage or car payment, and that just isn’t right.”

This didn’t happen overnight. China has been ramping up production of steel and aluminum and other commodities for over a decade. It ships the excess overseas. That floods international markets, artificially depressing prices worldwide. That bankrupts factories and mills that operate on Western free market principles, causing unemployment and shattering communities. The devastation has occurred across the United States, Great Britain and Europe.

Everyone is affected, from the guy who digs the iron ore out of the ground to the guy who sells burgers to workers leaving the mill on shift change. Dan Pierce, a diesel mechanic at the U.S. Steel Keewatin Taconite mine in Hibbing, Minn., explained this to the U.S. Trade Representative. Because so many steel mills are partly or completely shut down, the demand for taconite, which is processed into iron ore pellets, is slim. U.S. Steel closed the Keewatin Taconite mine last May and laid off nearly all of the 360 workers, including Pierce.

“Not being able to work for the past 11 months has put stress on me, my family and my friends as we wrestle with the uncertainty of if, and when, I will be able to return to work. Our family has had to hold off on home repairs and cut back on groceries and eating out. When we do this, and you multiply it by all of the other workers going through the same things, it means local businesses suffer as people make less trips to places like the Super One Foods or the Erikson lumberyard. Everything in the [iron] range depends on the mining companies running. When they’re shut down, it affects everyone, from daycare providers to local car dealerships to hospitals,” Pierce explained.

The effect of China dumping its excessive production into the world market is massive layoffs, both in the United States and in Europe. Last week Britain demanded that China rein in its overcapacity after Tata Steel announced it was placing its partly closed British mills on the auction block, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

In the United States, 13,500 steelworkers hold layoff notices, and earlier this month, 750 U.S. Steel white-collar workers learned they’d lose their jobs too. The crisis has hit aluminum just as hard. Five years ago, 14 aluminum smelters ran in this country. Now there are five. Another is slated to close in June. If it does, 6,500 aluminum workers will have lost their jobs. These are good, family-supporting jobs with benefits and pensions.  This is China exporting unemployment.

Tim Davis, a crane operator at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, Ore., told the U.S. Trade Representative what it means to lose that kind of job. His mill makes rebar, coiled steel wire and flat bar. Because of dumped coiled wire and rebar, Cascade is running on reduced days and furloughed 70 workers, including Davis.

“Cascade Steel isn’t just a job to me. It helped raise me. The paychecks my dad received from working there when I was growing up allowed me to participate in sports while I was in school, paid for our family vacations and ensured that I had a roof over my head and food on the table. I want that for my family. I want to know that as long as I work hard to provide for my family that they can have the same childhood I did thanks to my dad working hard at Cascade Steel.

“I am proud to follow in my father’s footsteps in the manufacturing industry, and I would hope that my children would be proud to follow us if that is what they choose to do, but for that to happen, there needs to be an American manufacturing industry around for them to do so, and at the current rate of American factories closing their doors for good, I’m concerned they won’t have that option.

“At this pace, the only option my kids will have is college, the military or working at a retail store that was built with foreign materials, selling foreign-made products, and then bagging purchases up in foreign-made bags,” he told the Trade Representative.

Since 2009, China has repeatedly acknowledged that it makes too much steel and promised to stop. But it doesn’t. It just makes even more. Even at a loss.

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Again in January China said it would cut production. This time by 100 million tons by 2020. That is not nearly enough. It would, in fact, be insignificant, only about a fifth of its overproduction. But then just last month, China’s Baosteel, a major state-owned company, announced that it would increase production by 20 percent this year.

To put China’s excess in perspective, the nearly 500 million tons it overproduced in 2015 is more than five times the steel forged in the United States, and the United States is the third-largest producer of steel in the world. In 2000, China had just slightly more steelmaking capacity than the United States, but since then, it increased so dramatically that now China has 1.2 billion tons of capacity. That is more than 10 times the capacity of the United States, where production declined over that period.

China’s capacity now exceeds that of the United States, Japan, the European Union, and Russia combined. That means every mill in the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union could shut down, all of those workers could lose their jobs, all of those communities could crumble and China would reap the benefits by exporting all of its steel and further expanding its industry.

If those countries rolled over and let China do that.

David Clark, a maintenance utility worker at the U.S. Steel Fairfield Tubular Operations in Alabama, previewed for the U.S. Trade Representative what such a China takeover could mean. Much of the Fairfield works shut down in August, and 1,000 steelworkers were laid off. The local union has set up a food bank to help families get by. “My community is struggling,” he told the trade officials.

“The outlook is bleak for the business in our town. All of the suppliers in the area have been forced to cut positions. Some local gas stations have ceased 24-hour operations as the traffic at shift changes went away. And retailers are leaving the city. Shortly after the closure, Walmart and other retailers left the city of Fairfield, and the loss of sales tax revenue has placed the city in dire financial situations. It has gotten to the point where the city council in Fairfield is debating closure of the police department and the suspension of other city services in order to survive.”

Clark said what every steelworker told the trade officials and what we all told Congress: “No U.S. steelworker should have to lose a job to allow unfairly traded steel into this country.”

The corporate officials asked the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress to act to save an industry vital to national security. I told the same officials to stop swallowing false promises of change from China and impose broad-based import restraints, take comprehensive, enforceable measures to reduce global overcapacity and definitively declare that China does not qualify as a market economy under U.S. law.

“I implore this committee to consider the true cost of allowing terrible policies and bad trade agreements to continue destroying the very thing that made this country what it is. We became the strongest, most powerful country in the world because American blue-collar workers carried us there on their backs on their quest to achieve the American Dream. Each and every unfair trade deal we jump into is destroying the legacy that our forefathers created with sweat on their brow and calluses on their hands.”

New AFL-CIO Highlight Connections Between TPP And Life Saving Medications

Screen Shot of VideoNew AFL-CIO TPP Video Addresses Potential Deadly Consequences of Trade Deal

(Washington, DC) – Today, the AFL-CIO released a video of cancer survivor Zahara Heckscher explaining how passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could put the lives of cancer patients like her in jeopardy. She wants the world to know that the TPP affects human lives.

“I’m alive right now because of the progress that’s been made in medicine,” said Heckscher.  “I’ve found out that the TPP will actually threaten access to the kinds of medicines that are keeping me alive. When you have advanced cancer, you live on hope. What difference does it make if the medicines are available if you can’t access them? ”

Drug companies have been allowed to add stipulations to the TPP that will increase the length of patents and other related monopolies that increase prices and decrease access. This could keep lifesaving cancer medicines out of reach due to exorbitant monopoly pricing.

“We know the TPP is toxic in every way. It was a deal negotiated by corporations, for corporations that puts profits over people’s livelihoods and lives,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The AFL-CIO and our partners are fighting to defeat the TPP for our friends like Zahara, and for all those whose lives are impacted by corporate greed.”

This video is the first in a series examining the real human impact of trade agreements like the TPP.

Leo W Gerard: Murdering American Manufacturing: ‘Strictly Business’

Via YouTube

Via YouTube

In the week before Valentine’s Day, United Technologies expressed its love for its devoted Indiana employees, workers whose labor had kept the corporation profitable, by informing 2,100 of them at two facilities that it was shipping their factories, their jobs, their communities’ resources to Mexico.

A few workers shouted obscenities at the corporate official. Some walked out. Others openly wept as United Technologies shattered their hopes, their dreams, their means to pay middle-class mortgages.

Three days later, 1,336 workers at Philadelphia’s largest remaining manufacturer, Cardone, learned that company planned to throw them out too and build brake calipers in Mexico instead. Two weeks earlier, a Grand Rapids, Mich., company called Dematic did the same thing to its 300 workers.

No surprise. In the first decade of this century, America lost 56,190 factories, 15 a day.

Republican presidential candidates talk incessantly of building a physical wall to keep impoverished Mexican immigrants out of America. What they fail to offer is an economic barrier to prevent the likes of United Technologies and Cardone and Dematic from impoverishing American workers by exporting their jobs to Mexico.

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The president of Carrier, owned by United Technologies, gathered the Indianapolis factory employees, skilled workers who earn an average of $20 an hour, and informed them that the corporation planned to kick them to the curb but expected them to perform to the highest standards until Carrier opened a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico, where workers will be paid $3 an hour.

Carrier President Chris Nelson told the group, “This was an extremely difficult decision.”

Such difficulties for poor, poor United Technologies! It was making a nice profit at its Indianapolis and Huntington factories. But it was not the big fat profit it could pocket by paying Mexican workers a mere $3 an hour, providing no health or pension benefits, and doing it all in the nation with the longest work weeks among the 36 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It would be “extremely difficult” for United Technologies to abandon Indiana after the corporation grabbed $530,000 from the pockets of hard-working Hoosiers over the past nine years as the state’s economic development agency forked over taxpayer cash to the corporation.

It would be even more “difficult” to turn its back on America considering that United Technologies grabbed $121 million from a federal tax credit program established specifically to ensure that green manufacturing jobs remained in the United States. Carrier took $5.1 million of those tax credits in 2013.

“This is strictly a business decision,” Nelson told the jeering workers. It wasn’t because of anything they had done. It was just that Mexico allows corporations to exploit its people in ways that America does not. It permits $3-an-hour pay, while the United States requires at least $7.25. For now, at least. Some GOP president candidates (Donald Trump) have said they think that’s too high.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ensnared Mexican and American workers in a race to the bottom. And the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade deal among 12 countries instead of just three, would place American and Mexican workers in an even worse competition. They’d vie for jobs with forced and child labor in places like Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Under NAFTA, cheap American grain shipped to Mexico without tariffs destroyed peasant farming. And that prompted migration north. Meanwhile, American factories saw desperate Mexicans willing to work for a pittance, a government unwilling to pass or enforce environmental laws, and because of NAFTA, no tariffs when the goods were shipped back to the United States. That propelled factory migration south.

Before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade surplus with Mexico. That disappeared within a year, and now the annual trade deficit is approximately $50 billion.

Though it has been 22 years since NAFTA took effect, a report issued last week by the AFL-CIO says, “Labor abuses in many cases are worse now than before NAFTA. . . In short, NAFTA has contributed to labor abuses, not improvements.”

The report says the Mexican government fails to enforce labor laws and refuses to ensure that workers can form independent labor unions to try to protect their own rights. In fact, the report says, “The human and labor rights situation in Mexico is rapidly deteriorating.”

As a result, workers are powerless and completely at the mercy of corporations. So corporations like United Technologies can pay them $3 an hour and get away with it. This is not good for Mexican workers. And it’s not good for American workers.

The AFL-CIO report makes it clear that the TPP would worsen the situation because it would give corporations like United Technologies the option of moving to places like Vietnam where they could pay trafficked workers and child laborers $1 an hour. Or less.

Just like with NAFTA, there’s nothing enforceable in the TPP that would stop the labor abuses. It would facilitate corporations forcing workers from Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Monterrey, Mexico, into competition with 14-year-olds laboring 60-hour-weeks for $1-an-hour in Malaysia.

Just like United Technologies, these corporate CEOs would say it was “strictly business” to offshore American mills, industry that had served as city centers for decades, even centuries, factories so synonymous with towns that the communities took their names like Ambridge (American Bridge) and Hershey, which, by the way, laid off workers at its Pennsylvania home in 2007 and opened a chocolate plant in Monterrey, Mexico.

The AFL-CIO investigation of the TPP determined that it would do nothing more than increase corporate profits while sticking workers – in the United States and elsewhere – with lost jobs, lower wages and repressed rights.

For 22 years NAFTA has destroyed subsistence farming in Mexico and good, middle class factory jobs in the United States. Maybe corporations have made out like bandits. But the banditry should be stopped for the heartache it has caused on both sides of the border.

As Carrier President Nelson told the Indianapolis workers, members of my union, the United Steelworkers, that he was taking their jobs from them so that shareholders and corporate executives could make a few extra bucks, the workers protested. Nelson kept saying, “Quiet down. Let’s quiet down.”

That’s exactly the opposite of what American workers and communities should be doing. They should shouting from rooftops, “No TPP!”  For the love of American manufacturing, they should be yelling bloody murder.

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.

Free Trade Strikes Again As 1,300 More Manufacturing Jobs Are Shipped Out

file photo from US Gov Image by Jason Frost.

file photo from US Gov
Image by Jason Frost.


The failures of so-called free trade agreements continue to plague American workers.

Last week, Carrier announced that they would be moving 1,400 jobs over the next two years to a new plant in Mexico.  This move will allow Carrier, and their parent company United Technologies, to continue to rake in billions in profits and reduce their labor costs at the same time. The average HVAC worker at Carrier in Mexico will make around $6.00 an hour.

On Monday, Philly.com reported that Cardone, an auto parts manufacturer, will be moving 1,300 jobs to their plant in Mexico.

“Cardone, the Philadelphia auto-parts rebuilder which calls itself the city’s largest remaining manufacturing company, will shift 1,336 workers from its brake caliper plants at 5501 Whitaker Ave. and 5670 Rising Sun Ave. to a plant in Matamoros, Mexico, just south of Cardone’s warehouses in Brownsville, Texas over the next two years.”

Back in 2011, the Cardone CEO Michael Cardone III said he was committed to Philly when rumors surfaced that the company would be shifting jobs to their Texas and Mexico plants.

“We’re committed to Philadelphia. We’re committed to staying here, and we’re committed to job retention.”

Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for the company, told Philly.com Monday, that the “company was moving the brake work to Mexico because the “entry level” manufacturing work is “particularly sensitive” to cheap foreign competition.”

Again we see exactly how these so-called free trade agreements are destroying American jobs.  Chinese manufacturers are bringing in products cheaper, because they pay workers slave wages and US manufacturers are moving moving overseas to preserve their profit margins.

“Since 1998, U.S. manufacturers have eliminated 3.4 million jobs as China’s trade surplus with the United States swelled to $201.6 billion from $57 billion. Industries such as clothing, office products, furniture and toys have already ceded much of their production to Asia,” reported Bob Fernandez, staff writer for the INQUIRER.

Now we are on the cusp of another so-called free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that has been labeled NAFTA on steroids.

Though some have labeled the TPP as the “gold standard” many, including the AFL-CIO, say that the TPP fails to address the chronic labor abuses currently plaguing workers in these countries.

“Calling the TPP’s labor rights provisions a gold standard is a mirage,” said Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist. “We know from experience that the discretionary dispute settlement model does not work for vulnerable workers, and the highly touted ‘new’ labor provisions do not provide meaningful new protections for abused and exploited workers.”

So what is to be gained from theses corporate driven trade policies?

More income inequality as greedy corporations continue the race to the bottom, finding new ways to pay workers even less while still protecting their record profits.

We must work together with our elected leaders to stop the TPP and fix our trade policies that encourage corporations to shift their manufacturing overseas.

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