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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.

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.

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.

Congress Flooded with Anti-TPP Calls In National Day Of Action

6 Million Member Sanders Campaign Legacy Group Our Revolution Joins Almost 90 Other Organizations in National Day of Action 

As President Obama Urges Corporate Chiefs at Export Council to Do More to Pass Beleaguered TPP, More than 13 Million People to Be Engaged to Call on Congress to Oppose Lame Duck TPP Push

Washington, DC – Approximately 90 organizations are participating in a National Call-In Day of Action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today, September 14th. These organizations, listed below, will remind their combined millions of supporters why TPP is a bad deal for America and will encourage supporters to tell their congressional representatives to oppose the TPP in a post-election lame duck session of Congress.

As part of the national day of action, more than 13 million people will be engaged through a range of online and offline channels, with calls expected in every congressional district in the country. The efforts will both encourage Americans to call their local Member of Congress, while also directing extra attention at the 28 House Democratic Members who vote to “fast track” authority for the TPP.

“The sheer volume of people participating in these grassroots efforts shows how toxic TPP is across the country. This is not just about stopping a bad trade deal like the TPP – it’s about completely rewriting the rules on trade policy to make sure they benefit working people,” stated Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President.

 Among the key activities as part of this national day of action include:

  • On social media platforms, an anti-TPP ThunderClap Action will reach more than 1.6 million people via Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr on Wednesday morning 9/14
  • Our Revolution, the post-primary movement of Sen. Bernie Sanders, has sent out an email alert for the call-in day to their list of about 6 million individuals on Monday. The organization, which plans to re-send the email on Wednesday, is asking recipients to sign a congressional petition against TPP and are setting as a public goal the aim to “place at least 50,000 calls to members of Congress and their offices on Wednesday. 
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA) activists are engaged in multiple actions to reinforce opposition to the TPP. CWA members nationwide are calling their Members of Congress, pressing them to oppose the TPP in a lame duck push. Activists are making sure that this message: “Don’t Let Politicians Betray American Workers” especially is heard by candidates in critical battleground Senate contests, like Indiana’s Republican Senate nominee and current Rep. Todd Young and other races. CWA activists also are joining allies in on-the-ground actions. In South Florida, for example, protests at the district offices of pro-fast track voters Senator Marco Rubio and Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Debbie Wasserman Schultz will include CWA and other South Florida unions, Citizens Trade Campaign and community activists, members of the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), and NOVA Southeastern Law Professor Tim Canova. Along with AFSCME, CWA is engaged in a phone program in targeted districts, encouraging constituents to call their Members of Congress and urge them to reject the TPP once and for all.
  • The AFL-CIO is engaging its 12.5 million members through its State Federations and Central Labor Councils. It is rallying more than 100,000 action takers around the call-in day, including more than 15,000 people who signed a petition opposing a lame duck vote in the last two days. The federation will also engage all its social media properties throughout the day.
  • The Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group with 2.4 million members and supporters, is making the environmental case against the TPP in Congress. Hundreds of thousands of supporters will be asked to participate in tomorrow’s call in day, building on the more than 100,000 calls and messages Sierra Club members and supporters have already sent to Congress this year.

Quotes from Participating Organizations:

“We are concerned that passage of the TPP will greatly compromise our public health and food safety. For example, we know that just over 1 percent of imported fish and seafood shipments is properly inspected and has resulted in seafood being sold in U.S. supermarkets with unsafe chemicals and additives, some of which are illegal in our country. That is why the Center for Food Safety sent out alerts to our 800,00 members urging them to participate in today’s call-in action and tell their member of Congress to vote no on the TPP.” -Debbie Barker, international director, Center for Food Safety 

“It’s unfortunate that we are not able to focus exclusively at this time on defeating Donald Trump and electing a Democratic Senate and House in less than two months. Instead, President Obama is forcing the entire progressive community to use our resources in this critical election season to try and defeat the corporate drafted, jobs destroying TPP. His insistence on having a lame duck Congressional vote on the TPP only means fewer resources and members engaged in winning the elections. He is the one responsible for choosing the timing of this distracting fight.” – Shane Larson, legislative director, Communications Workers of America (CWA)

“The Obama administration is hoping to jam this corporate giveaway through Congress during the lame duck session when elected officials are less accountable to voters. Today, throughout the fall, and beyond, we’ll make it crystal clear to Congress that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is unacceptable – and that any politician who supports it will be held accountable. We will continue to build on the activism of over 4.2 million CREDO members who have already made over 50,000 calls to Congress to speak out against the TPP.” –Murshed Zaheed, political director, CREDO

“Demand Progress joined this national call-in day of action because the TPP would be a disastrous corporate giveaway that would undermine Internet freedom, make it easier for corporations to ship jobs overseas, and give big banks unprecedented new rights to challenge U.S. laws in front of an unaccountable tribunal of three corporate lawyers. The TPP was negotiated in secret, so it’s even more outrageous that the Obama administration is attempting to shut the public out again by pushing it through Congress after Election Day when lawmakers are least accountable to the American people.” –Kate Kizer, campaigner, Demand Progress

“While the president is cloistered with corporate chieftains planning how to use a lame duck session to try to pass a TPP only they love, Congress’ phones are ringing off the hook with anti-TPP calls as millions of members of unions and consumer, environmental, on-line activism, and other groups unite for an day of action aimed at ensuring Representatives stand with their constituents not the corporate lobby.”  -Lori Wallach, director, Public Citizen

“The TPP undermines our democracy. It was not written by or for people, but by and for powerful corporate interests. MoveOn members are proud to join with a broad coalition of environmental, consumer, labor, and grassroots progressive groups to call members of Congress urging them to reject the TPP. MoveOn members have been organizing against the TPP since 2012 and will continue to fight through the lame duck session and beyond.” –Emma Einhorn, Washington coordinator, MoveOn.org

Democrats Answer: “Will You Vote For The TPP In The Lame Duck Session?”

Because the TPP is such a hot button issue for many Americans, specifically those in the labor movement, I thought I would share with you this short video from Under Current.

The video was filmed at the Democratic National Convention.  Senators and Congressmen were asked straight out if the TPP comes up during the “Lame Duck Session” will you support it?

We must keep the pressure on our Congressional Representatives, specifically the Democratic representatives who say they support labor, to ensure that the TPP does not pass.

Guinta Lies About Opposing The TPP In New Campaign Video

Guinta deceives voters on TPP position after casting deciding vote to give President Obama power to fast-track TPP

Rochester, NH— This morning, in a new campaign video his campaign released. Congressman Frank Guinta again deceived voters, this time about his position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Based on his past support for TPP, this is just another dishonest political stunt to distract from his campaign financing scandal.  Frank Guinta has actually been very supportive of TPP, writing to President Obama to urge him to move it forward. Here is a report from WGBH:

Only one New Englander has declared support for the bill, according to The Hill: New Hampshire Republican Frank Guinta. Guinta signed onto a public letter with other freshman Republicans in support of the measure.”

Frank Guinta signed a letter to President Obama that promoted TPP and the passage of TPA (Trade Promotion Authority).  Guinta’s letter said,  “Swift action early this year on TPA would pave the way for sustained economic growth and job creation.  We … look forward to working with you to pass TPA early this year.”

Congressman Guinta cast the deciding vote for fast track for TPP, which gave President Obama sole authority to negotiate and forced Congress to only be allowed to vote “Yes” or “No” on the whole package, with no opportunity to amend. 

In response to Guinta’s deception, Carol Shea-Porter released the following statement:

“While Frank Guinta deceives voters in whatever way he thinks will save his campaign, I have always been steadfast in my opposition to both TPA and TPP. I do believe in trade, but it needs to be fair trade. The TPP does not meet that standard. The TPA took away legislators’ ability to impact or change anything in the trade agreement, which I believe gives too much power to the Executive Branch.”

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

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(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.”

The US International Trade Commission Shows The TPP Is Bad News For Working Families

A New Report From The US International Trade Commission
Shows The TPP Is Not Worth Passing 

ITC-International-Trade-Commission-logoYesterday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released their findings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). To nobody’s surprise the results are not good.

The TPP would not deliver the economic benefits promised by the U.S. Trade Representative. Instead, the report shows that the deal would be disastrous, increasing the U.S. trade deficit by over $21 billion per year and harming employment in key industries.

Basically they found that miniscule gains would be made in most of the sectors of the economy. By miniscule I mean that after 15 years the TPP would increase our GDP by a whopping 0.15%.

Most alarmingly, the ITC report projects that the TPP would increase the U.S. trade deficit in both manufacturing and the services sector. According to the report, once fully implemented, the TPP would decrease manufacturing output by over $11 billion per year and would decrease U.S. employment in manufacturing by 0.2%.  The report also highlights concerns that the TPP would put call center jobs at particular risk of being offshored.

The weak economic projections in the ITC report are especially notable given that ITC’s track record is one of being overly optimistic about the effects of free trade deals on American workers and our economy.

These results are not surprising to many of the labor groups who have been against this multi-national trade agreement since it was announced.

“This ITC report is so damaging that any reasonable observer would have to wonder why the Administration or Congress would spend even one more day trying to turn this disastrous proposal into a reality,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Even though it’s based on unrealistic assumptions, the report could not even produce a positive result for U.S. manufacturing and U.S. workers.”

“One of many shockers is just how meager the purported benefits of the TPP are. A mere .15% of GDP growth over 15 years is laughably small—especially in comparison to what we’re being asked to give up in exchange for locking in a bonanza of rights and privileges for global corporations,” added Trumka.

“Even though the report fails to account for currency manipulation, wage suppression and the negative impacts of uninspected food imports and higher drug costs, the study still projects the TPP will cost manufacturing jobs and exacerbate our trade deficit,” Trumka concluded.

“This report validates that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not worth passing,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard. “This report, as mandated by law, indicates the TPP will produce almost no benefits, but inflict real harm on so many workers.”

Trumka and the AFL-CIO are not alone in their condemnation of this report. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers highlights that includes many of the same provisions, currently in our international trade agreements, that fail to protect basic labor rights.

“The ITC, which historically has overestimated the benefits of trade agreements, predicts that the TPP will increase our nation’s trade deficit in manufacturing. This means that the corporate driven, secretly negotiated TPP will lead to the export of good paying manufacturing jobs to countries like Vietnam that lack basic human rights,” said International President Robert Martinez, Jr., of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). “For ordinary Americans struggling to get by this will result in more unemployment and continued downward pressure on wages and benefits.”

“The IAM has repeatedly called for the inclusion in the TPP of the International Labor Organization Conventions, which explicitly define basic labor rights. Unfortunately, the TPP labor chapter contains the same ineffectual provisions as in other U.S. trade agreements and fails to provide effective mechanisms to deal with countries lacking fundamental labor rights, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico. That Malaysia, a country cited for human trafficking while focused on rapidly developing its aerospace industry, would be include in the TPP repudiates any notion that the agreement sets a new standard for international labor rights.”

“While the ITC has found that the TPP might increase U.S. GDP by a meager 0.15 percent by 2032, this is of little solace to the working families that will be devastated by the agreement’s numerous flaws. The IAM strongly urges Congress to reject the TPP and focus on a trade policy that benefits America’s working families.”

“The ITC has a long history of being overly optimistic about our trade deals. Yet, even the ITC’s rosy projection paints a picture of the TPP that would be bad for American workers,” said Shane Larson, Legislative Director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).  “Across the electorate and throughout the country, the public is coming out strongly against the TPP and for good reason. The TPP was based on a trade model that has led to lost manufacturing jobs, lower wages, and increased trade deficits. It’s no surprise that those outcomes are what the TPP will deliver.”

The TPP will be hot button issues during this coming election. We have already seen this in the Presidential primary process. People all across the country are challenging candidates to stand up in opposition to this disastrous trade deal now.

“The American public has made clear its overwhelming opposition to the TPP and the approach to trade it embodies, and now this report makes it even more clear why lawmakers of both parties should stand with the American people and loudly oppose the TPP,” Larson stated.

“This year voters across the country are clearly making trade an issue. Most Washington policymakers and politicians are out of touch with the lives of average Americans. The American public is sick and tired of economists projecting fantasies of prosperity for them when it’s primarily multinational corporations that benefit. On Main Street and in workplaces all across America, working Americans know firsthand the consequences of what economists experience in theory,” added Gerard of the USW.

“But in the end, this may be the most damning government report ever submitted for a trade agreement. It is clear that the TPP will be DOA if Congress ever decides to bring it up,” Gerard stated.

This report clearly shows that the drawbacks to the TPP far out weight the meager benefits promised the US Trade Representative and the White House.

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