June 11, 2015
By Steven Wishnia
The AFL-CIO has launched an ad campaign denouncing Rep. Kathleen Rice for endorsing giving President Barack Obama “fast-track authority” for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“Which Kathleen Rice can we trust?” says the 30-second video, which began airing on TV and the Web June 9. “In January, Congresswoman Rice wrote a letter to President Barack Obama saying she opposed fast-track trade authority because it would send American jobs offshore and push down wages. In April, she said it again. On Saturday, Rice flip-flopped and now supports exactly that bad policy that experts say cost millions of American jobs we can’t afford to lose.” The ad will also appear on the Washington-based Politico, Roll Call, and The Hill political-news sites, the AFL-CIO said.
Rice, who represents the southern half of Nassau County, is one of 18 House Democrats who have publicly backed fast-track, according to the liberal-Democrat Daily Kos Web site. She announced her revised position in a June 6 op-ed article in The Hill, saying that she was now confident that the TPP would provide “a fair opportunity for American workers to compete and an expanded marketplace for the goods they produce” and that “our President and his negotiating team will demand that any trade deal accomplish these goals without sacrificing the worker and environmental protections that have shamefully eluded past accords.”
She also criticized labor leaders who “have voiced nearly unprecedented opposition to what could be the signature economic accomplishment of an inarguably worker-friendly president,” arguing that “in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, those of us who truly care about American workers have to modernize our thinking and objectively evaluate deals outside of the shadow of past failures.”
The labor criticism of Rice hasn’t just been in the media. On June 8, scores of union members and environmentalists protested outside her Garden City office, carrying signs like “Thank You for Shipping Our Jobs.” The crowd included members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, along with Mario Cilento, president of the New York StateAFL-CIO.
“Congresswoman Rice's about-face on fast track is a complete betrayal not only to the constituents in the 4th Congressional District on Long Island but all working men and women across this country,” Cilento said in a statement. “She has unfortunately buckled to the pressure from corporate interests and has made a conscious decision to vote for fast-track legislation that will harm working people, our families, and the economy.”
The AFL-CIO described the 4th District, which includes the Five Towns, Rockville Centre, and Hempstead, as the most union-dense congressional district in the nation. Rice is serving her first term in the House after nine years as Nassau district attorney. She was elected last November to replace the retiring Carolyn McCarthy.