March 9, 2015
By Neal Tepel
This week saw 10 affiliated unions go to Washington, D.C. in an effort to put the brakes on President Barack Obama's push for so-called "fast track" Trade Promotion Authority and a massive new trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP].
Derided as "NAFTA on steroids," TTP opponents fear the scheme involving 12 countries and 60 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product, is nothing more than a secretive corporate giveaway that will ultimately bleed more American jobs overseas.
"This is going to create thousands of jobs, they’re just not going to be in our country,” Congressman Donald Norcross [D-New Jersey] said on Capitol Hill. “The one percent is going to make out, and that’s who’s pushing this.”
According to the former union business agent, bad trade deals like NAFTA and TTP are responsible for the loss of 20,000 manufacturing in his New Jersey district alone.
"Our state, and the country as a whole, have already lost too many jobs to foreign competition – companies that keep their costs down by ignoring common sense labor, environmental and safety standards," New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said in a statement. "Giving President Obama exclusive trade negotiating authority will result in more bad deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, which sent jobs overseas and failed to fulfill promises to improve working conditions for our brothers and sisters in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, who are often intimidated by threats and violence at work.”
Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan led a delegation of 50 state labor leaders and rank-and-file members to Washington, DC, on March 4, for a National Labor Lobby Day to oppose the renewal of “fast track" Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
If approved, lawmakers in Congress would have just 90 days for an up or down, yes or no vote to ratify the entire TTP treaty. They also wouldn't be able to change any of its provisions.
Legislation authorizing TPA was introduced in the last session of Congress, but not voted on in the House or Senate. Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the current term, but it is expected soon because President Obama requested it in his State of the Union.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council, meanwhile, has decided to suspend political contributions to lawmakers until after the Fast-Track vote in Congress.
“We went to Washington to urge our members of Congress to keep our state’s working people in mind when negotiating future trade deals,” Wowkanech added.