Trumka Sets the Record Straight on Fast Track

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sets the record straight when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track in this short audio clip. If you want to know what’s really happening on the trade front, give it a listen.

 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Raising Wages Is ‘Measuring Stick’ for Presidential Candidate Support, Trumka Declares

As the 2016 presidential battle begins to roll down the campaign trail toward Election Day 18 months from now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The labor movement’s doors are open to any candidate who is serious about transforming our economy with high and rising wages.”

In a live-streamed speech this morning from the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., Trumka said:

We have created an agenda for shared prosperity called raising wages. It will be our inspiration and our measuring stick throughout the presidential campaign.  Raising wages is grounded in a fundamental idea—that we can become a high-wage society, a society in which the people who do the work share in the wealth we create.

He also stressed that the labor movement opposes Fast Track and:

We expect those who seek to lead our nation forward to oppose Fast Track. There is no middle ground, and the time for deliberations is drawing to a close.

Trumka pointed to the skepticism and cynicism many voters feel, especially after nearly two generations national leaders have either “taken steps that worsened inequality or fiddled around the edges, trying to raise wages in an economy fundamentally built to lower wages.”

President Obama has spent much of his presidency getting our nation out of a deep economic crisis. Now we have an economy where GDP is up, and the stock market is up, but wages remain flat—and this has happened again and again since the 1970s. Once again, America is emerging from an economic crisis—but those of us who count on paychecks are not. And that’s not an accident. Workers are being held down on purpose.

He said the decline in wages, soaring corporate profits and booming CEO pay are not the result “of the wandering and clumsy hand of capitalism.” Instead, he said:

Since the 1980s, the growing political power of the wealthiest among us has rewritten our labor laws, our trade laws, our tax laws, our monetary policies, our fiscal policies, our financial regulations…all to push wages down and to increase corporate profits, to put speculation over private investment and tax cuts over public investment.

The results, Trumka said, are runaway inequality, unemployment, falling wages, rising economic insecurity, collapsing infrastructure and deteriorating national competitiveness—all driven by gigantic imbalances in economic and political power.

In the 2016 campaign, “there will be no place to hide for those who aspire to lead America,” he said.

The problems of income inequality and stagnant wages are so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st century. And America’s workers know that the first step on that path is raising wages.

But he emphasized that a raising wages agenda is a broad vision that includes earned sick leave, full employment and fair overtime rules for workers. It also includes taxing Wall Street to pay for massive investments in infrastructure and education, so Wall Street serves Main Street, not the other way around and the ability for workers to bargain collectively with employers for good wages and benefits without fear of retaliation.

Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold and comprehensive raising wages agenda. They must be committed to investing in a prosperous future for America. They must have an authentic voice and a commitment, from the candidate down through his or her economic team, to see this agenda through to completion.

Read the full address here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Trumka Details Labor’s Fight Against Fast Track and Bad Trade Deals

In an extensive interview with Vox.com, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka outlines the labor movement’s fight against Fast Track, the flaws in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, the trade relationship between the United States and China and the shortcomings and negative impact on the middle class of the nation’s trade policy.

Below are excerpts from the interview. Click here for the full interview.

Fast Track

We’re opposed to Fast Track. It’s too important a decision, and it affects too many lives of too many people for too long to be done in the dark and then plunk something out of the dark, a thousand-page treaty, and say, ‘Vote it up or down with no amendments.’ We think that’s the most undemocratic thing you can do. We think that’s dangerous.

TPP

‘It also fails to help create jobs here because it doesn’t have strong rules of origin,’ Trumka says. In other words, Trumka fears that Chinese companies could put factories in a TPP country like Vietnam or ship raw materials to a TPP country for assembly, which would give China the preferential access to U.S. markets provided by the TPP without having to follow the TPP itself.

It [undermines] things like Buy American policies. Say the taxpayers in Minneapolis decide they want to use their money to do something and they want to make it a Minnesota product, [if] that violates this trade agreement, and it can be negated.

Currency Manipulation

[The TPP] fails to address currency manipulation. Currency manipulation…has or will cost us between 2.3 million and 5.8 millionjobs. China leads that group. Twenty countries have been determined to have manipulated their currency. And yet there’s nothing in the agreement to stop it. So all of the benefits they claim we could get from TPP, even if you assume every one of the benefits is right, could be wiped out the next day by a country manipulating its currency, to negate all this.

Trade

He also says that the AFL-CIO is not opposed to all trade liberalization; rather, they’re opposed to ones they consider detrimental to workers’ interests: ‘We’re opposed to bad trade deals, not trade deals.’

Click here for the full interview.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Fast Track Bill Introduced—Join the Drive to Stop Fast Track

Legislation granting Fast Track trade authority to President Barack Obama was introduced in the Senate today. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals. For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs.

Call your senators—855-790-8815—and tell them to say no to Fast Track.

Fast Track would make it easier to ram through complicated trade deals without significant oversight from members of Congress or the public, just a simple “Yes” or “No” vote with no amendments allowed on trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has been a leading voice in the Senate against Fast Track, said:

There’s too much at stake for Congress to be rushing through a bill that would allow more NAFTA-style trade deals. Our manufacturing sector has lost more than 5 million jobs since 1994. While we’ve seen an impressive recovery, the more than 629,000 Ohio jobs tied to the auto industry could be at risk if our trade deals don’t protect against competitors that cheat trade law or manipulate currency. Rushing a trade package through Congress without a healthy debate is not only reckless, but it’s a betrayal to middle class and working families in Ohio.

Trumka called on Congress to reject Fast Track and “maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.” He added:

Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped.  The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP.  A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation.

On Saturday, a coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, faith, farm, business and other groups is staging a national day of action to stop Fast Track. Click here to find a Fast Track action near you.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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In Ohio, Brown Rallies Workers Against Fast Track

While many of his congressional colleagues have been taking it easy during this two-week Easter–Passover recess, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has been carrying on his longtime fight against Fast Track trade authority and unfair trade deals that cost American jobs.

In Cleveland, during a tour of a Ford plant, Brown said:

Manufacturing jobs are a ticket to the middle class. But we must ensure our auto industry and our workers can compete in the global economy. That means saying no to trade agreements that don’t protect American workers and American companies from unfair trade practices. We can’t fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it means fast-tracking the loss of American jobs.

He has joined the Ohio AFL-CIO in hosting trade forums around the state, including Warren, Toledo, Nashport and Dayton and Tuesday in Zanesville at Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1105. There Brown told union members:

Our trade deals amount to corporate handouts and worker sellouts. While the talent and tenacity of American workers hasn’t changed, their ability to compete has been hamstrung by NAFTA-style trade deals. Trade done right creates prosperity—a leveling the playing field for all companies, strengthening the middle class and lifting workers from poverty. But we cannot allow another trade deal negotiated in secret to shortchange our workers and ship jobs overseas. The last thing we need is another NAFTA.

Ohio AFL-CIO President Tum Burga says that during the past decade, unfair trade deals have cost the Buckeye State 320,000 manufacturing jobs and led to an $18 billion Ohio import/export deficit for 2014. With Brown in Toledo, Burga said:

The proposed ‘Fast Track’ of the TPP represents the same flawed approach to international trade and should be replaced by a new model that focuses on raising wages globally and shared prosperity. Made in America should be more than a slogan, it should be the priority for all economic policy advanced by Congress and the president.

In an op-ed in the Morrow County Sentinel, Brown wrote:

We know that trade done right creates prosperity, and as a progressive, I want trade that provides an on-ramp to the middle class here at home and lifts workers from poverty in America and around the world—not another NAFTA….That’s why we cannot allow a fast track of Trans-Pacific Partnership—or TPP. We don’t need another trade deal negotiated in secret and rushed through the Senate.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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AFL-CIO, CLC Denounce ‘Corporate Power Grabs’ Like ISDS in Trade Deals

On Monday, the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) reaffirmed their “cross-border cooperation in the struggle for people and planet-centered trade,” especially in three pending trade deals that would grant corporations “extraordinary legal rights” and power over each nation’s legal system.

The three pending trade deals are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The “most egregious” provision in the trade deals that the two labor federations say must be changed is the investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS.

ISDS provides extraordinary legal rights to foreign investors so that they can seek taxpayer reimbursement for losses to expected profits from laws, regulations, administrative decisions or virtually any other government measure. The rights protected go far beyond traditional property rights and its private tribunals are staffed not by professional jurists sworn to promote the public interest, but by for-profit attorneys, many of whom represent investors when they are not sitting in judgment.

ISDS allows the foreign property owner to skip domestic courts, administrative procedures, city hall hearings and the like (all the processes that home-grown property owners use) and sue the host-country government before a panel of private “arbitrators” (like judges, arbitrators have the power to make decisions in cases, but they are not democratically elected or appointed, and they are not subject to stringent conflict of interest rules). Not only that, but the foreign property owners don’t lose access to the domestic U.S. processes—they can “double dip” to get what they want.

In their statement, the AFL-CIO and CLC said:

Such extreme rights to challenge democracy are not good for domestic businesses (which cannot use this private justice mechanism), not good for citizens (who may see popular policies withdrawn by governments in order to avoid adverse judgments) and not good for rule of law (which is undermined by the separate parallel system for foreign investors only).

The two labor groups also said they “ will not cease in our efforts to promote good jobs, rising wages, strong social safety nets, state-of-the-art public services and infrastructure, and an end to corporate power grabs like ISDS in all pending trade and investment agreements.”

Read the full AFL-CIO/CLC statement here. Download a fact sheet on these “corporate courts” and share it with a friend or family member. Read Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) take on ISDS.

You can help stop ISDS by joining our fight against Fast Track. Sign a petition to tell Congress to oppose Fast Track!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Ohio: Join Sherrod Brown, Tim Ryan and Marcy Kaptur to Fight Fast Track

As Congress continues to debate Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), members of Ohio’s congressional delegation are stepping up and calling for trade policies that are open and transparent and protect things that Ohioans and Americans care about: democracy, jobs, the environment and the Internet. While Fast Track and TPP are being negotiated in secret, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga are taking their case directly to the people of Ohio. Like most Ohio residents, they want trade policies that keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

These working family advocates will hold two forums in the coming week. The first is in Warren on Saturday, March 28, and features Brown, Ryan and Burga. The second is in Toledo on Monday, March 30, and features Brown, Kaptur and Burga.

In advance of the events, Burga said:

For too long, our nation’s trade and investment policies have reflected the influence of powerful corporate interests. They protect what’s important to corporate America but do little or nothing to safeguard the rights of workers and the environment here and around the world. They fuel a race to the bottom in living standards. That needs to change. We need policies that support good jobs at home and sustainable development abroad. We need to enforce the laws already on the books and stop blatant abuses by some countries that stack the decks against U.S. workers.

RSVP to the Toledo forum here. Or you can RSVP to the Warren event here. If you can’t make either event but want to help stop Fast Track, call your representative or you can sign AFL-CIO’s Fast Track petition.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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8 Things You Need to Know About That Gallup Poll on Trade

On Monday, Gallup released a new poll on America’s attitudes toward trade. Before getting too caught up in potential spin regarding the poll, it’s important that anyone interested in the state of public opinion on trade think about a few key points. Here are eight things you should know about the poll and what Americans think about trade-related issues.

1. The poll says little about people’s knowledge and understanding of current trade policy, and more about people’s perceptions about the improving state of the U.S. economy when compared to the Great Recession and related global financial crisis. Gallup explicitly says this: “Gallup has found that perceptions of foreign trade may partly relate to Americans’ confidence in the economy. And as the economy has improved significantly in the past year, it’s likely that public fears about foreign trade have diminished, partly because of Americans’ strengthening views of the U.S. economy.”

2. The poll, which is conducted annually, saw spikes in 2008, with the highest percent seeing trade as a threat to the economy and the lowest percent seeing trade as an opportunity in the poll’s history. The increases in the latest poll are simply a continuation of the trend away from the low point caused by the recession.

3. The poll doesn’t even ask respondents about current trade policy broadly or specifically. It doesn’t mention topics like Fast Track, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, job offshoring, currency, Buy American provisions, etc. It simply asks whether foreign trade is “an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports or a threat to the economy from foreign imports.”

4. Other polls have shown a more complex reaction of the public to the topics of trade. A January 2015 Pew Research Center poll, for instance, shows that Americans support trade in general but oppose the current approach to trade (the rules of which are enshrined in the North American Free Trade Agreement and subsequent deals) that leads to jobs being shipped overseas, creates massive deficits, makes wages stagnant and has contributed to high levels of income inequality.

5. In the Pew Research poll, only 20% of Americans believe that trade policies, as practiced by the United States, have led to job creation. Only 17% think that such policies have increased wages in the United States. Only one-third say that trade has lowered prices for consumers.

6. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from 2014 found that a plurality of Americans would support “a candidate who says that free trade with other countries will mainly be negative for America because it will cause the loss of U.S. jobs to other countries, which will hurt wages and jobs here.”

7. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also found that a plurality believed the recent model of globalization has been “bad because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor.”

8. A January 2014 poll by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting found that 62% of Americans oppose Fast Tracking the TPP.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Don’t Forget About Fast Track

While much of the Internet this week was focused on escaped llamas, figuring out what color a dress is or mourning the loss of SAG-AFTRA member and Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, we can forget that legislation is still being pushed that would make the lives of working families worse. Whether it be the “right to work” policies pushed by the allies of Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), who likes to compare workers to terrorists, and in other states like New Mexico and West Virginia, or the ongoing negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership using the Fast Track process, we need to stay alert.

If you’re not sure what Fast Track is, check out the video above where AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explains it quite simply. If you need a more in-depth primer, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) provides one. Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is holding meetings across the country to try to convince members of Congress that Fast Track is wrong for the country. And the more we look at what TPP might turn out to be, we find out that it has elements like Investor-State Dispute Settlement or that it won’t require potential members to comply with international labor rights.

If you think this doesn’t sound like what working families or America’s economy need right now, sign the AFL-CIO’s petition opposing Fast Track.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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What’s ISDS in the TPP? Very Scary!

If anyone needs more evidence why the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement shouldn’t be rushed through Congress on the “Fast Track,” which does not allow any amendments or improvements in the deal—just a take-it-or-leave-it, yes-or-no vote—read Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) column in today’s Washington Post.

While it’s pretty much a given that big corporations—not working people—have been the winners in free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and Central America Free Trade Agreement over the years, Warren exposes a frightening tool in the TPP that gives corporations unimaginable power over the United States’ legal system. Here’s how she describes the “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, provision.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws—and to potentially pick up huge payouts from taxpayers—without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require America’s taxpayers to cough up millions—and even billions—of dollars in damages.

But that’s not the worst of it, she writes. The panel of arbitrators wouldn’t employ independent judges. Nope.

Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

We know how that would turn out.

Here’s an example of how ISDS works, but keep in mind only international investors—by and large big corporations—get to use the special tribunals:

So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.

As Warren points out, ISDS is not a partisan issue: “Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal.”  For all of us.

Click here to read her full column.

Download a fact sheet on these “corporate courts” and share it with a friend or family member.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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