World Labor Unions Urge Halt to TPP Negotiations

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Teamsters and the Machinists are leading the AFL-CIO’s efforts.  Together with a broad coalition of organizations put together by the Citizen’s Trade Campaign, they delivered a total of 663,373 petition signatures and letters opposing Fast Track trade authority to House and Senate leaders.

CWA President Larry Cohen promised that CWA activists would turn their attention to stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as “a dangerous trade deal that threatens our jobs, communities and the environment by giving big business new powers to undermine important laws and regulations.”  Cohen added:”We’ll be demanding that the White House and Congress put its citizens before the corporate and financial interests that already define and dominate the global economy.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:
- Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
- Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
- Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
- Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
- Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.

Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort. Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

National trade union centers in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

The national trade union centers that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CSN and CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT and CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

For more information on the global trade union effort, contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 02 04

Trumka on the 2014 Elections

Union Members need to understand Fast Track

Map of Free Trade Agreements of Mexico. Green ...

Map of Free Trade Agreements of Mexico. Green is Mexico. Red are the other countries of the NAFTA. Blue are countries which have a FTA with Mexico. Orange are countries that want to have a FTA with Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast Track legislation allowed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be rammed through Congress with weak labor and environmental side deals. Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, North American workers have experienced downward pressure on wages and a tougher organizing environment. Twenty years later, we find an unbalanced system in which profits soar even as workers take home a diminishing share of the national income.

More recent trade deals, like the World Trade Organization trade deal, had no labor or environmental standards at all. And other Fast Track trade deals have included Colombia, a country in which nearly 3,000 labor leaders and activists have been killed since 1986, and Korea—a country with which our trade deficit is already rising, and which, under the very low standards of the deal, can receive tariff benefits for cars that contain only 35% Korean content.

To really have trade deals with high standards, the American public must have more say—and that means no Fast Track authority from Congress. Continue reading

Before the Zombie Apocalypse –These 4 Trade Deals Were Ravaging the World!

by James Trimarco

Cartoons by Marc J. Palm

Forget ghouls and goblins. From deregulating Wall Street to shredding environmental and labor protections—these policy monsters are way scarier.
This time of year, the fabric that separates our world from prowling ghouls is at its thinnest. But what really keeps us at YES! Magazine up at night are the international trade agreements constantly being negotiated by the United States and its partners—each one more terrifying than the last.

These deals have a way of favoring corporations over people.
How can something as pleasant-sounding as “free trade” be more threatening than a zombie apocalypse? The devil’s in the details, and the fine print on some of these agreements is enough to curdle a bucket of blood.
Whether it’s blocking a ban on chocolate-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids, or rolling back post-2008 regulations on Wall Street, these deals have a way of favoring corporations over people. They’re not popular, as you might imagine, and in some cases people’s movements have been able to stop them in their tracks. In response, proponents of the deals have attempted to slip under the radar by conducting negotiations in secret.
Here are four of the scariest deals—and why they’re so abominable.

WTO-The-mother-of-all-trade

The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 as a re-imagining of an earlier group called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is the mother of all trade bodies and sets the rules for the flow of goods and services between countries. The WTO claims its goal is to “improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries.” But critics say what it really does is force poor nations to open their markets to wealthier ones, who themselves often bend the WTO’s rules.
The WTO also gives companies a place to complain about regulations enacted by democratically elected governments. It has found fault with laws protecting public health, the environment, workers’ rights, and other things that would affect industries’ bottom line. Recent rulings have objected to producers labeling certain kinds of tuna as “dolphin safe;” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes that entice kids; and labels that inform consumers what country meat products originated in. The WTO says such labels violate the rights of Mexican and Canadian farmers to a level playing field. The United States sometimes refuses to comply—but risks trade sanctions when it does so.
Perhaps most frightening of all, the WTO (along with NAFTA) has spawned a whole new brood of bilateral and regional deals that take the same approach to trade and development.

TTIP-The-Warlock-that-would

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if approved, would promote trade between the United States and the European Union.
The deal has some bright spots—for example, it would universalize the plugs for electric cars. But American negotiators are also pushing hard to overturn Europe’s ban on imports of U.S.-grown genetically modified crops. Meanwhile, European negotiators and bankers are trying to set Wall Street free from regulations passed after the financial crisis of 2008. According to the nonprofit research group Public Citizen, they want to roll back the Volcker Rule, which restricts U.S. banks from the riskiest investments, and to block efforts to limit the size of banks.

NAFTA-corportate-werewolf-2

When President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1993, he sold it to the people of the United States as a job creator. “NAFTA means jobs,” he said. “American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.”
More than 20 years later, the agreement’s dark side is showing. The U.S. government’s own Trade Adjustment Assistance program acknowledges that nearly 900,000 workers in the United States have officially lost their jobs due to the relocation of businesses to Canada or Mexico under NAFTA. Meanwhile, exports of cheap U.S. corn have damaged the livelihoods of Mexican farmers and driven huge waves of migration. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States more than doubled from 4.5 million to 9.8 million.

TPP-The-Kraken

The Trans Pacific Partnership, if approved, would unite 12 Pacific Rim countries into the world’s largest free trade area, comprising 40 percent of the global economy. When he spoke about the TPP in 2011, President Barack Obama, who has made the deal’s passage a major objective of his administration, sounded a lot like Clinton in 1993. Obama said the deal “will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people.”
But leaked sections of the agreement’s secret text show the TPP taking more controversial stances—and it has its tentacles on a breathtaking variety of issues. On health care, U.S. negotiators seem to be working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, trying to extend the rights of patent-holders to charge more money for medicines. On labor, the TPP makes it easier for companies to move manufacturing to low-wage Vietnam, but offers no enforceable provisions to prevent abuse. On the environment, it preserves the status quo, doing little to prevent the illegal logging and overfishing that are taxing the forests and oceans of the region.
Last but not least, advocates of a free Internet are up in arms over sections in the TPP’s intellectual property chapter they say would significantly diminish the free speech rights of web users.
________________________________________

James Trimarco wrote this article and Marc Palm created the comics for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. James is a web editor at YES! and you can follow him at @JamesTrimarco. Marc is an un-schooled artist who has been self-publishing comics and graphically designing since the mid-90′s. Find more of his work at marcpalm.carbonmade.com.

This article is reprinted from YES Magazine under a license from Creative Commons.

Linking Trade, Work, and Migration

Globalization and NAFTA Caused Migration from Mexico

By David Bacon, Political Research Associates

Immigrant Oaxacan Farm Worker and Weaver, and her Family

Rufino Domínguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, who now heads the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, estimates that there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the U.S., 300,000 in California alone.1 [1]

In Oaxaca, some towns have become depopulated, or are now made up of only communities of the very old and very young, where most working-age people have left to work in the north. Economic crises provoked by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other economic reforms are now uprooting and displacing these Mexicans in the country’s most remote areas, where people still speak languages (such as Mixteco, Zapoteco and Triqui) that were old [2] when Columbus arrived from Spain.2 [3] “There are no jobs, and NAFTA forced the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” Dominguez says. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.” Continue reading

Trade, Yes. Bad Trade Deals, No!

by Stan Sorscher

My job depends on trade. I’m 100 percent in favor of trade.

By the same token, we can have good trade policies that raise living standards, or bad trade policies that deindustrialize our economy and distort social and political power relationships.

What people hear, when you say “trade deal.”

Two cases in point: the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) and the “Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP). Both are variations on NAFTA, a vigorously oversold agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Journalist William Greider explains the origin and intent of one particularly troubling feature of the NAFTA model. NAFTA’s legal process helps global companies enforce certain provisions in the agreement. In full jargon, it is called “investor-state dispute settlement,” or ISDS.

We understand how the US Constitution establishes our legal framework. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were specifically written to protect individuals from tyranny, and balance public interests with private interests. Our courts settle legal disputes by applying Constitutional principles.

NAFTA, as a legal framework, creates a parallel structure at the global level. However, NAFTA and similar deals have a very different design goal. They prioritize corporate investor rights, while pushing public interests to the side.

As the cynical catchphrase goes, under NAFTA, governments can do “whatever they want,” to protect the environment, labor rights, human rights, public health, prudent financial regulation, and internet freedom (for instance), as long as they pay corporations for any lost profit — including potential profit for activities that have not even occurred, yet!
Continue reading

Triangle Shirtwaist and Rana Plaza- Same Struggle

 by Brian Finnegan

What-the-Triangle-Shirtwaist-Factory-Has-to-Do-with-the-Protest-Outside-the-Ralph-Lauren-Shareholders-Meeting-Today_blog_post_fullWidth

 

Protesters gathered today in front of the St. Regis Hotel in New York City to call on Ralph Lauren to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to improve workplace safety for garment workers. The protest preceded Ralph Lauren’s annual shareholders meeting where the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund (its investments) had a proposal on the ballot related to human rights reporting.

At today’s shareholder meeting, Nazma Akter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, representing 70,000 workers, spoke to the protesters and called on Ralph Lauren join with more than 180 brands that have agreed to participate in the Accord.  The Accord is a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management. Other programs to audit and monitor for workers’ safety follow the same model that has failed the hundreds of workers who have died in preventable garment factory fires and building collapses over the past 20 years.

Akter spoke in the name of “women like me, who produce goods for Ralph Lauren in Bangladesh.”  Young women are 80% of the garment workforce in Bangladesh. Most of the more than 3,600 workers killed and seriously injured in the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse were young women. Hundreds of children were orphaned when their parents were killed in the collapse.  But Rana is only the most notorious of recent deadly workplace disasters in factories along the global supply chains of major U.S. and European brands and retailers.

Rana Plaza reminded many of the Triangle factory fire in New York more than 100 years ago that killed more than 100 workers yet eventually led to improved workplace safety laws and enforcement and innovative collective bargaining agreements. The changes after the Triangle factory fire helped make what was once sweatshop labor into good jobs and a way into the middle class.

Following the protest, Akter participated in the Ralph Lauren shareholders meeting where she presented the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund’s shareholder proposal, urging the company to report to stockholders about how it assesses human rights risks. The AFL-CIO Reserve Fund submitted the proposal after the company failed to acknowledge or respond to written requests to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Ralph Lauren has bought thousands of tons of goods from at least 15 locations in Bangladesh since 2007.

At the shareholders meeting, Akter asked: “So why has a company that has always stood for the highest quality not joined the accord?” She also pointed out that workers in factories that have signed the accord are in a better position to exercise other workers’ rights. “There are over 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. So far, 1,600 are covered by the accord and workers in these are better protected. Workers have a union at only 160 of those thousands of factories. Workers at factories covered by the Accord and those who have a union could have refused to enter Rana Plaza when they saw cracks. Workers must have Freedom of Association to protect themselves and claim their full human rights.” Unfortunately, workers who organize unions in Bangladesh are often fired, harassed or violently attacked.

Rana Plaza should help major corporations realize that the current model of cheap goods at any price through vast and unaccountable global supply chains is often inhumane and unsustainable.  Brands that want to act responsibly must take concrete measures to improve respect for human rights in the workplace.

This has been reposted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog, an indispensable source of information for worker activists.

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