Its Time to Start Over on Trade

In a challenge to President-elect Donald Trump, EPI Distinguished Fellow Jeff Faux writes in U.S. trade policy—time to start over that Washington’s fixation with trade agreements has diverted attention from the more important question of how to put American workers back on the historic track of rising wages and opportunities.

Faux warns that, having declared the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, Trump now says he intends to continue the pursuit of bilateral trade deals, on the grounds that he is a better negotiator. But even if he is, writes Faux, new deals will not solve the problems of off-shored jobs and depressed wages that Trump raised during the presidential campaigns. http://www.epi.org/publication/u-s-trade-policy-time-to-start-over/

Therefore, Faux calls on Trump to announce an indefinite freeze on any new trade negotiations, until his administration and the Congress commit to and implement a credible comprehensive agenda for making American workers competitive and balancing our trade with the rest of the world.

“For two decades Democratic and Republican leaders have had it backwards,” writes Faux. As the Economic Policy Institute has been reporting for decades, trade deals have systematically traded away the income and job security of American workers in exchange for promoting the interests of American international investors. The effect has been to “open up American workers and their communities to brutal global competition for which they have not been prepared. The result is that the costs to American workers of each cycle of expanded trade relentlessly exceed the benefits.” Continue reading

Trump and The Crisis of Labor

By Harold Meyerson

As Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – states that once were the stronghold of the nation’s industrial union movement – dropped into Donald Trump’s column on election night, one longtime union staff member told me that Trump’s victory was “an extinction-level event for American labor.”

He may be right.

A half-century ago, more than a third of those Rust Belt workers were unionized, and their unions had the clout to win them a decent wage, benefits and pensions. Their unions also had the power to turn out the vote. They did — for Democrats. White workers who belonged to unions voted Democratic at a rate 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and there were enough such workers to make a difference on Election Day.

That’s not the case today. Nationally, about 7 percent  of private-sector workers are union members, which gives unions a lot less bargaining power than they once had, and a lot fewer members to turn out to vote. The unions’ political operations certainly did what they could: An AFL-CIO-sponsored Election Day poll of union members showed 56 percent had voted for Hillary Clinton and 37 percent for Trump, while the TV networks’ exit poll showed that voters with a union member in their household went 51 percent to 43 percent for Clinton, as well. In states where unions have more racially diverse memberships, Clinton’s union vote was higher (she won 66 percent of the union household vote in California). Continue reading

Unions Celebrate Victory over TPP

TPP

by Paul Garver

The Teamsters (IBT) and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) informed their members that the long campaign against the Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP] has succeeded in blocking a ratification vote in the lame duck session of Congress.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) reported  this on the news that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal won’t be brought up for a vote this Congress.

The news that the TPP is officially dead for this Congress is welcome, overdue, and a lesson for the future. We’re glad to see that all observers finally recognize the reality that TPP will not and should not go through. For more than five years, CWA members, allies, and working families throughout the country mobilized to expose this corporate-friendly trade deal and the serious consequences for working families and communities if it did take effect. CWA members and allies long have been ahead of Washington on the issue of TPP and trade policy, and this work built a strong public base of voters who rejected what they clearly recognized as bad deal, no matter their political party.

As CWA has been stating throughout this past year, the votes in Congress simply aren’t there to pass TPP. But beyond the vote count, the very act of trying to advance the corporate-friendly TPP would have demonstrated that Washington was willfully ignoring the American public. After a 2016 election season in which anti-TPP sentiment was a rare area of bipartisan agreement and a major factor in shaping election results, trying to ram through the TPP in lame duck would have been an act in willful opposition to the American electorate’s stated wishes.

We will be ready to take on any attempt to revive the TPP in the next Congress or advance other corporate-friendly trade pacts based on the same failed and outdated model of trade.

http://www.cwa-union.org/news/releases/cwa-on-news-tpp-dead-for-congress-welcome-overdue-and-lesson-for-future

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TPP’s End is Near Thanks to Workers

After years of taking aim at the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Teamsters and their allies can finally see victory in their sights.

In the wake of last week’s election results, congressional leaders made it clear they would not press forward with considering the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal. And U.S. trade officials acknowledged on Friday that efforts to pass this corporate boondoggle would not continue this year.

The good news is that view will not likely change anytime soon. President-elect Donald Trump was an outspoken critic of the TPP and his transition team has made it clear it will not move forward with consideration of the trade deal. In fact, it plans to drop out of it.

But this looming win is not about any one political leader. It is about the long-standing coalition of union, fair trade, environmental and health care advocates that have stood strong against efforts to craft a trade proposal that would have further fattened the wallets of the corporate elite at the expense of everyday Americans who continue to struggle to support their families.

Concerns about the TPP were first raised more than six years ago when allies gathered outside the first U.S.-based negotiation session to raise concerns that the TPP was a dramatic departure from previous trade deals that would only further the interests of big business. And it grew to become a bipartisan opposition bloc on Capitol Hill.

As Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign wrote, “Let’s make sure we’re not letting Trump steal credit for something he didn’t earn. And let’s especially make sure that the movement of movements is getting the credit it deserves. We’re heading into some very rough years ahead, and people need to be reminded of their power.”

The TPP is a scourge on society because not only would it have shipped American jobs overseas, it also would have depressed salaries at home as well. It promised to increase the amount of unsafe foods and products shipped to U.S. store shelves, worsen the global environment and drive up drug prices worldwide.

It also would have left member nations on the hook for any perceived efforts to curb the profits of multinational corporations through legislation or regulation. Pro-corporate tribunals would have heard complaints filed by companies, and taxpayers would have had to foot the bill.

That’s not right or just. But because Teamsters and others took a stand against TPP, now workers and all Americans will benefit. Thank you members for your work!

https://teamster.org/blog/2016/11/tpps-end-near-thanks-workers

Get Out and Vote!

hillaryandtrump

By John O. Mason

You simply MUST get out and vote this November 8; the stakes have never been higher for this country for a long time. Donald Trump is simply unfit to be President of the United States. His calling to build a wall against Mexico, characterizing all Mexicans as criminals, rapists, and drug dealers; his call for a ban on Muslims entering this country; his contempt for women in any capacity but subordinate to him; his associating with the most infamous racists like David Duke, and aligning with the racist “alt-right” movement; his encouraging assaults on protesters in his rallies; his willful ignorance about foreign affairs and the launch system for nuclear missiles; his refusal to say he would abide by the election results, win or lose-all these indicate the kind of President he would be, a dictator.

A myth in our politics says that “If we give the running of our government over to businessmen, they’ll run it as a business, efficiently and cost-effective.” Well, let’s see how businesslike Trump has been-Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump Shuttle airlines, trump magazine, Trump World magazine-all failed business ventures. Trump University-charged with fraud. His casinos and hotels-bankrupt. He has been able to negotiate his way out of trouble, since the bankruptcy laws are so weighed in favor of corporate types like him; but does he think that Putin, Kim Jong Un, or the Ayatollahs of Iran would cut him any breaks, give him any favors?

And Hillary-there is no other choice but to vote for her. Hillary Clinton DOES have political and governmental experience, albeit too much playing safe on the side of corporations. I fear that if we the people don’t constantly monitor the Clinton administration 2.0, it would be just like Bill’s regime, too much in favor of the corporations and shying away from those “nasty unions,” signing such trade deals as NAFTA in Bill’s time, and TPP, which lies dormant in Congress like a disease. Continue reading

Who Gets the Gains from Trade?

tppa malaysia

by Stan Sorscher

Let’s start the debate about trade policy on the right foot. Everyone I know is “for” trade. A better question is, “Who gets the gains from trade?”

Gains from anything, trade included, can be divided in 3 ways.

  1. Someone might give you your share of gains, for whatever reason.
  2. You might take your share, if you have power.
  3. You might get nothing, or possibly lose what you have.

Option 1 presumes some level of trust. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, projected that sentiment onto women, when he told them to be patient and not ask for raises. Their bosses would recognize their value and reward them in due time. Nadella and other CEO’s are accustomed to power. He was probably expressing benevolence, muddled with sexism.

Ultimately, power relationships determine how gains are shared. If you have power, you get gains. If someone else has power, they get gains. If power is balanced, then gains are more likely to be shared.

Nadella’s paternalism is reflected in an edgy cliché told about trade policy, “Sure, trade creates winners and losers. The winners could compensate the losers.” Right. Winners might voluntarily compensate losers, but the point of being a winner is to win, not to compensate someone else!

Where do workers get power? I remember a time when unions made demands. They could strike to increase their share of gains from productivity and work. Union contracts would then set standards for employment generally.

Sorscher 1

Figure 1. Large works stoppages over time.

In the late 70’s that power started to evaporate.

Continue reading

How Low can the Trans-Pacific Partnership Go?

by Stan SorscherSorcher TPP sinking ship

[Ed. note:  With all the major Presidential contenders opposed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) might be regarded as a sinking ship, but the unholy alliance of the mainstream Republican Party, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and President Obama is plotting to sneak its ratification past the American people during the Lame Duck Congressional Session after the November 2016 election.  Stan Sorscher reminds us just how bad an idea this would be].

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge new 12-country trade deal, raises the question: How low would we go to get the next NAFTA-style deal?

The basic idea of a trade deal is that we will lower our tariffs, you will lower your tariffs, and trade goes up. That would be a trade deal.

TPP is much more than that. The tariff schedules in TPP are not controversial. Really, TPP will not pass or fail based on the tariff schedule.

Rather, the rules in TPP are very controversial because the rules define power relationships, and those power relationships determine who will take the gains from globalization.

President Obama wants us to set the rules, so China doesn’t. Good.

But “our” rules were written by and for global investors. Those rules are very favorable to corporations who want to move production to low-wage countries with weak social and political systems.

  • Using very optimistic assumptions, the International Trade Commission estimates TPP would increase GDP by 0.15% after 15 years– a number too small to measure. Our lived experience with NAFTA CAFTA, and other deals tells a different story. Under those NAFTA-style deals our economy has steadily de-industrialized, and millions of jobs have moved to low-wage countries.
  • TPP’s rules for dispute settlement create corporate friendly tribunals, which pay no attention to our Constitution, our Supreme Court, or our legal traditions, and are not accountable to any political process. These tribunals shield global companies from government actions intended to protect public interests.
  • TPP’s toothless rules on currency rates allow China, Korea, Japan and other countries to distort trade, favoring goods produced in their countries for export to the US. This is great for US corporations who produce in China, but is bad for workers and communities in the US.
  • TPP’s weak “Rules of Origin” encourage high-wage countries to source more of their products in low-wage countries. Countries with terrible labor and environmental standards can ship parts to 11 other TPP countries, and voilà! – those parts are now TPP-qualified for favorable access to our markets.
  • TPP’s rules on labor and human trafficking are pathetic. Malaysia qualifies as one of our TPP partners, even though our State Department ranks Malaysia among the worst in the world for human trafficking. Malaysia has a documented history of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor. Malaysia knows that we will never hold them accountable for improving conditions.
  • Our indifference to global labor standards is so deep that Vietnam can embarrass President Obama– to his face – during his latest trip there, by forbidding labor activists from accepting Obama’s invitation to meet with him. President Obama inspires us with soaring rhetoric on human rights in Vietnam, but Vietnam’s leaders know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.
  • TPP’s environmental protection rules are a step back from earlier standards. That is neither here nor there, because we have never enforced any environmental rules in any trade deal.
  • In spite of repeated documented violations. Peru and other countries with sorry records for environmental standards know we will never hold them accountable when they ignore environmental standards.
  • Berta Cáseres, an internationally recognized Honduran environmental activist, was assassinated in her home. Honduras is one of our CAFTA trading partners. Honduras is arguably the most dangerous country on earth for environmental activists. Civil society around the world condemned Berta Cáseres’ murder, but not a word can be found on the web sites for the White Houseor the US Trade Representative.
  • Another CAFTA trading partner is Guatemala, which is arguably the most dangerous country in the world for labor activists. Our trade officials have “consulted” with Guatemala, and an 8-year old inquiry is underway into Guatemala’s dismal record regarding labor standards. Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia [another free trade partner] know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.

So, how low would we go to get the shadowy 0.15% growth of GDP after 15 years with TPP? Influential House and Senate members will answer that question.

For many years, Representative Sander Levin has been a strong advocate for trade language that raises labor and environmental standards and protects access to life-saving medicines for treatable diseases in developing countries. As TPP negotiations finished up, Mr. Levin realized that TPP was a step backwards. He opposes TPP and is a champion for a better trade policy.

Mr. Levin’s postcard description from Vietnam describes labor leaders being beaten and jailed. His message stands in contrast to President Obama’s weary acceptance of conditions there.

Representative Earl Blumenauer was an early champion for stronger environmental rules in trade deals. Peru ignored its commitments under previous trade deals, and recently fired the public official who was trying to move those standards forward. We will see how low Mr. Blumenauer might go.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden worked hard to reveal the details of TPP, which were negotiated in strictest secrecy. He promoted “Oregon values” which meant creating good jobs in his state, promoting human rights, improving labor conditions, safeguarding the environment and protecting a free and open internet. Now, Senator Wyden must decide if TPP upholds Oregon values, or is too low to go.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her leadership role did not obligate her to promote a bad trade policy. She said she would happily vote for a deal that does as much for workers and the environment as it does for global investors.

Hillary Clinton says she “opposes TPP before and after the election.” She adds, “I’m not interested in tinkering around the margins of our trade policy. I think we need a fundamental rethink of how we approach trade deals going forward. It is critical that we address labor protections and ensure that human rights are protected, as well as health, environmental, and consumer safety issues in any new trade agreements.”

Larry Summers(!!) backs away from TPP, preferring a trade approach where “issues such as labor rights and environmental protection would be central, while issues related to empowering foreign producers would be secondary.”

TPP is an historic disappointment. Sander Levin, Hillary Clinton, Larry Summers, and Nancy Pelosi recognize that we can’t tweak TPP into shape. We need a new approach. To paraphrase Naomi Klein, “TPP is the no that must be said before the yes.”

The more the public hears about TPP, the less we like it. For most voters, TPP is too low to go. We are very much looking forward to stopping TPP, and starting a “rethink” of our approach to globalization.

Stan Sorscher is Labor Representative, Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.  This essay is reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-sorscher/how-low-would-we-go-for-t_b_10336934.html

Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher

 

Trade Deal is an Attack on Our Unions

tppprotesters_062315frBy Richard Trumka –
As a dozen nations gather in New Zealand this week to officially sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), working families in the United States are sounding the alarm on a deal that would lower wages and ship even more jobs overseas.

The final text of the agreement, released in November, is even worse than we imagined, with loopholes in labor enforcement and rewards for outsourcing. Like its predecessor agreements NAFTA and CAFTA, the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few. It is no wonder the presidential front-runners from both political parties oppose it.

It didn’t have to be this way. The labor movement supports trade. We know that opening up new markets to American products the right way can create jobs and lift up working people. But trade must be done under a fair set of rules that puts people ahead of profits. The TPP fails that test miserably.
From the outset, the AFL-CIO provided detailed and substantive suggestions for improving this agreement and evidence to support our positions. On everything from labor enforcement to investment rules, we offered a path forward. Unfortunately, our policy recommendations were ignored, as were those from the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and manufacturing sectors. That’s what you get from secret
negotiations driven by corporate and investor interests. Continue reading