NAFTA Trade Talks Begin

tpp
In the midst of the President’s reprehensible response to the racism, anti-Semitism and violence in Charlottesville, the business of his administration continues — with the potential for decades-long consequences to the economy, the environment and public health.

At this very moment, the public is being shut out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations that formally began today. Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate lobbyists have been given special “cleared advisor” status that gives them privileged access to proposed texts and to the negotiators themselves.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress to end the rigged trade negotiating process that puts corporations over working families and the planet.

President Trump got into office in large part on his promise to make NAFTA better for working people, but his administration’s written renegotiation plan fails to take the bold steps needed to accomplish that goal. Instead, it relies heavily on language from the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) corporate power grab. If corporations are allowed to dictate the terms of NAFTA’s renegotiation, the pact could become even worse for working people throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.
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

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

 

Arrests in Atlanta at Stop TPP protests

Daniel just out of 3Photographs by Steve Eberhardt.stop TPP

(APN) ATLANTA  — Protests against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue in Atlanta, as negotiators from twelve countries work to finalize this latest, controversial proposal for an international free trade agreement.

Advocates from civil society organizations concerned with labor, the environment, health care, food, and other issues are worried about a new, free trade agreement that would further entrench corporate interests.

As of Friday evening, October 02, 2015, four activists have been arrested for civil disobedience including a DSA member.

On Wednesday, September 30, Zahara Heckscher, a breast cancer patient, was arrested for confronting TPP negotiators, while hooked up to an IV.

On Thursday, October 01, Daniel Hanley went down to the floor where negotiations were taking place and handcuffed himself to a railing.  Pictures that have surfaced of his arrest appear particularly brutal.  One of the officers was aggressive and hurt Hanley’s wrist while trying to remove the handcuffs, Hanley said.

Today, Friday, October 02, Nina Roark and an activist who goes by the name, “Scout,” were arrested for putting their bodies in the doorway of the meeting and refusing to leave.

The contents of the TPP are not being made public; however, an earlier version was leaked on WikiLeaks.

“Based on what we know about the TPP, this massive free trade agreement would let corporations unravel hard-won protections for health, working conditions, and the environment,” Nina Dutton, lead TPP organizer with the Sierra Club, said. Continue reading

SEIU Members for Bernie

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The undersigned SEIU leaders, members, retirees and staff urge the International Executive Board not to make an early endorsement in the presidential primary campaign. We are supporters of Senator Sanders and believe his voice deserves to be heard. His campaign is drawing thousands into a movement around the very issues we support in our day-to-day organizing. To make an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton would put our union in direct opposition to this growing movement.

Senator Sanders has an outstanding track record and is building a strong base of working people. Working against Sanders in the primaries will only alienate and confuse many SEIU members who are actively engaged in various movements, including the Fight for $15, immigration and higher education reform, Black Lives Matter, and many more progressive causes. Continue reading

Trans Pacific Partnership – The Fight Continues

House Passes Trade Assistance Act

by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

TPPWith only six Democrats opposed, the House of Representatives favored the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program Thursday in a 286-138 vote. There were 175 Democrats and 111 Republicans in favor. The Senate passed TAA Wednesday.
The program provides modest financial and job-training help to workers displaced by trade agreements. It was passed as an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends trade preferences until 2025 for a number of African countries. If the legislation had not passed, the TAA program would have expired at the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Continue reading

Corporations Win on Fast Track

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east ...

United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., east front elevation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what “the rules” for doing business “in the 21st Century” will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Because of fast track, when the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other secretly negotiated “trade” agreements are completed Congress must vote in a hurry with only limited debate, cannot make any amendments no matter what is in the agreement, and they can’t be filibustered. Nothing else coming before our Congress gets that kind of skid-greasing, only corporate-written “trade” agreements – and it doesn’t matter how far the contents go beyond actual “trade.” Continue reading

South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board Supports Sanders Candidacy

by Paul Garver

bernie-150526-launch-shake

On June 13th the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO adopted the following resolution urging support for Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Thus South Carolina joins Vermont in urging the National AFL-CIO to support the Sanders campaign.

Given that Sanders wholeheartedly supported the tentatively victorious struggle by American unions to block the antidemocratic and anti-worker corporate power grab of Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, while Hillary Clinton maintained a resolute silence on the issue until as late in the day as possible, some other state and local AFL-CIO bodies might follow the lead of their colleagues in Vermont and South Carolina by endorsing Sanders..

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Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016
On June 13, 2015, the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO met and voted to adopt the following resolution:

Whereas: The SC AFL-CIO Executive Board is committed to building a broad, effective movement for democratic change, and
Whereas: Our goal is a government that carries out the will of the people, not prop up the profits of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and
Whereas: We firmly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate articulating our issues. His commitment to union principles and labor’s values is longstanding and heartfelt, and
Whereas: As a truly progressive candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie has the chance to inspire millions of Americans with policy proposals that put the interests of the labor movement, front and center. His campaign will draw attention to what unions and collective bargaining have accomplished for workers and energize our movement, and
Whereas: Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics, by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism, the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy, an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.

Therefore be it resolved that: We call on the AFL-CIO, union members and working people everywhere to unite behind Bernie Sanders and elect the President America’s workers desperately need, and
Be it further resolved that: The South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board strongly urges the AFL-CIO to support Bernie Sanders 2016 and his campaign to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.

Adopted on June 13, 2015 and respectfully submitted for consideration to the AFL-CIO by the SC AFL-CIO Executive Board.

Backdoor Deals over Fast Track Show the Bankruptcy of the Corporate Trade Agenda

AFL-CIO Communications Department

FastTrackRally

[Editor’s note:  This may be our last post before the crucial vote in the House on “Fast Track.”  This statement from the AFL-CIO Communications Department updates the latest cynical maneuvers to ram this deeply anti-democratic payoff to corporate capitalism down the throats of the 99%.

However I quibble over one bit of terminology – namely the reference to the “Democratic” values and concerns that are being savagely violated by this legislation.  Worker rights, human rights, climate justice, internet freedom are genuine “small d” democratic values, but if they were indeed the concerns and values of the “large D” Democratic Party, then why is the titular head of the Democratic Party and his Administration so committed to the passage of Fast Track and the TPP? 

In fact a battle has been joined over the divided soul and essence of the Democratic Party.  Fast Track may or may not prevail by a few votes tomorrow, but in any case the AFL-CIO may have to decide whether to join other progressive movements  in a firm commitment to create our own autonomous political institutions apart from pro-business-as-usual centrist Democrats. – Paul Garver]

The House Republican amendments to the suite of trade bills that began in the Senate back in April demonstrate—for anyone who still had doubts—the total bankruptcy of the corporate trade agenda. In order to advance an unpopular, undemocratic, failed trade policy, the Republican majority has to play games that make sausage making look good.
When House Democrats refused to fall in the trap of cutting Medicare in order to pay for trade adjustment assistance, the Republican leadership relented by changing the pay-for, but in order to save the Fast Track bill, the procedural mechanism developed by the Rules Committee will allow Democrats to vote against the Medicare cut before they vote for it.
In order to buy votes from a skeptical Republican caucus, Republican leadership has loaded up what had been a positive and useful trade enforcement package with new “trade negotiating objectives” that undermine long-held Democratic values, like addressing climate change and ensuring rights for migrant workers. Two of the TPP’s major weaknesses include inadequate worker protections and no climate change provisions. These new trade negotiating objectives could ensure these provisions never make it in to the TPP or any other trade agreement.
A currency provision has been stripped from the Customs bill. This provision, supported by Senators Schumer, Brown and others, was potentially the most critical enforcement tool in the entire package. It would have allowed the US to treat currency manipulation as a countervailable subsidy. Stripping this provision will cost jobs.
On the other hand, language weakening a provision that would have forced countries to address human trafficking before that country could be included in a fast-tracked trade deal with the US has been added to the Customs bill. This weakening undermines the promises made about how the TPP will protect workers.
All of these last-minute procedural manipulations and unconscionable amendments are designed to secure Republican votes, with no consideration whatsoever for Democratic concerns or values.