Over Five Thousand Union Activists Support Sanders Candidacy

Labor for Bernie

For immediate release: July 27, 2015

Labor for bernie

 

AFL-CIO delay on endorsement provides more time to build broader union support

The national AFL-CIO’s decision on July 24 to delay an early endorsement is a reflection of the growing union support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for President. The delay gives the Sanders campaign more time to firm up labor support which is continuing to surge at the grassroots.

Labor for Bernie 2016 was kicked off in late June with 1,000 supporters and has quickly grown to a national network with more than 5,000 union supporters who have signed an on-line statement embracing Sanders as the only declared candidate, in either major party, “who challenges the billionaires who are trying to steal our pensions, our jobs, our homes, and what’s left of our democracy.”

Larry Cohen, past president of the Communications Workers of America and now a volunteer working on the Sanders’ campaign said, “Our strong and growing grassroots movement shows that Bernie shares our values and beliefs.  Workers are fed up with business as usual. This campaign is about putting a stop to the corporate assault on our kids, our country and working families!”

Sanders’ union supporters are taking an active role in thousands of grassroots organizing parties taking place on July 29. Labor for Bernie 2016 has produced a new leaflet highlighting Sanders long track record of support for workers’ rights. It has also upgraded its website to provide better networking tools for supporters to build member-to-member relationships within their unions and in their communities.

A recent Utility Workers Union of America poll of 400 elected delegates to their national convention in Hollywood FL supported Bernie Sanders with 65 percent of the vote, Clinton had just 23 percent, with Martin O’Malley taking only 7 percent and the combined Republican field winning 5 percent

Since early June, Sanders has received support from the Vermont AFL-CIO, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Teamsters (Lithographers) Local 1 in New York City, IBEW Local 2222 in Boston and IBEW Local 159 in Madison, WI.

On July 11, the American Federation of Teachers national executive board voted to endorse Clinton with little membership input. The endorsement caused an uproar on social media and led to a major spike in sign-ups by teachers on the Labor for Bernie website. Today, nearly 700 members of the AFT or the larger NEA have joined the network.

Members of other unions are also showing strong support for Sanders. More than 575 IBEW members who have signed up make it the largest supporter, followed by AFT (374 members) and NEA (312 members), then CWA (308 members) Teamsters (301 members), and the UAW (266 members). Nearly 18 percent of the Labor for Sanders 2016 initiative are from Building Trades unions with IBEW and the Carpenters (203) members showing the strongest support.

With more endorsers signing up every day, the Labor for Bernie network is urging the AFL-CIO, its affiliated national unions, and major unaffiliated labor organizations (NEA, SEIU, and IBT) to sponsor candidate forums and debates, at the grassroots level, before making any presidential endorsement decision of their own.

Labor for Bernie 2016 is a volunteer effort neither funded nor directed by the Sanders for President campaign. To join this grassroots mobilization, download useful organizing materials, or learn more about Bernie’s past and present support for workers and their unions, go to: www.laborforbernie.org

For more information, contact: laborforbernie@gmail.com or call Larry Cohen 202-215-1118; Steve Early 617-930-7327; or Stewart Acuff; 202-701-0180

Join Labor Campaign for Bernie 2016

by Rand Wilson

Since Bernie Sanders officially launched his presidential campaign, over 200 union members have already signed the Labor for Bernie 2016 letter on line, including more than 30 trade unionists from Massachusetts.

We need 1,000 signatures to make this labor letter credible. Please consider signing on to the letter and helping to recruit more members to the Labor for Bernie 2016 campaign by sharing this link.  Do it now! 

As we build the list of labor supporters for Bernie, we can share it by union and plan activities in Massachusetts [and other states] so folks can organize within their union and their community.

Some good news: the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO both adopted our State Fed/CLC/union “Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016

These resolutions make a good template for what we hope many other labor organizations in Massachusetts will do. The sample CLC resolution is online here and a sample union resolution is online here.

The Labor for Bernie 2016 sign on letter is online here.

Use this link to visit our new Labor Campaign for Bernie Sanders Facebook page.  Please “like” the page.

Another Labor for Bernie page is here.

The campaign gmail account is: LaborforBernie2016@gmail.com

Rand Wilson is a long-term organizer living in Somerville, MA. He currently works for SEIU Local 888 based in Charlestown, MA. He has been executive director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, and frequently contributes to various labor publications, including Talking Union.

Bernie Sanders’ Labor Record in Vermont

by Steve Early

 Bernie 1981

Bernie Sanders has a long record of supporting pro-worker policies. Organized labor should back his presidential run.

When I first met Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders, he was a relatively marginal figure in his adopted state of Vermont. It was 1976 and he was running, unsuccessfully and for the fourth time, as a candidate of the Liberty Union Party (LUP).

Liberty Union was a radical third party spearheaded by opponents of the Vietnam War who had, like Sanders, washed up in the Green Mountain State as the sixties subsided. At its historic peak, the LUP garnered maybe 5 or 6 percent of the statewide vote for some of its more presentable candidates — in short, nothing like the winning margins racked up in recent years by the far more savvy and effectiveVermont Progressive Party, which now boasts a ten-member legislature delegation and attracts growing union support.

During Sanders’s quixotic mid-1970s bid to become governor of Vermont, I accompanied him to a meeting of local granite cutters, teamsters, and electrical workers. This was not a “flatlander” crowd, nor one dominated by full-time union officials. His audience was native Vermonters, some of them Republican, who were still punching a clock at local quarries, trucking companies, and machine tool factories in an era when the future home state of Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont Teddy Bear Co. still had impressive blue-collar union density.

These local union delegates had come together to make candidate endorsements under the banner of the Vermont Labor Forum, a coalition of unions outside the AFL-CIO. Sanders then delivered what is now known — due to its essential continuity over the last four decades — as “The Speech.” (For one of its longer iterations, see his2011 book by the same name.)

Sanders’s persuasive message to the Labor Forum was that corporations were too powerful, workers were getting screwed, and both major parties were beholden to “the bosses” (or, as Sanders might call them today, “the billionaire class,” a social category not yet invented forty years ago).

Sanders’s appeal for working-class support in 1976 seemed most persuasive to rank-and-file representatives of the United Electrical Workers (UE). They were, of course, members of a left-led national organization that had long favored political action outside the Democratic Party. However, in deference to their more cautious colleagues, the UE members politely went along with the Labor Forum majority, which, per usual, voted to endorse Vermont Democrats, despite Liberty Union’s superior labor bona fides.

This labor tendency to gravitate toward the least problematic of the two major parties is still with us today. Every election cycle, in every part of the country, AFL-CIO unions and unaffiliated labor organizations make pragmatic calculations about who to back and fund.

Rarely do they take a chance on third-party candidates, no matter how ardent their support for labor causes. Even a union rank-and-filer who runs against a corporate Democrat (for example, Howie Hawkins, the blue-collar Green who challenged incumbent Andrew Cuomo for New York governor last year) finds it hard to collect labor endorsements.

A few union leaders have recently vowed to withhold future support from Democrats who favor President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, but Hillary Clinton will certainly be exempted from any such retribution. By the 2016 general election — and much sooner, in the case of some national unions — organized labor will be in full lesser-evil mode once again.

The only place in the nation next year where union members will have viable, pro-labor third party candidates to support, at least at the state and local level, is Vermont. And for that the US labor movement has Sanders and other Vermont progressives to thank.

When Sanders comes knocking on their door, looking for support in his presidential primary challenge, trade unionists in other states should remember his long history of helping Vermont workers get their act together, in politics, organizing, and contract strikes. It’s a track record that few “friends of labor” can match.

Sanders got his own electoral act together by going local in 1981. Instead of persisting as a fringe candidate in futile statewide races, he joined a four-way contest for mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. Sanders beat the incumbent, a five-term Democrat, by ten votes.

As mayor, Sanders immediately hired a new human resources director for Burlington. This union-friendly lawyer worked to improve relations between city hall and municipal workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

During his four terms, Sanders continued to champion the cause of workers, tenants, the poor, and unemployed, while revitalizing the city. Under the Sanders administration, Burlington backed worker co-ops, affordable housing initiatives, new cultural and youth programs, and development of the city’s waterfront in a way that preserved public access and use.

“We were paying attention to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods rather than just downtown or the big-money interests,” Sanders told the Nation last year. “In fact, I went to war with virtually every part of the ruling class in Burlington during my years as mayor.”

The result, according to Sanders, was that “large numbers of people who previously had not participated in the political process got involved.” In addition, Sanders allies won up to six seats on the city council and campaigned as the Progressive Coalition (the forerunner of the statewide Progressive Party, which was founded in 1999).

But even a left-wing independent with a laudable record of labor advocacy at the municipal level found it hard to attract national union backing when he sought higher office. In 1988 major unions largely ignored Sanders when he ran for Congress against a Democrat and Republican. The latter won, but two years later, Sanders ran again and ousted the GOP incumbent, with more union support this time. Only gradually and very slowly has the country’s longest serving independent in Congress received the kind of national union funding that he should have gotten from the very beginning.

On Capitol Hill, Sanders blazed a trail not followed since Vito Marcantonio served six terms in Congress, between 1939 and 1951, as the lonely tribune of the New York City–based American Labor Party.

Fifty years later, during the Clinton administration, Sanders helped create a left pole for mainstream labor’s soon-to-be-thwarted campaign to reform the National Labor Relations Act. He introduced a “‘Workplace Democracy Act” to comprehensively reform and strengthen workers’ rights . . . to improve living standards for American workers, which have fallen precipitously.”

Sanders also promoted “economic conversion” — refashioning Pentagon-dependent manufacturing firms to produce socially useful goods — a cause since downplayed or abandoned by major industrial unions themselves.

Back in Vermont, Sanders used his congressional office to help workers get better organized, in their workplaces and communities, even when the labor movement lagged behind in both areas. He not only urged Vermonters to vote “yes” in union representation elections, he actually convened annual meetings of local labor activists to assist them in developing more successful organizing and bargaining strategies in the private and public sector. To stimulate new rank-and-file thinking, Sanders and his staff invited out-of-state labor speakers who were part of national efforts to revitalize organized labor.

He has also been a staunch and longtime ally of the Vermont Workers Center, the statewide community-labor coalition that fights for single-payer health care, immigrants’ rights, paid sick leave, and other working-class causes in the Green Mountain State.

When Vermont Verizon workers that I represented opposed the company’s sale of its northern New England landline operations in 2006, Sanders was campaigning for the US Senate seat that he now holds. He convened a public forum highlighting the reasons for our “Stop The Sale” campaign and brokered a meeting with the proposed buyer, FairPoint Communications, that enabled us to confront top managers about the company’s record of anti-unionism.

More recently, as labor opponents of the sale predicted, Verizon’s successor has floundered financially and tried to impose contract concessions on its workforce of several thousand. During their four-month strike last year, FairPoint union members had no stronger political ally, in public and behind the scenes, than Sanders.

Sanders’s four decades of active engagement with workers’ struggles in Vermont has provided a model for the Vermont Progressive Party’s own strong labor orientation. The VPP’s elected steering committee now includes key union activists in Vermont; its public office holders — on the Burlington City Council and in the state legislature — regularly join union members where major party officials are scarce: on picket lines and at rallies and press conferences. Members of my own union and others have been recruited to run as candidates for what has become the country’s most successful state-level third party.

It’s an axiom of labor solidarity that help received, in a period of need, will be reciprocated down the road. Vermont union members learned long ago that the mutual benefit derived from their work with and for Sanders goes far beyond the results of labor’s usual (and sometimes tawdry) transactional relationships with public officeholders.

That’s why trade unionists in Vermont have turned out for Sanders as much as he’s aided them over the years. Let’s hope that their union brothers and sisters in other Democratic primary states will figure out which side they should be on, without the benefit of such long personal association.

It’s promising that many rank-and-file activists have already signed up to join the “Labor Campaign for Bernie.” Last week, the Vermont State Labor Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling him “the strongest candidate articulating our issues.”

But if the rest of organized labor plays it cautious and safe, jumping on the Clinton bandwagon instead of rallying around Sanders, it will be just one more sign of diminished union capacity for mounting any kind of worker self-defense, on the job or in politics.

Steve Early worked for 27 years as a Boston-based organizer for the Communication Workers of America (CWA) in Vermont and New England.   He is the author of Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home and The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor.  He now lives in Richmond, CA.

Desperately seeking a new model for trade

by Michael Brune and Randi Weingarten

[Ed. note: The Senate has just voted 68-32 for cloture after an all-too brief debate on this insidious and dangerous legislation. However the outcome is by no means bleak in the House, since both Democratic and Republican legislators are bring swamped by mail and phone calls from their constituents against enacting Fast Track and the Trans Pacific Partnership.  A very broad coalition of representative American organizations is mobilizing against “fast-tracking” gigantic trade and investment agreements that would cement in place global corporate domination over popular democratic rules and safeguards.   Here is a joint statement from the Sierra Club and the American Federation of Teachers.]

Fast-tracking bad trade deals would shrink protections for communities, the economy and the environment.

Each of us has a stake in the legacy we leave our kids. The members of the respective organizations that we lead — the Sierra Club and the American Federation of Teachers — share a commitment to creating an America that is safe, healthy and economically secure. But over the past three decades, the American dream has moved out of reach for too many families, and our communities have borne the brunt of extreme weather and an increasingly disrupted climate.

To make matters worse, Congress is considering a dangerous plan that would put the health and livelihoods of many Americans at risk. The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation would fast-track deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It limits Congress’ ability to debate and amend such deals by granting the administration the authority to sign a trade deal before sending it to Congress for a vote. Fast track removes the ability of our elected representatives to ensure that trade pacts don’t sacrifice the health of communities, the economy and the environment.

Although the TPP has been in the works for more than five years, all the negotiating has happened behind closed doors. Hundreds of corporate executives have been involved in shaping the agreement, while ordinary citizens have been left out. The TPP would dwarf the North American Free Trade Agreement and apply to more than 40 percent of the world’s total GDP. Its reach would extend far beyond traditional trade matters such as tariffs and quotas. The TPP includes rules that would expand the power of multinational corporations while limiting the ability of our government to protect our workers, communities and environment.

Put simply, the TPP is toxic for the health of people, our economy and the planet. It is riddled with problems that give serious pause to all of us who care about economic security and future generations. These include provisions that allow foreign corporations to sue our government if they think our industry safeguards might hurt their profits. The investor-state dispute settlement provision could have a chilling effect on our ability to regulate in the public interest.

We need a new model for trade that doesn’t prioritize corporate profits over the health of our communities, the economic security of everyday Americans and the future of our kids.

Consumer protections such as ensuring affordable prescription drug prices and country-of-origin labeling are also in jeopardy because of the TPP. Buy-American procurement rules would be undermined by a provision that would force the U.S. in some instances to treat foreign bidders the same as American ones. Also, the TPP not only fails to address climate change but would exacerbate the crisis by granting new rights to big polluters and encouraging investments in the countries with the weakest environmental protections.

Some are touting the TPA legislation as an opportunity for Congress to shape the contents of the deal. But this is simply not the case, for a number of reasons. First, after more than five years of negotiations, the TPP is nearly complete, and the TPA would remove any remaining leverage that Congress has to shape the deal. Second, any worker, consumer, environmental or human rights protections that Congress identifies as priorities under the TPA would be completely unenforceable. Legally, they are goals rather than obligations, and a deal that doesn’t achieve them still gets a luge run through Congress. The negotiating guidelines in the bill won’t even help protect workers and the environment. For example, there is not a single mention of climate change in the legislation.

We commend Congress for considering trade adjustment assistance, which provides support to workers who have been affected negatively by the loss of jobs because of past free trade agreements and offshoring. But packaging fast track with other legislation such as trade adjustment assistance will not prevent it from hurting the jobs and wages of working families.

As advocates for working families and the environment, we ask ourselves, Will our trade policy help us fulfill our collective obligation to our kids? Will they have clean air to breathe and water to drink? Will they have access to quality education and health care? Will we keep our promise to them that if they work hard and play by the rules, they can build decent lives for themselves? The Hatch-Wyden-Ryan bill would set us on the wrong path on all those fronts and must be opposed.

We need a new model for trade that doesn’t prioritize corporate profits over the health of our communities, the economic security of everyday Americans and the future of our kids.

Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club.
Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Reposted from Al Jazeera Opinion page.

 

Nike supports TPP. Here is why

Leo Gerard

America is in an abusive relationship with trade-obsessed politicians and corporations.

Despite their long history of battering the U.S. middle class with bad trade deal after bad trade deal, these lawmakers and CEOs contend workers should believe that their new proposal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will be different. President Obama and the CEO of Nike, a company that doesn’t manufacture one shoe in the United States, got together in Oregon on Friday to urge Americans to fall once again for a trade deal.

The trade fanatics say everything will be different under the TPP – even though it is based on deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that lured American factories across the border, destroyed good-paying jobs and devastated communities. They plead: “Just come back for one more deal and see how great it will be this time!” And, like all batterers, they say: “Sorry about the terrible past; trust me about the future.”

This is trade abuse.

United Steelworkers of America.

At the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the chief executive officer of Air Jordans told the chief executive passenger of Air Force One that Americans should believe in the TPP because it’ll be like Santa Claus stuffing jobs down chimneys across America.

CEO Mark Parker promised that the TPP would miraculously prompt Nike, the brand that is the icon for shipping production overseas, to create 10,000 U.S. manufacturing and engineering jobs – over a decade, that is.  Not only that, Parker pronounced, the TPP will generate thousands of construction jobs and as many as 40,000 indirect positions with suppliers and service companies – again, over a decade.

Now those are some great-sounding promises! Nike employs 26,000 American workers now, a few of whom make soles in Oregon and Missouri. But presto, Parker says, the TPP will increase that number by nearly 40 percent!

The thing is, Nike could easily create 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in the United States right now. No TPP required. It employs 1 million overseas, the vast majority in low-wage, high-worker-abuse countries like Vietnam, China and Indonesia. To bring 1 percent of those jobs – 10,000 – to the United States doesn’t seem like such a Herculean, TPP-requiring task, especially considering Nike’s massive profit margin.

The average cost to make a pair of Nike shoes is $30. The American sneaker consumer, who may pay $130 to swoosh, is certainly not getting the benefit of low prices from Nike’s cheap overseas production.

Instead of manufacturing in America, Nike chooses to “just do it” in countries where it knows workers are abused. In the 1990s, the media slammed the corporation for sweatshop conditions in its foreign factories. Like a typical abuser, Nike promised to reform its ways. It said in a news release last week, “Our past lessons have fundamentally changed the way we do business.”

Well, not really. The company admitted in 2011 that two Indonesian factories making its shoes subjected workers to “serious and egregious” physical and verbal abuse. Nike told the San Francisco Chronicle then that there was “little it could do to stop” the cruelty.

And it accomplished exactly that – little. Just last month, a three-part series in the Modesto Bee described sickening conditions in Indonesian factories producing Nike shoes: Workers paid $212 a month for six-day, 55-hour work weeks. Workers denied the country’s minimum wage and overtime pay. Workers paid so little they couldn’t afford to care for their children. Workers fired for trying to improve conditions.

 

 

Nike Sweatshops

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Last week, the world’s largest athletic gear maker said, “Nike fully supports the inclusion of strong labor provisions (in the TPP) because we believe that will drive higher industry standards and create economic growth that benefits everyone.”

Promises, promises. Why doesn’t Nike simply insist on higher standards at its factories? What exactly is there in a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations that is essential to Nike establishing higher standards and stopping the abuse of workers in factories making its shoes?

Oh, yeah, the American middle class, which has suffered most from past trade deals, is not allowed to know that.  The TPP is secret. Well, except to the privileged corporate CEOs who helped write the thing.

In pushing for “Fast Track” authority to shove the deal through a Congress that has abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to oversee foreign trade, President Obama admitted “past deals did not always live up to the hype.”

That’s not quite right. It’s actually way worse than that. Past deals killed U.S. factories and jobs. Since NAFTA, they’ve cost Americans 57,000 factories and 5 million good, family-supporting jobs.

Just three years ago, trade fanatics promised that the Korean deal, called KORUS, would definitely provide more exports and more jobs. Instead, U.S. goods exports to Korea dropped 6 percent, while imports from Korea surged 19 percent. So the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 104 percent. That means the loss of 93,000 America jobs in just the first three years of KORUS.

It’s the same story with the other trade deals that followed NAFTA, including the agreements that enabled China to enter the World Trade Organization. The Commerce Department announced just last week the largest monthly expansion in the trade deficit in 19 years. The deficit with China for March was the biggest ever.

What this means is that instead of exporting goods, America is exporting jobs. Foreign workers get the jobs making the stuff Americans buy. And they’re often employed by factories producing products for so-called American corporations like Nike. They’re employed by factories that collapse and kill hundreds. Factories that catch on fire and immolate workers trapped inside. Factories where workers are ill-paid, overworked and slapped when they can’t meet unrealistic production quotas. Factories that pollute grievously.

American workers no longer are willing to engage in this abusive relationship with trade fanatics. They no longer believe the promises of change. They don’t want the federal money TPP fanatics promise them to pay for retraining as underpaid burger flippers after their middle class-supporting factory jobs are shipped overseas. They’re over trade pacts that benefit only multi-national corporations like Nike.

To Fast Track and the TPP, they say, “Just Don’t Do It!”

Leo Gerard. President . United Steelworkers of America.

Follow Leo W. Gerard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uswblogger

 

 

Teamsters Call for Defeat of Fast Track and TPP

by James P. Hoffa

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[Ed. note:  Leaders of the U.S. labor movement are unanimously opposed to the passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Along with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and CWA President Larry Cohen, IBT General President James Hoffa has been a vocal critic of anti-worker “trade legislation.”  Even though even a united labor movement by itself may not be able to prevail against the unholy alliance of President Obama, the mainstream Republican and Democratic party leaderships, and the Business Roundtable and America Chamber of Commerce, a large and diverse coalition of progressive political movements, citizens’ action, religious and environmental groups has been mobilizing alongside organize labor to oppose Fast Track and the TPP]

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has for years been shrouded in mystery. But last night, WikiLeaks gave U.S. workers a real gift when it pulled back the curtain on a portion of the proposed trade deal that shows what a boondoggle the agreement would be for big business.

Language included in the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) chapter of the TPP would grant new rights to companies to challenge limitations and exceptions to copyrights, patents and other intellectual property. That means corporations could sue the U.S. or other countries included in the deal if they didn’t like their laws. Such challenges would be handled by an unaccountable international arbitration forum. And taxpayers would end up paying the tab if the private sector wins.

Companies are already challenging governments around the globe when they feel elected officials are holding down their profit margins. Tobacco giant Philip Morris, for instance, is currently appealing Uruguay’s regulation of advertising on cigarette packages because it believes the nation’s rules are tamping down on sales in that South American country. But the TPP language would make it worse.

Trade experts agree the ISDS provisions would be very bad news for the public. “With the veil of secrecy ripped back, finally everyone can see for themselves that the TPP would give multinational corporations extraordinary new powers that would undermine our sovereignty, expose U.S. taxpayers to billions in new liability and privilege foreign firms operating here with special rights not available to U.S. firms under U.S. law,” said Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

An analysis of the ISDS text by Public Citizen shows, among other things:

  • Foreign investors would be allowed to challenge new policies that apply to both domestic and international corporations on the grounds that they undermine foreign investors’ “expectations” of how they should be treated.
  • The amount that an ISDS tribunal would order a government to pay to a foreign investor as compensation would be based on the “expected future profits.”
  • There are no new safeguards that limit ISDS tribunals’ discretion to create even broader interpretations of governments’ obligations to foreign investors and order compensation on that basis.

In short, the ISDS language shows that based on this TPP chapter alone, the average worker is going to get screwed. The provisions will give corporations the ability to do an end-around on U.S. laws they don’t like. How is that fair? What about the rights of the American people? What about democracy?

Mind you, this doesn’t even address how Americans will be hammered by the other 28 chapters included in this Pacific Rim trade deal. But we already know they will. We’ve seen what NAFTA has done; we’ve seen what the recent U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement has done. Those two deals together have led to more than a million lost U.S. jobs.

Previous leaks have also let us know that lower wages, unsafe food and products, lessened environmental standards and reduced access to affordable medicines will result if the TPP becomes a reality. It’s why the Teamsters and our numerous allies have taken a stand against this terrible trade agreement. And it’s why we can’t let up now.

Want to stop this from happening? Let your members of Congress know you oppose fast-track trade authority. Forcing Capitol Hill to debate this agreement in the open on its merits is the only way hard-working Americans will be able to get a full picture of what the TPP will do. And it’s the best opportunity we have to halt TPP in its tracks.

James P, Hoffa is General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.  His statement is reblogged from the Huffington Post with the permission of the IBT.

Striking Oil Workers Emerge Victorious Thanks in Part to Green Group Solidarity

by Kate Aronoff

Due, in part, to the environmental concerns posed by unsafe refineries, strikers quickly gained the support of green groups. (Photo: USW Oil Workers)

Yesterday afternoon, the United Steelworkers reached a tentative contract agreement with negotiators from Shell Oil Co., which has represented Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies affected by the union’s now nearly six-week strike. Even as the strike continues in many workplaces, yesterday’s victory is the hard-won result of careful organizing and some promising collaboration.

Beginning on February 1 — after a particularly contentious round of negotiations — an estimated 3,800 workers kicked off a strike action across nine refineries in Texas, California, Kentucky and Washington. As of Thursday’s truce, the strike had grown to include 7,000 workers across 15 refineries, petrochemical and cogeneration plants, including the nation’s largest refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. In total, the United Steelworkers, or USW, represents 30,000 members, and holds leverage over an impressive 64 percent of the United States’ refining capacity.

United Steelworkers’ spokeswoman Lynne Hancock says that she hopes the past several weeks’ events will serve as a sign to oil companies “that we are serious when we bring up issues … that they come from the membership.”

Although the oil workers brought demands around wages and benefits, union negotiators’ central demands were for safer working conditions and a scale-back in companies’ hiring of non-union, often temporary workers. Chiefly, Hancock said, health and safety concerns were “key in this round of bargaining.” Long hours, scant safety regulations and lax training requirements — the oil workers argued — have contributed to workplace environments harmful to not only employees, but the communities surrounding the plants and refineries where they work.

While the four-year contract — covering wages, benefits, working conditions, and health and safety measures — received unanimous support from the rank-and-file National Oil Bargaining Policy Committee, the end of the strike remains contingent on plant locals’ negotiations with management over “local concerns,” such as seniority and vacation time. Because the national agreement has yet to be approved by either USW locals or international leadership, the union is not yet discussing the details of the pending contract. Hancock, however, said that she does not “anticipate there being any problems with it getting ratified at local union bargaining tables.”

A press release by the USW yesterday stated that the proposed contract includes “calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility,” as well as “daily maintenance and repair work in the plants,” yearly wage increases, a joint review of plant staffing needs, and an agreement that hiring plans be developed “in conjunction with recruitment and training programs.” Negotiators had rejected seven previous contract proposals from Shell before Thursday’s agreement.

In addition to the strike, workers took part in an ongoing series of rallies and guerrilla film screenings at refineries and corporate headquarters. One delegation of workers traveled to Europe to garner international support for their actions; alongside the British union UNITE and Divest London, oil workers demonstrated outside a speech by Shell CEO Ben van Buerden in the British capital. USW Local 675 in Torrance, Calif., took a particularly creative route, delivering a pile of horse manure to ExxonMobil offices in response to the company’s failure to respond to inquiries about the health impacts of a mid-February refinery explosion that left four workers injured.

Due, in part, to the environmental concerns posed by unsafe refineries, strikers quickly gained the support of green groups, including the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Sierra Club and Communities for a Better Environment in the Bay Area, which walked the picket line with workers at a Tesoro refinery in Martinez, Calif. Joe Uehlein, a long-time unionist and executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, urged fellow environmentalists to support USW workers in a statement released at the strike’s onset.

“As we work to protect the earth from climate change,” he said, “it is particularly important that we advocate for the needs of workers in fossil fuel industries whose well-being must not be sacrificed to the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hancock echoed this sentiment, noting, “The workers are like canaries in the mine … They can see what’s going on and what happens before something tragic happens.” She also saw environmental groups’ support as a major boon to the strike. “It is encouraging to other unions to see that working with environmental groups helps you in your bargaining strength and in improving the work situation for the workers,” Hancock told me. Notably, the United Steelworkers were a founding member of the Blue Green Alliance, which seeks to unite “America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations,” according to the group’s website.

The fight for the United Steelworkers is far from over, but the last six weeks have proven a galvanizing force for the union’s membership. Just coming off conference calls with locals around the country, Hancock observed “a lot of energy [among workers], and the motivation to stay involved and support the locals that are still having trouble on local issues.”

As collective bargaining comes under fresh attack by Republicans in Illinois and Wisconsin, the oil workers’ victory this week might be one of the month’s most hopeful headlines — especially with regards to organized labor. Amid dropping oil prices and divestment campaigners, fossil fuel companies, now more than ever, are on the defensive. Given thenot-so-secret ties between fossil fuel magnates and the GOP, ties between unions and green groups built during the strike could well have just bolstered the foundation for one of history’s most powerful — and necessary — alliances.

Kate Aronoff is a History major at Swarthmore College active in the climate justice movement, including Swarthmore Mountain Justice‘s campaign to divest the college’s endowment from fossil fuels. She currently serves as a Board Member for the Responsible Endowments Coalition. Find her on Twitter @KateAronoff.

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