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Trumka: Passage of Strong Trade Amendment Marks Major Milestone

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Kenneth-Quinnell_smallAFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement in reaction to the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee’s passage of a trade amendment during its Orlando, Florida, meeting:

Today marks a major milestone for everyone who believes in the high standard that trade should raise wages and create good jobs in America.

The Democratic Party’s adoption of strong, pro-worker trade positions is historic but didn’t happen by itself. The voices of working people put the brakes on TPP and forced a real, vibrant debate about ending corporate trade. Secretary Hillary Clinton has made clear that she opposes the TPP before or after the election and believes in a whole new approach to trade that shares our values. Now, the Democratic Party has listened to working families and responded in a powerful, positive way.

We don’t, however, have any illusions that the fight is over. The Democratic Party has taken a strong position, but the threat of unfair agreements, including TPP, remains. We will continue to point out TPP’s fundamental flaws and mobilize to defeat it and any trade deals that don’t work for working people.

This blog originally appeared at aflcio.org on July 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell: I am a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, I worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  My writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.  I am the proud father of three future progressive activists, an accomplished rapper and karaoke enthusiast.


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ANOTHER Corporation Suing Our Government Thanks To Trade Agreements

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Dave JohnsonA Canadian corporation is suing the us because we wouldn’t let them build a pipeline across our country (seizing people’s property along the way) so they could sell oil to China.

They can do this because we signed a trade agreement that places corporate rights above our democracy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would increase by an order of magnitude the companies that can sue us for hurting their profits by protecting the environment, consumers, public health and small businesses.

Because They Can

TransCanada Corporation is suing the U.S. government (us) for $15 billion in damages under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules. The company wanted to build the Keystone pipeline all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico so they could ship oil to China. They also wanted to use “eminent domain” to seize land from ranchers, farmers and other property owners along the way to enable this.

Why can they do this? In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and on January 1, 1994, the United States officially became a party to the agreement. Chapter 11 of the agreement “protects investors” by allowing them to sue governments that pass regulations or laws that hurt their profits. They can bypass the legal systems of these governments and take the issue to “corporate courts” in which corporate attorneys decide if the corporation or the government will prevail.

Bloomberg has the story, in “TransCanada Files $15B NAFTA Claim on Keystone XL Rejection“:

TransCanada Corp. is seeking to recoup $15 billion for the Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in a legal claim that highlights how foreign companies can use trade deals to challenge U.S. policy.

The Calgary-based pipeline operator filed papers late Friday seeking arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing that TransCanada had every reason to believe it would win approval to build Keystone XL. Instead, President Barack Obama last November determined that the pipeline, which would have carried Canadian oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf coast, wasn’t in the national interest. In response, TransCanada in January vowed to use arbitration provisions in Chapter 11 of NAFTA to recover costs and damages.

The President of the United States decided that this project is not in the national interest. But “investor protection” provisions of trade agreements override our national interest. So we have to pay a company for not letting them seize public and private land to build a pipeline across our entire country so they can sell oil to China.

Countries Lose The Right To Protect Citizens

The investor-state dispute settlement provision of the TPP was among the main targets at Tuesday’s “Trading Up’ symposium on trade at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington.”

Both AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) singled out the ISDS, which Brown said “allows corporations to sue governments to pad their own profits,” as a key reason to oppose the TPP and replace it with a new trade regime that respects the interests of the people who governments are supposed to represent.

Thomas Palley, economist at the New American Foundation, said at the symposium that of provisions like the ISDS that do not really have anything directly to do with trade, agreements like the TPP “are not free trade agreements; they are global governance agreements.”

Calling them “global governance agreements,” he went on to say, would call attention to the enormity of the effect these clauses would have and would underscore the undemocratic way they are being imposed on populations around the world as well as the U.S.

Under NAFTA, we recently lost the right to, for example, tell consumers which country their meat comes from or whether tuna is dolphin-safe. Canada has been sued over their environmental laws. One company was even able to win $15 million and block Canada from stopping them from polluting the air with neurotoxins.

Under other trade agreements with similar provisions counties are being sued by tobacco companies for trying to help people stop smoking, and prevent kids from starting.

Climate vs. Profit

These “investor protection” provisions prevent governments from protecting the environment and the climate. For example, TransCanada claims that the U.S. choice to protect the climate cost them money, so we have to pay up. As economist Joseph Stiglitz said by video at the Trading Up symposium, instead of the “polluter pays” principle in U.S. law, “we pay the polluter for not polluting.” Or, worse, we pay the polluter for the right to keep polluting.

From the Bloomberg report:

The company said the U.S. spent seven years delaying a final decision on the project with multiple rounds of “arbitrary and contrived” analyses and justifications.

“None of that technical analysis or legal wrangling was material to the administration’s final decision,” TransCanada said in Friday’s filing. “Instead, the rejection was symbolic and based merely on the desire to make the U.S. appear strong on climate change, even though the State Department had itself concluded that denial would have no significant impact on the environment.”

If TPP Passes, More Like This

NAFTA covers just three countries, Mexico, Canada and the United States. The TPP starts with 12 countries, but it is a “docking agreement,” which means more and more countries can sign on as corporate power grows and is able to force them to do so. This means the number of corporations that can sue governments for hurting profits by protecting citizens and the environment grows exponentially.

Again, from Bloomberg:

Foreign companies could exploit the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to weaken U.S. environmental policy and labor protections. TransCanada’s NAFTA claim highlights the risk, said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

“TransCanada’s attempt to make American taxpayers hand over more than $15 billion because the company’s dirty Keystone XL pipeline was rejected shows exactly why NAFTA was wrong and why the even more dangerous and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership must be stopped,” Brune said in an emailed statement.

“The TPP would empower thousands of new firms operating in the U.S., including major polluters, to follow in TransCanada’s footsteps and undermine our critical climate safeguards in private trade tribunals,” Brune said.

The lesson here is that we must do everything we can to fight the TPP, and demand our government renegotiate the rest of the “trade” agreements the corporations got us into. But this time the agreements must be negotiated with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and all other “stakeholder” groups at the table.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on June 15, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.


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Did The Administration Offer New Balance A Big Contract For TPP Silence?

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Dave JohnsonLast year President Obama went to Nike headquarters to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But Nike doesn’t make shoes in the US,  and TPP would force companies like New Balance to stop making shoes here. New Balance kept quiet about this, but now says the administration offered the company a big contract in exchange for its silence. New Balance is talking now, because the contract never came through.

A Contract In Exchange For Silence?

The Bangor Daily News has a big story this week, “New Balance claims Defense Department strung it along on military sneaker contract”:

New Balance officials say they’ve broken their silence over the Trans-Pacific Partnership because the Obama administration has failed to offer the company a chance for a contract to sell sneakers to the military.

… New Balance held its tongue about the TPP for nearly a year, he says, because federal officials told the company that if it did so, New Balance would get a shot at a military contract.

This is a very big deal. Last May’s post, “Obama To Visit Nike To Promote the TPP. Wait, NIKE? Really?”, explained what TPP means for the domestic shoe industry:

While the President visits Nike, New Balance is struggling to be able to keep some of its manufacturing in the U.S. Currently New Balance makes shoes in five factories in the U.S. Their executives say if TPP passes, lower tariffs on shoes made in places like Vietnam will force them to close their U.S. factories.

… If the President gets his way and TPP passes, the tariff on non-U.S.-made (Vietnam) shoes will end and New Balance – like so many other companies struggling to manufacture inside the U.S. – will have no choice but to end its U.S. manufacturing operations. Meanwhile Nike, already manufacturing in Vietnam and Malaysia and currently selling shoes that cost $10 to make for over $100, will gain even more of an advantage, which obviously will not be passed on to consumers. If you are able to get a certain price for a product, why reduce it?

This is just one example of how even more American workers would lose their jobs if TPP passes.

TPP would lower tariffs on shoes (and everything else) coming into the country from low-wage TPP countries. Companies like Nike would be rewarded for closing factories here in the past. Companies like New Balance would be forced to close factories here in the future.

New Balance says the government offered the company this contract if it would keep quiet about what TPP would do to domestic manufacturers. The military buys a lot of sneakers — as many as 200,000 pairs each year. It currently buys non-US-made sneakers, in spite of rules saying they should buy US-sourced when possible. So New Balance should have this contract anyway. (TPP would prohibit us from requiring the purchase of US-made goods with our own tax dollars.) But the government apparently used the promise of the contract to buy the company’s silence about the job-killing effect if TPP passes.

The Boston Globe has more on this, in “New Balance accuses Pentagon of reneging on sneaker deal”:

New Balance is renewing its opposition to the far-reaching Pacific Rim trade deal, saying the Obama administration reneged on a promise to give the sneaker maker a fair shot at military business if it stopped bad-mouthing the agreement.

After several years of resistance to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact aimed at making it easier to conduct trade among the United States and 11 other countries, the Boston company had gone quiet last year. New Balance officials say one big reason is that they were told the Department of Defense would give them serious consideration for a contract to outfit recruits with athletic shoes.

… “We swallowed the poison pill that is TPP so we could have a chance to bid on these contracts,” said Matt LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs. “We were assured this would be a top-down approach at the Department of Defense if we agreed to either support or remain neutral on TPP.

The government offered a lucrative contract to a company, to keep quiet and not alert the public to the potential job-losses from TPP. Just, wow.

What Else?

This story raises the question of what else the administration is doing to get TPP through, and why. For example, last year the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill prohibited the administration from entering into “trade” agreements like TPP with countries that violate human rights, in particular human trafficking. Malaysia violates human rights by enabling human trafficking. Malaysia is a TPP country.

So the administration solved the problem by declaring that Malaysia doesn’t do that after all, even though they do.

Last year’s post “Obama Administration Makes Malaysia Slavery Problem For TPP Disappear”explains:

[T]he trade promotion authority law … prohibits the U.S. from entering into “trade” agreements with “tier 3” human-trafficking countries.

According to news reports, the Obama administration found an easy – and extremely cynical – fix: just change Malaysia’s rating to a “tier 2.” Problem solved. But human rights groups, labor and members of Congress are “outraged,” “shocked” and “deeply disturbed.”

… Human trafficking? Slavery? Sex slaves? People kept in cages? Mass graves? Abuse of workers? No problem. Just tell the State Department to ignore it.

Another post, “Did Obama Administration Downplay Malaysia Slavery To Grease Trade Deal?”, elaborates,

Cheap labor is the whole point of our corporate-rigged, NAFTA-style trade agreements. Companies get to move jobs, factories, even entire industries out of the U.S. to countries where people are exploited, the environment is not protected and “costs” like human safety are kept low.

But even so … tolerating slavery? Flat-out slavery? Really? Unfortunately, it looks like that’s what is happening with fast-track trade promotion authority, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Obama administration.

… Malaysia was a Tier 3 country in the 2014 TIP report. The 2015 TIP report was supposed to be released in June but was delayed coincident with the passage of fast-track legislation with the slavery clause. The report was released Monday, and changes Malaysia’s TIP rating from the worst “Tier 3” to a “Tier 2,? even though there is little or no change in Malaysia’s actual performance.

Promising a company a big military contract if they would keep quiet about the job-killing effects of TPP? Letting a country off the hook for actual slavery?

The TPP is all about pushing jobs out of the country in search of lower wages so executives and shareholders can pocket that wage differential. But slavery? Really? Contracts for silence about how it will close US factories? Really?

What else is going on to push this corporate-favoring “trade” agreement?

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on April 15, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.


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Trade Deals Like TPP Encourage ‘Business Decisions’ Like This Heartbreaking One from Indianapolis

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Kenneth Quinnell

In this video, workers at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis react to the company announcing that it will ship 1,400 local jobs to Mexico in what they described as “strictly a business decision.” You can hear the heartbreak and outrage in the voices of the workers who must now scramble to figure out how to take care of their families. Carrier makes heating, air conditioning, ventilation and other systems. The layoffs are scheduled to begin in 2017.

Aside from corporate greed, the main reason that Carrier can get away with something like this is the major flaws that have been built into international trade deals like North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These kinds of deals make sure that these types of tragic moments happen more frequently.

First off, these deals provide companies that want to offshore to trading partners with extraordinary powers and legal rights they do not have under U.S. law–powers and rights that shift the balance of power further away from working people. Second, these deals put U.S. manufacturers in closer competition with foreign companies that pay low wages and don’t respect labor rights. This encourages U.S. companies to offshore in order to keep up with those foreign companies.

The third reason these deals encourage outsourcing is that they fail to level the playing field in terms of taxes. Such a deal could set a minimum level for corporate tax rates or create rules to prevent companies from gaming the tax system and pitting countries against each other. With those options left off the table, a race to the bottom is encouraged, where companies shift jobs to countries with lower tax rates, which, in turn, encourages higher-tax rate countries to lower taxes and the ripple effect those lower rates have on the economy and the government’s goods and services. A trade deal meant to create U.S. jobs would address this.

And lastly, of course, these trade deals eliminate tariffs in the trade zone, further encouraging companies to shift jobs to trade partners because corporations know they can ship goods back into the United States without paying tariffs, thus using the tariff cuts to increase U.S. imports instead of increasing U.S. exports.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 11, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.


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Trumka: TPP Is a New Low

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Kenneth Quinnell

In a new op-ed for the Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explains the key reasons why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for working people, both in the United States and overseas. Trumka describes the deal by saying that “the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few.”

An excerpt:

We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field—but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.

In many ways, the TPP is a new low. A quick search of the agreement shows no mention of the terms “raising wages” or “climate change.” And by ramming through fast track legislation earlier this year, Congress effectively barred itself from making a single improvement to the TPP.

Working people deserve a better process and a better product. We understand better than anyone that the TPP is just another tool to enrich corporations at the expense of everyday families. We cannot and should not accept it.

Because it can’t fix the TPP, Congress has to take the step of saying to 11 other countries, “No, not this TPP.” Taking that brave step is necessary to create trade rules that lift people up, not crush them under crony capitalism.

Read the full op-ed.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 3, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.


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Now Vietnam Thumbs Nose At TPP’s Unenforceable Labor Provisions

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Dave JohnsonVietnam is already snubbing the unenforceable labor provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Voice of America reports, in “Vietnam Beating Case Highlights TPP Labor Rights Issue“:

A Vietnamese labor activist has accused authorities of beating and detaining her after she talked with fired workers in southern Long An province.

Long-time labor rights advocate Do Thi Minh Hanh, once imprisoned for helping organize labor strikes, said she was held Monday for “13 hours without being given any reasons.”

… Hanh, co-founder of Free Viet Labor Federation, and another activist, Truong Minh Duc, said they came to give support and advice to dozens of workers who maintained they had been unlawfully fired by a foreign-owned company.

What is going on here?

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said last week that Vietnam appeared to “play nice during TPP negotiations, but now that the agreement has been signed, it is taking steps to tighten government control over critics.”

Right. Now that the unenforceable agreement has been signed, there is no need to “play nice.”

To be fair, Vietnam is raising their minimum wage,

The monthly minimum wage for Zone 1 will increase from the current VND3.1 million ($138) to VND3.5 million ($155.8), and that of Zone 2 will rise from VND2.75 million ($122.4) to VND3.1 million.

For Zones 3 and 4, the monthly minimum wages will go up from VND2.4 million ($106.8) and VND2.15 million ($95.7) to VND2.7 ($120.2) million and VND2.4 million, respectively.

Got that? After the raise workers in Vietnam will be starting at $155 a month. That’s as little as $6.45 a day for Vietnamese working the standard six-day, 48-hour workweek. And that’s the top minimum. Others will be getting $95.70 a month, as little as $3.99 a day.

So you have “foreign-owned companies” illegally firing workers who will be making less than $7 a day. Workers are harassed, arrested and beaten if they try to do something to improve their lives.

And TPP is being sold as a “job creator” here in the U.S. Right.

Unenforceable Labor, Environment, Other Provisions

TPP has special provisions for enforcement of provisions that benefit corporations, while the already weak labor, environmental and other provisions that protect other “stakeholders” get no special enforcement mechanisms. Corporations can bring their own cases to a special corporate court that sits above governments, where corporate attorneys adjudicate. But violations of TPP’s labor, environmental and other provisions depend on governments to decide to bring the cases. And these cases do not go before panels friendly to labor or environment or other aggrieved parties. Our own government won’t even enforce labor rules inside our own country, never mind filing trade cases.

Slavery In Malaysia Ignored So TPP Can Pass

To make matters worse, the “fast track” trade promotion authority clearly specifies that the U.S. cannot enter into a trade agreement with countries designated as participating in human trafficking (slavery). Malaysia was designated as a human trafficking country. So to grease the skids for TPP our own government reclassified Malaysia, even though Malaysia had changed nothing. A Reuters investigation reported that the State Department downgraded Malaysia for political reasons. House Democrats and “stakeholder” groups are demanding an investigation.

A more recent Reuters report, “As Obama heads to Malaysia, human trafficking stance questioned,” describes what Malaysia’s trafficking victims endure,

…he was cooped up in a filthy, overcrowded detention center near Kuala Lumpur’s international airport, squatting or sleeping on the floor in a hall with scores of other men. During his fourth month, wardens ordered them not to move or talk, he says, and beat them with belts if they did.

“There was no rest. You couldn’t sit or lie down without touching someone else,” he said, pointing to a welt on his forearm that he says he received when a guard beat him for arguing with another detainee over space.

This Reuters report describes the Obama State Department’s changes to Malaysia’s trafficking status,

… senior officials instead in July upgraded Malaysia to the Tier 2 Watch List, freeing the country from potential sanctions and international condemnation, and paving the way for the ambitious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. If Malaysia remained a Tier 3 country, the Obama administration would have had to exclude it from the deal under the fast-track negotiating authority it had from Congress, potentially torpedoing the agreement.

Starkly worded criticism of Malaysia was excised from the final report, according to internal documents seen by Reuters that have not been previously made public.

… The analysts were overruled by senior American diplomats at the State Department, according to sources with direct knowledge of how the report was compiled. By the time the report was published, much of the tougher criticism of Malaysia’s detention facilities was removed.

I discussed this in a “Malaysian Slavery & the TPP” segment of “The Zero Hour with RJ Eskow” last August.

P.S., Japan recently announced it will ignore the unenforceable currency side-agreement. This means companies making things in the U.S. will be put at a competitive disadvantage against companies making things in Japan.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on November 25, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.


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Bottom Line: Does the TPP Trade Deal “Put American Workers First”?

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Dave Johnson

The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has finally been released and We the People can see what has been negotiated in our name. President Obama laid out the bottom line, saying the deal “puts American workers first.” Does it?

TPP Text

The full text of TPP can be seen here. The text consists of more than a thousand pages of incomprehensible legalese like this:

… the rate of customs duty applicable to the originating good from the Party where the good acquired the originating status in accordance with the process requirement or change in tariff classification requirement set out in Annex (PSR); or (ii) the rate of customs duty applicable to the originating good from the Party where the largest value was added among claimed production process, or the highest rate among the rates applicable to the originating good from those Parties involved in claimed production process, when the good acquired the originating status through a production process in accordance with the requirement set out in Article DD. 2(a), (b) or the regional value content requirement set out in Annex (PSR).

and this:

Pursuant to paragraph 1(b), the Commission shall review the operation of this Agreement with a view to updating and enhancing this Agreement, through negotiations, as appropriate, to ensure that the disciplines contained in the Agreement remain relevant to the trade and investment issues and challenges confronting the Parties.

You get the picture. This is going to take time and experts to figure out. Worse, it was negotiated in a corporate-dominated process, so if TPP is approved we have to assume that anything that is hard to understand or ambiguous will later be used to justify taking from We the People and giving to A Few People.

So Does TPP “Put American Workers First”?

President Obama set down the bottom line of TPP by releasing a statement calling TPP, “a new type of trade deal that puts American workers first.” In the statement he wrote, “If you’re an autoworker in Michigan, the cars you build face taxes as high as 70 percent in Vietnam.”

It is interesting that he would use the example of auto workers here. The September post “TPP Terms Are Even Worse For U.S. Than NAFTA?” looked at how TPP will affect the American auto industry and found:

Under NAFTA 62.5 percent of the value of cars and 60 percent of auto parts must be made in NAFTA countries, or a tariff will apply. But for TPP the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman appears to have made a deal saying only 45 percent for cars and 30 percent for parts need to be made in TPP countries – the rest of that business goes to China and other non-TPP, low-wage, low-labor-standards and low-environmental-protection countries. The result will be a huge shift of jobs and business away from American, Mexican and Canadian auto and parts makers.

Now we know the actual terms. Canada’s Globe and Mail reports, in “Canadian auto sector alarmed by concessions revealed in full TPP text ,” that

Canada’s auto parts makers, who employ 81,000, say the text of the agreement shows the local-content protections for vehicle components are significantly skimpier than the former Conservative government had advertised. Former prime minister Stephen Harper had said local-content requirements for important vehicle components would be between 40 per cent and 45 per cent.

… Engine parts and such body stampings as truck frames and metal roof panels will only be required to have TPP content of 35 per cent.

Basically when we are talking about “non-TPP countries” getting some percent of the business, we are really just talking about China. So says tariffs do not apply if 35 percent to 45 percent of the car and parts are made in TPP countries. This means that 55 percent to 65 percent of the car and parts can be made in China and still be tariff-free. This is much worse than even NAFTA, which, as we know, destroyed American auto and parts manufacturing jobs and entire regions of our country.

Kevin L. Kearns, President of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, in the post “Domestic Manufacturers Call Full Text of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement a ‘Very Bad Deal for America.’” says of this,

“Apparently, one of America’s biggest economic problems is that Toyota does not sell enough cars and trucks here, and thus does not displace enough American jobs. The TPP deal allows Toyota and other Japanese automakers a special concession to keep their global supply chains intact.”

So the president’s singling out of auto workers as benefiting from TPP was unfortunate. They do not, and American auto workers will be hit hard as production moves to China.

In the release statement Obama also wrote, “If you’re a worker in Oregon, you’re forced to compete against workers in other countries that set lower standards and pay lower wages just to cut their costs.”

Does TPP stop the competition of Oregon’s workers “against workers in other countries that set lower standards and pay lower wages just to cut their costs” as the president promises here?

The athletic apparel maker Nike is based in Oregon. The workers who actually make Nike’s shoes are already all outsourced, already located in countries “that set lower standards and pay lower wages just to cut their costs,” including TPP signatories Vietnam (where it employs 345,000 workers), Mexico and Malaysia. TPP will remove tariffs already charged on those shoes and garments as they come into the U.S., making it even more attractive to outsource production to countries “that set lower standards and pay lower wages just to cut their costs.” Nike will be rewarded by that tariff cut with greater profits from their choice to outsource.

Meanwhile Nike competitor New Balance has been trying to continue to make shoes in the U.S., and this removal of tariffs is likely to force them to give up. TPP lowers the cost of moving production to countries “that set lower standards and pay lower wages just to cut their costs.”

So the president cited autos and Oregon, but a close look reveals these to be unfortunate choices. In both cases American workers are put first – first in line to be laid off as even more production shifts out of the country.

Does TPP Put American Steelworkers First

If TPP truly puts “American workers first” you’d think that American workers would be happy about TPP. They aren’t. The United Steelworkers said of the TPP text:

“It’s a dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing,” the USW said in a Nov. 5 statement. “Even the Wall Street Journal predicted the deal would cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing, which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses.”

The TPP, the union said, provides incentives for U.S. companies to outsource production and send jobs overseas. It would cause dramatic job losses in the U.S. manufacturing sector, and its rules of origin for automobiles and auto parts would allow China to provide the majority of a vehicle’s content, it said.

The TPP also would allow currency manipulation to continue, do nothing to prevent state-owned enterprises from receiving state support and protection, and allow foreign workers to continue to suffer violations of their rights, the USW said.

So it looks like TPP does anything but “putting American workers first.” It puts them first in line to be laid off.

Economic Theory

So why the big push for TPP?

Here’s the thing. By moving production to low-wage countries with poor environmental and safety (and other) regulations that protect people, American companies can lower the cost of production. Economic theory says this “frees up resources” in our own economy to be put to “more productive uses.” Economists say the workers can thereby move into higher-paying jobs, doing things that can’t be done in Vietnam.

But of course this is not what has been happening since the country’s elites were sold on the “free trade” agenda decades ago. We have seen the financial sector (and its associated value system) increase as the manufacturing sector (and its associated value system) declines. We have seen a dramatic increase in inequality as the “investor class” pockets the wage and other cost differential from moving production out of the country. We have seen entire regions of the country literally devastated (see Detroit and the “Rust Belt”) because the resources released by outsourcing America’s production have not been reinvested in the U.S. They have instead found their way to foreign tax shelters. We have seen the country lose entire industries, and the supply chains, “know-how” and other elements of a manufacturing ecosystem that might enable us to rebuild someday.

Now that we can actually read it we can see that TPP is just one more “NAFTA-style” power-grab elevating the “investor class” above the rest of us and our ability to run our own government in ways that make our lives better. TPP is about taking from We the People and giving to A Few People. It is a bad deal and it must be stopped.

This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on November 6, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.


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Top 10 Unknown Things About TPP

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Kenneth QuinnellWorking people are paying very close attention to the debate and negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the massive trade deal that proponents are saying is the “most progressive trade agreement ever.” Unfortunately, at this point, too many details of the agreement aren’t public. Trade can obviously be a good thing for the country, but only if it is done the right way. And with TPP, what we know at this point is enormously problematic. Here are the 10 biggest unknowns about the TPP:

1. How will the TPP raise American wages? While there certainly are some U.S. companies that will benefit from the TPP, how will the TPP restore the connection between increased productivity and increased wages? By encouraging and rewarding more outsourcing of jobs, it is likely to put downward pressure on U.S. wages, as prior free trade agreements (FTAs) have done.

2. How will the TPP ensure labor obligations actually are enforced? Will it require an administration to self-initiate a case when another party’s labor rights violations are well known? Will countries like Vietnam and Malaysia be in compliance with the labor standards on day one? Existing trade deals allow too much discretion to delay labor rights complaints or ignore them altogether. From what is publicly known about the TPP, these and other critical labor issues remain inadequately addressed.

3. How will the TPP fix our trade balance or create jobs when it contains no mechanism to control currency manipulation? Addressing currency manipulation is probably the single most effective way the United States can create jobs, as it allows U.S. products to compete on fair terms in the global marketplace. The promised TPP tariff benefits could be undermined overnight if trading partners devalue their currency. Despite urging from Congress, all reports indicate no effective currency disciplines are included in the TPP.

4. What mechanism will ensure a level playing field between foreign investors and America’s small businesses and their workers? Foreign investors will have access to a private justice system—investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)—that allows them to bypass American courts and hold for ransom laws and regulations they think will interfere with their profits. This right creates an enormous influence that local businesses and workers simply won’t have.

5. Will the TPP ensure all parties adopt climate measures at least as strong as those the United States implements—or allow for offsetting fees at the border? If it fails to do this, then the TPP will exacerbate incentives to move production outside the United States to escape carbon reduction efforts.

6. How will the TPP adequately protect local and national control over public services? If important public services, including schools, libraries, the Post Office and water systems aren’t completely carved out of the TPP’s obligations, American taxpayers may be stuck having to pay a ransom to wrest back democratic control over expensive, low-quality, private contractors.

7. Will the TPP adequately protect against unfair competition by state-owned and state-subsidized companies? Such companies often operate at a loss simply to drive U.S. competitors out of business. They also may buy U.S. companies in order to take technology to their home country, leaving U.S. workers holding the bag. It’s not clear how small U.S. businesses will be able to use the TPP to fight back.

8. Will the TPP ensure the United States “writes the rules” of trade? For example, the reported weak rule of origin for automobiles ensures that China and other non-TPP countries will be able to benefit from the TPP without ever joining. That means China still can write its own rules. Americans need to know “who” is the “we” writing the rules, because it doesn’t appear to be working people.

9. How will the TPP “help Americans buy American”? The TPP will require many government purchasing decisions to treat bidders from the 11 TPP countries with exactly the same preferences as U.S. bidders. Won’t this actually reduce the likelihood that Americans can use their own tax money to create jobs here in the United States?

10. Will the TPP make medicines more expensive? Will the drug pricing provisions give foreign pharmaceutical companies more leverage to force Medicare to cover their products and pay higher prices for them?

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on October 14, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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TPP Deal Rushed Through; Working Families Respond

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Kenneth QuinnellIn Atlanta this weekend, negotiators rushed through a deal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and working families were quick to respond, asking why the deal has to be rushed when there are many unanswered questions, and demanding that the details of the agreement be released as soon as possible so the people most affected by the deal—working people—know what to expect. Here are the responses from the AFL-CIO and other working family organizations.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president:

We are disappointed that our negotiators rushed to conclude the TPP in Atlanta, given all the concerns that have been raised by American stakeholders and members of Congress. The Administration had a hard time reaching this deal for good reasons: it appears that many problematic concessions were made in order to finalize the deal. We ask the Administration to release the text immediately, and urge legislators to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP. As we’ve said, rushing through a bad deal will not bring economic stability to working families, nor will it bring confidence that our priorities count as much as those of global corporations. We will evaluate the details carefully and work to defeat this corporate trade deal if it does not measure up.

Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA):

Negotiators from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal countries, meeting in Atlanta, have announced an agreement. Despite all the hype, and given what we’ve learned over the past many months and years of negotiations, it’s clear that this TPP remains a bad deal for working families and communities. The corporate lobbyists who make up the majority of U.S. trade advisers have been pushing hard for an agreement, mainly because they’ve known all along that what’s in the TPP represents a sweet deal for multinational corporations and the 1 percent.  For the rest of us—U.S. working families and communities, and workers in the other TPP countries—this agreement is bad news.

Despite broad promises from the Obama administration and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman that the deal would deliver for middle-class families, working people know that TPP would be a disaster. It would continue the offshoring of jobs and weakening of our communities that started under the North American Free Trade Agreement and hasn’t stopped. It would mean labor and environmental standards that look good on paper but fall flat when it comes to enforcement. It’s a corporate dream but a nightmare for those of us on Main Street.

We’re still very concerned about the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. The window dressing changes adopted in Atlanta don’t change the fact that corporations still have an extra-judicial process—ISDS 0151to enforce their rights. That’s not the case for labor and environmental standards. And we’re concerned that the protections given to pharmaceutical companies will mean that life-saving drugs won’t be affordable for millions. Before the TPP is put to a full vote in Congress, there must be adequate time for full review and discussion. Even on the quickest timetable, a vote that can’t happen until early 2016. Few members of Congress will want to vote in an election year on the mass giveaway of U.S. jobs that this TPP allows. CWA and our allies will be certain to hold accountable those members of Congress who support this giveaway to the 1 percent.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW):

The only good thing about a TPP agreement being reached is that the American people will finally be able to read every line of this deal. Given what we already know from leaked drafts, we should prepare for the worst, and expect even worse than that. This deal will most likely fail to address currency manipulation, offer big pharmaceutical corporations unacceptable protections that will limit access to life-saving medicine and threaten every hardworking American family with job losses and lower wages. How could this be good for America? Contrary to the rosy rhetoric and false promises, a long history of trade agreements proves that the TPP will have a devastating impact upon our families, our jobs and this nation. In the coming months, hardworking men and women who are a part of the UFCW family will be pushing every member of Congress—Republican and Democrat—to see the harmful effects of this deal through the eyes of everyday American families. Make no mistake, this fight is not over.

R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the Machinists (IAM):

As a labor union whose members build products that are exported all over the world, the IAM has always taken a strong interest in the development and growth of international trade. We know firsthand that trade done right will improve living standards and strengthen our economy to the benefit of all Americans. Unfortunately, the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) represents a new low in corporate dominance of our nation’s trade agenda. Despite the rhetoric, this deal represents a step backward in efforts to achieve effective labor standards and human rights. Negotiated in secret by and for multinational corporations that have no allegiance to any flag or country, the TPP will facilitate the export of American jobs to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Mexico, which lack fundamental labor rights, some of which even engage in slave labor. Reports of a secret side agreement with Vietnam are especially offensive to anyone who takes internationally recognized labor standards seriously.

Earlier this year, Congress passed Fast Track legislation that laid out an ambitious set of negotiating goals that we, and others, warned were completely unenforceable. Reports indicate that we were correct in our assumption about the congressional negotiating goals; the U.S. Trade Representative simply ignored them. Although the agreement has not been made public yet, these reports indicate that, substandard labor standards remain weak and ineffective, currency manipulation has not been effectively addressed, rules of origin for autos are greatly weakened, access to affordable medicines is reduced, post Great Recession financial regulations were made less effective and secret non-governmental tribunals will interpret and enforce the agreement. As job and income growth continue to stagnate, Americans know that the economic system is rigged against them and the TPP is just the latest example. Congress must put the American people first and reject this deeply flawed trade agreement.

National Nurses United:

National Nurses United today urged Congress members to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership final agreement, warning there remains inadequate guarantees to assure patients and consumers will not be harmed by pharmaceutical price gouging.

NNU, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, says it also opposes any trade agreement that permits transnational corporations to use extra-legal proceedings to overturn public laws and regulations, the Investor State Dispute Settlement corporate tribunals seen in prior trade deals.

The nurses said they are in full agreement with Sen. Bernie Sanders who said today, that “Wall Street and other big corporations have won again. It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multinational corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense.”

While full details of the final pact remain murky, “there is simply no basis for any concessions that give the pharmaceutical corporations a green light to continue pricing patients in the U.S. or other countries out of affordable medications,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

Recent outrage over the decision of one pharmaceutical CEO, Martin Shrkeli to jack up prices by 5,000 percent on Duraprim, an anti-infection drug critical for people with weakened immune systems, “symbolizes why we need to close down on the handouts to big pharma, not give them greater monopoly control over high prices,” Ross noted.

With profits for the five largest pharmaceutical corporations topping $56 billion last year alone, and increased reporting on how much of the “innovation” drug companies claim they need is actually financed with taxpayer subsidies, “no one should be assisting the price gouging that puts patients’ lives at risk,” Ross said.

Ross cited concerns voiced by economist Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hirsh who warned last week about the U.S. insistence on TPP language that permits the drug companies to maintain “their monopolies on patented medicines, keep cheaper generics off the market, and block ‘biosimilar’ competitors from introducing new medicines.”

The nurses “will also protest any agreement that allows any corporation to sue a government for ‘lost’ profits due to laws or regulations that establish public protections,” Ross added. News reports today said that the final TPP agreement had excluded tobacco companies from ISDS, which have committed some of the most notorious abuses under the corporate tribunals. “Why just tobacco when you have had many other corporate giants exploiting the same disgraceful extra-legal proceedings, Ross said. “No corporation should ever have the right to override laws that protect public safety.”

Professional and Technical Engineers:

Negotiators from the United States, Canada and 10 other countries reached an agreement in principle on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ‘free trade agreement’ that has essentially been negotiated in secret over the last several years.

 Representing workers across North America, IFPTE has and will continue to oppose TPP, which has been dubbed “NAFTA on steroids.” Unless major changes were included by negotiators, the pact’s contents are designed to primarily benefit multinational corporations at the expense of workers, domestic manufacturers, and IFPTE members’ local and national economies and communities. The TPP is likely to further exacerbate the loss of well-paying jobs in both the Canadian and US manufacturing sectors, grant foreign corporations rights to contest local and national laws and regulations, and undermine financial regulations. TPP further perpetuates the global race to the bottom as TPP nations such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei have shown little to no commitment to international standards of human and workers’ rights. The trade agreements that TPP is modeled after have repeatedly failed to enforce language on labor and environmental standards.

IFPTE and its members will continue to urge legislators in Congress and Parliament to oppose ratification of TPP when it comes before their respective chambers.

Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW):

Since negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) started, the cleared advisers of the USW have devoted substantial resources and time to working with the trade negotiators responsible for developing and advancing U.S. interests in the trade talks.  Because the USW is the largest industrial union in North America, we see the real-life effects of trade policy every day. That is why we are paying close attention to the provisions that have the potential to harm the majority of our membership.

From what we know, the draft TPP threatens the future of production and employment. It compromises the so-called 21st century standards that were supposed to form the foundation for this agreement. It will deal a critical blow to workers and their standard of living in the United States. Although the final text has not been made available and will contain some new bells and whistles; from what we have seen and know, at its core the hastily concluded TPP deal will simply continue today’s outdated, disastrous approach to trade. This TPP deal shouldn’t even be submitted to Congress and, if it is, it should be quickly rejected.

You only have to look at the consistently dismal job numbers in manufacturing to understand what every manufacturing worker already knows. We have been on the losing end of trade deals. Once again, it appears that misguided foreign policy and global corporate interests have trumped sound economics and the opportunity to get things right. Our negotiators are trying to beat the clock to close a deal so they can rush it through Congress before next year’s elections.

TPP is sold as a way for the United States to write the rules of trade before China does. In many areas, the agreement fails this objective and the language on rules of origin will put a smile on the faces of China’s leaders. China didn’t get to write the rules in their favor because our American negotiators did it for them. The rule of origin on autos governs how much of a vehicle’s content must be produced by the twelve TPP countries to get the preferential treatment the TPP will provide. In this quickly concluded deal on rules of origin, Chinese-produced auto parts could account for more than a majority of a car’s parts and still get sweetheart treatment. While China is not as yet a party to the twelve-nation TPP, the TPP is designed so that other countries can join.

In many other areas critical to workers, U.S. negotiators refused to take the advice that was provided to them time and time again by the representatives of working people. But while supporters tout the deal, those promises will fall on deaf ears. Workers across this country have had to fight to get our trade rules enforced in the face of inadequate enforcement and constant cheating by our trading partners.

Even the best rules, which were not included in TPP, if unenforced, are essentially worthless. How trade rules are implemented, how we monitor imports, obtain market access for our exports and how we enforce our rules are all critical to any deal’s success. So far, there has been no progress or willingness of the Administration to even discuss specific steps that could be taken. TPP may be the final blow to manufacturing in America. Our producers and workers are under siege from other nations’ massive overproduction, foreign currency devaluation, our own lack of long-term infrastructure investment and the strong dollar.

Therefore, trade policy is not the only issue that determines what the economic prospects will be for working people. But, trade is the critical link to the world economy and global pressures are being felt in virtually every occupation and in every workplace.

Unions weren’t the only ones to express concern about TPP, Ford Motor Co. said the following via press release:

As a top U.S. exporter, Ford supports free trade agreements that result in real market openings and a level playing field for all to compete. Within the U.S. Congress, there is bipartisan consensus that currency manipulation needs to be meaningfully addressed. This summer, U.S. lawmakers took unprecedented action to set a clear negotiating objective for addressing currency manipulation in all future trade deals. The TPP fails to meet that test. To ensure the future competitiveness of American manufacturing, we recommend Congress not approve TPP in its current form, and ask the Administration to renegotiate TPP and incorporate strong and enforceable currency rules. This step is critical to achieving free trade in the 21st century.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on October 5, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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Labor Lost the Fight Over Fast Track. But the Fact That Unions Oppose the TPP at All Is a Big Deal.

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leon finkOrganized labor’s recent “victory” over President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative, was short-lived, as “fast track” was passed by Congress shortly after it had been denied him earlier in the month. But labor’s strong opposition to the deal is worth examining a bit more closely, as the fight was more than an uncommon rift between the administration and one of the Democratic Party’s steadiest and most powerful constituency groups. Labor’s opposition to the TPP is a dramatic sign of the transformation of popular opinion on a vintage issue of American public policy since World War II.

That the TPP could so easily be linked by its critics to the job-killing, wage-reducing interests of the “one percent” reflects deep and changing understandings of how the global economy works (or rather all too often doesn’t) for ordinary Americans. On this issue, the AFL-CIO, rather than reflecting narrow, let alone petulant comeuppance, is speaking with the wizened voice of collective experience after two terms of relative presidential neglect.

No one was a bigger champion of free trade at the end of World War II than the AFL-CIO, along with New Deal Democrats to whom the labor federation attached its deepest political loyalties. From a critique of controlled trade and top-down economic manipulation most notoriously associated with Japanese zaibatsu and German cartels like the I.G. Farben chemical empire, American liberals stressed the importance of both the free flow of commerce and workers’ freedom to organize. Only unencumbered access to markets and raw materials, such a view suggested, could assure the continuing growth of the American as well as worldwide industrial order.

In fulsome support of the Marshall Plan and surrounding international capitalistic institutions like Bretton Woods, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, the labor movement—having expelled its own Communist-linked affiliates by 1948—was often more anti-communist than the State Department itself during the Cold War years. In an era when strong unions claimed up to 80 percent of workforce representation in basic industries, it was not surprising that labor leaders would identify their own members’ welfare with that of the free-enterprise economy in which they were employed.  Indeed, Philip Kaiser, assistant secretary of labor for international affairs under President Truman, later recalled the suspicion that the American labor liberals originally faced in Europe among those who could not “[see] the difference between American competitive capitalism and their own national monopoly capitalism built on old feudal structures.”

More than mere freedom from government or employer control, open markets were linked to a period of economic growth and rising incomes that publicist Henry Luce anticipated as “the American Century” and that, in retrospect, also heralded a relatively egalitarian social structure. Thus for good reason—with the exception of garment and textile unions who first felt the sting of a new order of international wage competition—U.S. unions long endorsed “free-trade” unionism. Not until the NAFTA debates of 1993-1994, when the threat to American-sited factories from what maverick presidential candidate Ross Perot had popularized as the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the U.S. and going to Mexico, did the labor federation first seriously reverse course, albeit ( in a standoff with another Democratic President, this time Bill Clinton) in a losing cause.

But changing attitudes came too late to effectively redirect social policy.  In an increasingly competitive world market, the link between corporate profit margins and worker welfare had become increasingly frayed. In the name of “social partnership” or “social dialogue,” America’s Cold War allies generally found ways to shield themselves from the worst of free-market competition and/or to blunt its impact for their own labor forces.

The European Common Market, for example, with stringent initial protections for European farmers and auto makers, was, according to historian Judith Stein, “really a customs union that violated [the core principles of] the GATT.” In addition, by various forms of “industrial policy,” or strategic subsidy of selected economic sectors and worker training, Japan and West Germany leaped ahead of the U.S. in key sectors of economic development, while even smaller states like Israel and Singapore blossomed thanks to outright state investment in the private sector or openly protectionist trade policy.

American workers realized little or none of such benefits, even when their preferred representatives presided over Congress and the White House. The unions watched, meanwhile, while their memberships dropped precipitously, from a high of 35 percent of the workforce in the mid-1950s to a paltry 11 percent today (including a mere 7 percent in the private sector). With the strike weapon now often a nearly suicidal non-option, American workers have watched their living standards decline, even as in the legislative realm, trade union rights, especially in the public sector, have become ever more restricted.

In an ever-more-expansive world economy, some Americans have prospered as never before, but the middle (where collective-bargaining contracts once reigned) has all but been wrung out of an hourglass economy. But for a few impotent side agreements to major free-trade treaties, workers have simply not been cut into the ‘deal’ of free trade.

All this is why American unions saying “Enough!” in the face of President Obama’s fast-track authority and attempt to pass the TPP and coming T-TIPP is such an important shift for American unions. The interesting question is not why they adopted the position they did, but what took them so long?

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on July 6, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Leon Fink. Leon Fink is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago and editor of the journal Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas.


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