Labor flexed its muscle last Friday to prevent another global free trade agreement to enable easier outsourcing of labor overseas from being railroaded through Congress.
On January 12, tough labor opposition helped thwart plans to sweep through legislation giving the U.S. the go-ahead to sign on to a global trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim nations, which would ease labor restrictions and pave the way for big business to hire lower-wage workers overseas in lieu of union labor here at home.
After the news of the labor filibuster broke, an article that appeared in the New York Times emphasized the importance of US labor’s position on this international trade agreement.
“While a broad coalition of unions and liberal activists can claim credit for beating back the president’s favored legislation, the key to labor’s display of force in Congress, according to supporters and opponents of the trade deal, was the movement’s unusual cohesion across various sectors of the economy — including public employees and service workers not directly affected by foreign competition,” Noam Scheiber wrote.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a legal framework to streamline trade among these nations, whose gross domestic product collectively totals about $28 trillion, or 40 percent of the world’s GDP, including the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and Mexico. The TPP effectively dwarfs the North American Free Trade agreement passed over 20 years ago by seeking to fuse nearly half of the world’s economy into a free trade zone for large corporations. Such trade agreements support the exploitative international sweatshop industry and keeps millions of people around the world locked in a perpetual cycle of poverty of low wages.
However, this “free” trade agreement actually comes at a price because it aids multinational corporations in their never-ending quest for cheap workers in the low-wage nations, effectively outbidding domestic union labor. In other words, while President Barack Obama and the TPP’s White House supporters say the deal is “good for business,” this latest global free trade hurts the domestic economy by shortchanging union workers.
Another problem with the TPP talks is that they are virtually happening in secret, and there is no transparency about the nature of the agreement. Only members of Congress and White House staffers with security clearances can review the classified 30-page document.
Since March, the AFL-CIO unions have organized 650 events opposing the TPP, placing about 160,000 phone calls to Congress and writing over 20,000 letters. As the fight continues, you too can help. The AFL-CIO has provided a petition for you to sign to get Congress to stop this Fast Track legislation. Don’t let Congress fast track union workers to the slow lane of even more concessions!