I’m a Trade & Globalization Policy Specialist at the AFL-CIO, which I tell my friends at home means that I do two main things: 1) try to improve U.S. trade policy so it doesn’t send more jobs overseas, and 2) try to improve labor rights for workers overseas so that workers globally can race to the top instead of having global corporations push us to the bottom. My first experience with the labor movement was as a UFCW member while bagging groceries for six months during college. Full health benefits for everyone who worked at least 16 hours a week? Triple time on holidays? I was sold on unions and never looked back! Since then, I’ve been a public school teacher (and vice president of my local), a law clerk for a federal judge, and congressional aide on Capitol Hill. While Legislative Director for Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), I coordinated the Labor and Working Families Caucus, one of the largest caucuses in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’ve got a BA, a JD, and an MPP from UCLA. Go Bruins!
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO’s own Thea Lee joined AARP, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam America and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association in urging President Obama to fix proposals in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade and economic governance deal currently under negotiation—that could leave us all paying more for life-saving prescription medicines.
Yesterday, five members of the powerful Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives (Reps. Bill Pascrell, Lloyd Doggett, John Lewis, Linda Sánchez and Jim McDermott) stood up for working people by opposing the destructive “corporate courts” in the proposed trade and economic deal with Europe known as the “TTIP.”
In January 2014, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, responding to the introduction of the latest “Fast Track” legislation, said, “It is past time for the United States to get off the corporate hamster wheel on trade.”
That’s how I feel about Fast Track. It’s a totally undemocratic scheme that allows the Executive Branch to negotiate—in near total secrecy—a “trade” deal that will forever change the rules of our economy, and then send that deal to Congress.
Today, for the first time ever, the U.S. government announced that it will begin the formal consultations that are used to resolve trade disputes in the area of labor rights enforcement. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it will finally move forward to arbitration in the long-running dispute with the government of Guatemala regarding whether or not Guatemala is meeting the labor commitments of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA or CAFTA). In announcing the decision, the USTR stated that the goal is to improve conditions that workers face every day.
Once again, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel has issued a decision that leaves American manufacturers—and those who work for them—behind. In two separate decisions just released (Case DS436, concerning carbon steel from India, and Case DS437, concerning solar panels and 16 other products from China), the WTO ruled that the United States had violated its WTO obligations in the manner that it applied countervailing duties on products from the two countries.
The TTIP (the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union) is an opportunity to get trade and globalization policy right, say the AFL-CIO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the trade union federations that together represent tens of millions of workers. But this will only happen if the agreement is negotiated in an open manner, ensures that corporations cannot override governments and threaten the public good, promotes workers' rights and social justice and in all other ways puts people before profits.
In early March, the AFL-CIO joined 42 other organizations representing labor, business, public health, environmental concerns, consumers, family farms and good governance as well as three legal scholars in sending a letter calling on the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to match the European Commission’s commitment to holding a public consultation on investment issues, particularly with respect to the pending U.S.-European Union trade negotiations (known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP).
In this era of bad news about wages, inequality and egregious anti-worker behavior from employers, it’s good to celebrate wins for workers. This week, Fijian workers got a big win at the meeting of the governing body of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
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