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!
Many Americans have questions about last week’s House vote against the undemocratic, unaccountable Fast Track bill. The bottom line is that Fast Track is stalled, for now. To advance to the president’s desk, both parts of the bill had to advance. But the first part of the bill, a vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, was defeated by a resounding vote, 302–126. This vote effectively killed the bill, but only temporarily. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) preserved the right to have a revote on that portion of the bill. And even if a revote fails, the House leadership can repackage the bill in a number of ways. In other words, this is not over. Global corporations and their allies in Congress will continue to try every trick in the book to ensure a clear path for bad trade deals that lower our wages, endanger our air and water, and increase corporate influence over our economy.
When Congress returns from its Easter/Passover recess, it will continue its debate on Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and try to rush it to a vote as soon as possible. That’s why your lawmakers need to hear from you that Fast Track is a mistake we can’t afford to make.
U.S. workers should beware of promises that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will create jobs. When evaluating the recent Obama administration claim that the TPP will create 650,000 jobs, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave it the lowest possible rating of Four Pinocchios—aka “Whopper.” Fact Checker editor Glenn Kessler wrote (after the jump):
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.
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