Although we don’t yet know whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will give America’s workers a trade agreement that benefits them, what is known is cause for great concern. For example, with regard to labor rights, the outline reads, “TPP countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention International Labor Organization core labor standards or even whether the labor provisions will be enforceable. The TPP must not go back on the progress made in recent years. That’s why the AFL-CIO has been fighting hard for a strong labor chapter that ensures workers in any TPP country, including Vietnam, can exercise basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The labor movement has been clear from the outset of the TPP talks that the status quo on labor rights is not good enough. Current standards are not sufficient to level the playing field for workers or to remedy the weak oversight and due process of labor rights violations of the U.S. and its trading partner nations. In 2011, the AFL-CIO joined with labor federations from the majority of TPP countries to draft and submit a comprehensive labor chapter that attempted to address past shortcomings. However, given the secrecy of TPP negotiations, we cannot say whether what will emerge in the final TPP will improve significantly upon the Bush-era deals. Because the deal is still being negotiated, now is the time to speak up and share your concerns.
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