Skinning Cats with Prison Labor
Teamsters: Deal "Sells Out American Workers"

AFL-CIO, Steelworkers and Sen. Sherrod Brown statements

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on U.S. Trade Policy Developments May 11, 2007

America's trade policy has been broken for decades.  Living standards have been depressed.  Families have been squeezed.  Our trade deals have cost millions of jobs and encouraged exploitation of workers and the environment. 

Read Sweeney, USWA, and Brown statements after the jump

I commend Chairman Rangel for the substantial progress made in improving workers' rights and environmental standards in the Peru and Panama FreeTrade Agreements.  But our trade policy will not be fixed overnight.  The Bush Administration's consistent unwillingness to enforce trade violations against nations like Jordan and China reminds us there is no guarantee the executive branch will enforce any new rights workers may gain through these negotiations.  And President Bush has negotiated a flawed agreement with gross human rights violator Colombia and a losing, one-sided agreement with South Korea.   

We agree with Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel that the progress on workers' rights and the environment does not clear the way for other flawed agreements, and we will vigorously oppose the Colombia and South Korea agreements and renewal of Fast Track trade authority.

While recognizing the real progress made in the approach taken with Peru and Panama on workers' rights and the environment, we reserve final judgment until we have reviewed the agreements in their entirety.

We also remain concerned that the agreement fails to adequately address issues related to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and the ability of foreign corporations to challenge U.S. laws, among others.

One standard will guide the AFL-CIO:  U.S. trade policy must serve the interests of America*s working families and workers around the globe.


USW Raises Serious Concerns About Proposed Trade Deal Reached with Bush Administration

Pittsburgh – The United Steelworkers (USW) is raising serious concerns about a proposed agreement on trade reached yesterday between the Bush administration and the House Democratic leadership.

In a statement issued today, the USW said, “We are deeply disappointed that neither the Democratic caucus nor the Labor Movement were fully briefed about the details of the proposed agreement before those who negotiated it were publicly proclaiming its virtues.

“Until we have been fully briefed and have reviewed the details of the agreement, we will withhold judgment on how much progress, if any, has actually been achieved. But, from what we have learned so far, unlike protections provided for corporations and intellectual property, the enforcement of labor and environmental standards would be left to the devices of the Bush administration, which refused for more than six years to pursue its first, modest steps to reign in China’s violations of our trade rules.

“Unless we have assurances that the trade deals currently before Congress, including renewal of Fast Track authority, will not be left to the devices of the Bush administration, we will be hard pressed to support this agreement.”


Brown Statement on Thursday's announcement

“Yesterday’s announcement by Chairman Rangel, Chairman Levin, Chairman Baucus and Ambassador Schwab is the result of millions of voters speaking out in November against a fundamentally-flawed trade policy. It is the result of the largest ever bipartisan coalition formed against the NAFTA-model trade pact. It is the result of tireless efforts by fair trade advocates in the and across the globe fighting every day for a new direction in trade.

“The proposed changes recognize the inherent flaws in the current approach to trade and signal some willingness to address long- held concerns over labor and environmental standards. However, I have significant concerns about the enforceability of the changes. Given the administration’s failure to act against on known violations in Jordan and China, among other nations, those concerns are well founded.

“Time will tell whether yesterday is the beginning of efforts toward a better trade model or just a brief tactical retreat on the part of the administration. I look forward to reviewing the changes in these agreements in their entirety, and working with my colleagues on a trade policy that is acceptable to the millions of voters who sent us to Congress.”

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