Big Labor, Bernie Hammer Obama for Asian Trade Deal

‘Disastrous,’ ‘No good, very bad,’ ‘corporate trade deal’ will ‘threaten every hard-working American’

Bernie Sanders / AP
October 5, 2015

The Obama administration drew fire from some of its closest allies after announcing a new free trade agreement with numerous Asian countries on Monday.

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, said he was "disappointed" in the White House for rushing through the deal, which eliminated trade barriers and tariffs between the United States and a dozen Asian countries. Trumka said the Trans Pacific Partnership valued the priorities of big business over the interest of workers.

"The Administration had a hard time reaching this deal for good reasons: it appears that many problematic concessions were made in order to finalize the deal. We ask the Administration to release the text immediately, and urge legislators to exercise great caution in evaluating the TPP," Trumka said in a release Monday. "Rushing through a bad deal will not bring economic stability to working families, nor will it bring confidence that our priorities count as much as those of global corporations. We will evaluate the details carefully and work to defeat this corporate trade deal if it does not measure up."

The Obama administration attempted to head off such criticism when it announced the final negotiations on Monday. President Obama released a statement painting the deal as a win for the working and middle classes, saying it gives workers a "fair shot to get ahead here at home, and a fair chance to compete around the world." He pointed to the lifting of tariffs and taxes on U.S. exports, as well as labor requirements abroad, such as minimum wage laws, aimed at curbing the use of cheap labor to undercut the costs to American companies.

"This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products. It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history, and those commitments are enforceable, unlike in past agreements," Obama said in a release.

The president’s assurances did little to assuage the skepticism of the Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders. The socialist Vermont senator called the negotiations "disastrous" and said that it would lead to job losses in the United States through outsourcing, according to the Hill.

"It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multinational corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense," Sanders said Monday.

Many labor unions agreed with the insurgent presidential hopeful.

The Teamsters, who announced last week that they would delay their presidential endorsements after the rise of potential challengers to Hillary Clinton, praised Sanders on Twitter for opposing the "no good, very bad #trade deal."

Marc Perrone, head of the United Food and Commercial Workers, dismissed "rosy rhetoric and false promises" that supporters use to describe it.

"Given what we already know from leaked drafts, we should prepare for the worst, and expect even worse than that," he said on the union’s website. "This deal will … threaten every hard-working American family with job losses and lower wages. How could this be good for America? Contrary to the rosy rhetoric and false promises, a long history of trade agreements proves that the TPP will have a devastating impact upon our families, our jobs, and this nation."

The negotiated deal now heads to Congress for ratification. A vote is expected sometime in 2016.

Published under: Big Labor , TPP