On May 10, several Democratic Party leaders in Congress, led by House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), and including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), announced a new "deal" with the Bush Administration to pave the way for more job-killing, NAFTA-like trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, Peru and Panama. These Democrats claim that this still-secret deal includes protections for labor rights and the environment. The largest employer groups in the country – the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers – have apparently been assured that nothing in the scheme would inhibit their appetites for low wages and super profits at the expense of working people.
Publicity surrounding the job-killing deal has ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill, as organized labor and Progressive Democrats go into action to block this expansion of our failed trade “policies.” Just how failed are our national trade policies? Manufacturing workers have been blasted as millions of jobs have been relocated by companies to low wage zones all over the world. The impact of NAFTA-like trade deals over the past 25 years has been to accelerate the loss of jobs here in the U.S. The resulting fall in the standard of living for millions of U.S. working families has been catastrophic. Workers in the countries now producing goods for mass export to the United States have seen little improvement in their standard of living. Employers and the politicians who take their campaign cash are quite satisfied, however.
“This is a sorry sign that some Democrats are up to their old tricks. With a national trade deficit exceeding $700 billion per year, and whole sections of manufacturing industry wiped out, you would think that members of Congress would have the guts to stand up to President Bush and big business and say “enough!” That job is up to us, apparently. I urge all UE members to contact their U.S. Representative and both Senators ASAP to and tell them to CEASE all new trade negotiations until we assess the damage from what has already been done, and craft a strategy to heal the wounds inflicted on our communities by these corporate trade schemes. To proceed with new trade deals in the face of such an industrial disaster is criminal.” said Bruce Klipple, UE General Secretary-Treasurer. A statement on the revelations by UE-ally Korean-Americans for Fair Trade put the case succinctly: "For far too long American workers have trusted Democrats to put forth a trade agenda that protects us from corporate piracy, only to be reminded time and again that many Democrats are beholden to the very same corporations controlling Republicans."
Your action is needed NOW! The job you save may be your own. Call your U.S. Representative and Senators via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your lawmaker. Don’t know who your Representative is? Go to Project Vote Smart www.vote-smart.org to find out. Or, use Public Citizen’s online action center at: action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=11354 For more information on the “free trade” agreements visit the web page of Grassroots Global Justice at www.ggjalliance.org
Jonathan Kissam contributed to this UE Political Action Update.