A UE delegation met on March 31 with Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and legislation “Fast Track” trade authority to the president. The UE group included Western Region President Carl Rosen, Local 151 President Cliff Hall, Local 1110 President Armando Robles, and International Representative Leah Fried. They met with Rep. Quigley and his District Director Mary Ann Levar.
Carl Rosen began by expressing UE’s concern that Quigley has not come out against the TPP or Fast Track, which continue and double down on failed economic policies that have worsened the economic inequality in this country and in the world. Rosen urged Quigley to join the rest of the Illinois Democrats in Congress by publically opposing both measures.
The congressman responed that President Obama had personally asked him to wait to make a decision on TPP until he reads the language of the agreement. He said that the New Democrat Coalition (a pro-business caucus in Congress of which he’s a member) had been pushing to exclude Japan from TPP and that he had been pushing for more environmental protections. He said he thought the deal would not come to a vote because the Obama administration was asking for such high standards from the other countries and pushback from those countries, specifically Vietnam and Japan, adding that he has faith in the president to do the right thing.
Cliff Hall said that his plant, Aetna Bearing, located in the Quigley’s congressional district, had over 300 workers when he began working there, and now employs just 17. Much of the work was lost under NAFTA, and now to China. He urged that the congressman consider jobs and not support TPP. Armando Robles thanked Congressman Quigley for his support for Republic workers in 2008 and asked that he support workers today by not supporting TPP or Fast Track.
Leah Fried said she lives in Quigley’s district, and added that UE is very concerned that Fast Track strips members of Congress of their ability to influence the trade deal, or even to know what’s in it. Carl Rosen reminded the congressman that much of TPP had nothing to do with trade, but is rather about increasing the power of multinational corporations. He urged Quigley to take a stand against Fast Track.
Quigley reiterated that he had made a commitment to Obama and that if the TPP wasn't good enough he wouldn't vote for it. He said he supported the Korean trade deal because the UAW had not opposed it, and that he voted against the Colombia trade agreement because it wasn't a good deal. He said he didn't want to come out against TPP because he feels he now has “a seat at the table” and an opportunity to influence the negotiations. He told the UE delegation that he would share the letters he sent the President on the TPP and asked UE to stay in touch with him on the issue.
At its January meeting the UE General Executive Board issued a statement opposing Fast Track and TPP, consistent with UE’s longstanding opposition to so-called “free trade”, and urging members and locals to get involved in the fight against these measures.