In a virtual rerun from two weeks ago, the GOP-run Senate voted 60-37 on June 23 to limit debate on so-called “fast-track” legislation to grease the skids for future “free trade” pacts without changes, worker rights or environmental protections. President Barack Obama again lobbied hard for fast-track. But this time, senators backed fast-track without even attaching to it aid to workers who lose their jobs due to subsidized imports such pacts allow. The Senate will pass fast-track by the end of the week. The aid to the workers, Trade Adjustment Assistance, is another matter. The rerun upset union leaders, who brought together a broad coalition of workers, environmentalists, religious groups, civic groups and even the NAACP to oppose fast-track…click below to read more.
- Mark Gruenberg, PAI Staff Writer; photo of April 20 rally at USTR by Chris Garlock/Union City
They’re especially chary because they don’t trust Congress’ ruling Republicans to approve the aid for workers who lose their jobs – the “fig leaf” Democratic fast-track backers and Obama demand.
“Hopefully, the Republicans will keep their word and honor their promises” to pass TAA, said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. Teamsters President Jim Hoffa was also skeptical.
“This vote applies grease to the wheels for the administration to rush to complete negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPP),” Gerard explained. “This fight for fair trade is far from over. Progressive forces have new energy from this fight. Our voices will not be muted. Those who voted to continue the status quo approach will have to live with the results. By ignoring the facts and history, the resulting shuttered factories, devastated communities and Americans who lose their jobs to trade will be their legacy."
“Too many senators decided to trust big business and the House instead of standing up for American workers,” added Hoffa. “The last time the Senate considered fast-track, it at least included Trade Adjustment Assistance that would provide support for the thousands of U.S. workers likely to lose jobs because of trade deals like the TPP. But this time, there is no such provision and there is certainly no guarantee House Speaker John Boehner will take up TAA again.” Boehner is an Ohio Republican.
National Nurses United co-President Jean Ross said fast-track and the TPP would endanger public health, here and abroad. “The Senate, eliminating the ability to amend a deeply flawed trade deal written in secret by corporate lobbyists, sent an unmistakable message that access to life-saving medications and food safety are less important than the profits of the wealthiest corporations in the world,” she said. "Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce hardly need more handouts."
“This reaffirms how out of touch Congress is with the American people,” said ATU president Larry Hanley. “But make no mistake working people will not be silent. We will galvanize our forces to fight this corporatist takeover of our government and our lives with everything we have.”
- Mark Gruenberg, PAI Staff Writer