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Anti-American worker trade agreements passed in Washington

11.15.11

NOVEMBER 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Anti-American worker trade agreements passed in Washington

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, On October 12th the United States Congress overwhelmingly passed trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama despite the opposition of labor unions and the failure of past agreements to create jobs as promised.

In rapid succession the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate passed the trade pacts, and President Barack Obama supported the passage of the legislation, which will lower or eliminate tarriffs.

The trade agreements were supported by many Democratic legislators that have in the past received labor support and have promised to support “pro-labor” legislation.

United States Senator Robert Casey (Democrat-Pennsylvania), a Scranton resident, voted against the trade agreements citing they will only hurt the American workers just as the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 has done. The trade pacts was also signed into law by a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.

On September 13th, Mexico’s independent labor unions testified before the United States Congress on the failure of NAFTA to improve the lives of Mexican workers as was promised before the trade agreement became law. The briefing was sponsored by House of Representative Mike Michaud (Democrat-Maine) on behalf of the Congressional Labor Caucus and International Worker Right Caucus.

“More than 15 years ago, we were told that NAFTA would create a thriving middle class in Mexico. Economists and government officials said that the agreement would lead to growing trade surpluses and that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be gained. As our friends from Mexico can attest, NAFTA did not bring these benefits. Instead, workers’ rights are being violated on a regular basis, and both the United States and Mexico are worse off for it,” stated Congressman Michaud.

Three Mexican union leaders participated in the caucus and President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) International Union, Leo Gerard also spoke before the committee.

“It is clear that the agenda of the Mexican government is to keep workers’ wages low and use that as an economic tool, and we are here today so that representatives and their staff have the opportunity to hear the facts. The Fox and Calderon administrations in Mexico have done everything they could to repress the independent unions that were actually raising the standards of living for Mexican workers,” said Mr. Gerard.

The panel of union leaders provided a detailed accounting of the windening threat to the well-being and livlihoods of Mexican workers, increasing violent acts against unions and the growing and detrimental inequality between United States workers and their Mexican counterparts.

Mr. Casey stated Pennsylvania has lost 300,000 jobs since NAFTA was implemented despite the projected new jobs increases.

The trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama were first proposed under Republican President George Bush four years ago.

The three Mexican union leaders who spoke at the event were: Francisco Hernandez Juarez, General Secretary of the Mexican Union of Telephone Workers (STRM); Marco del Toro, Legal Counsel of the National Union of Mine, Metal Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) also known as Los Mineros; and Sergio Beltran Reyes, Internal and External affairs and Recording Secretary for Los Mineros.

Meanwhile, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation was passed by Congress following the vote of the trade pacts. The TAA is intended to help workers displaced by foreign trade. Many legislators would not support TAA unless the trade agreements were ratified first.

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