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Trade deal passes Congress and signed into law despite labor’s opposition


JULY 2015, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News

Trade deal passes Congress and signed into law despite labor’s opposition


REGION, June 25th- Despite intense lobbying by the labor community against the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPPTA), a measure meant to ease trade restrictions with Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, and Canada, the United States Senate passed the legislation that will allow Democratic President Barack Obama to negotiate global trade deals that the United States Congress can only approve or reject but not change. The legislation had already passed the House of Representatives with the support of most Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats.

The legislation was opposed fiercely by the labor community which is being called “fast track” but was passed by the full Senate on June 25th 60 to 38. Most of the Senate Democrats voted against the measure including Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey Jr. Pennsylvania’s other Senator Republican Pat Toomey voted in favor of the legislation that President Obama supported and signed into law.

Mr. Casey, a member of the Committee on Finance, stated he was active in reviewing TPP, and had serious concerns about the deal. He had concerns about the potential impact the trade agreement would have on American workers, producers and innovators.

President Barack Obama made the passage of TPPTA a major part of his agenda during his final two years in office.

Senator Toomey stated he spoke with Secretaries of Treasury, Agriculture, and Commerce as well as the U.S. Trade Ambassador and all believe approving the deal will benefit Pennsylvania and the nation.

He said the opening of markets to Pennsylvania-made products will create more high-paying export-oriented jobs in the state and it will be a big help for Pennsylvania farmers.

The pact needed the approval by both chambers of Congress because it is considered to be a treaty.

The labor community has made it clear it opposed the trade agreement and implemented a new tactic is fighting against it.

Many of the labor organizations that are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) had froze campaign contributions to members of Congress to pressure them from supporting the trade deal. The legislation passed anyway with the help of some Democrats and shows how organized labor can no longer can by itself stop anti-union legislation from passing or getting pro-union legislation through Washington.

One the most vocal labor leaders against the pact was United Steelworkers Union (USW) International President Leo Gerard. The USW represent rubber workers that manufacturer American made tires that have been hurt by cheap Pacific countries manufactured tires.

Mr. Gerard after Prime Minister Shinzo of Japan spoke to a joint session of Congress several weeks ago about why the United States should pass the trade deal, stated Japan supports the deal because of the continued lopsided trade benefits it enjoys.

To get the trade-authority legislation through, Senate Republicans said they would advance a bill that would continue the worker-aid program called the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program has been used to help workers that lost their jobs because by foreign trade. TAA helps re-train workers for other jobs that have suffered from production being shift overseas to competition from imports. In the past many garment workers, electronic manufacturer workers, and steel makers received TAA. The worker-aid program must first be requested by an employer or union before any worker can receive help in re-training which includes federal funded higher education programs.

The federal government then investigates the requests and determines if workers jobs were lost because of foreign trade or imports. The program was to expire in September 2015.