NPR: Unions Remeber NAFTA; Hold Fast Against New Trade Deal

Thea Lee

Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO labor union, has had a front-row seat to the current TPP trade negotiations on Capitol Hill, writes NPR.

She opposes many of the provisions in the new trade deal, though, and she can’t discuss the details.

“We are sworn to secrecy, so we can’t talk about it — not to our colleagues, not to our members, not to the press, and so that’s frustrating,” she says. “If I talked to you specifically about what I think the shortcomings of the labor chapter are, I could lose my security clearance. I don’t know if I’d go to jail, but …”

So she’s left talking in generalities, states NPR.

“These deals make it easier for multinational corporations to move jobs overseas,” Lee says.

She – as well as other union leaders – point first and foremost to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect 21 years ago, writes NPR.

Roland Zullo, a University of Michigan labor and employment policy researcher, says that for organized labor, NAFTA’s wounds are still there.

“Labor has enough of a institutional memory to know what happened with NAFTA,” he says. “There was a theory behind NAFTA; there was a theory that by integrating Canada, U.S. and Mexico, there would be a sort of overall net economic benefit.”

However, that didn’t happen for U.S. workers in sectors like manufacturing.  Michigan auto workers, for example, lost more than 100,000 jobs in the years that followed NAFTA’s passage, writes NPR.  Nationwide, sources claim that anywhere from 700,000 to 5 million jobs were lost due to NAFTA.

It’s not a clear case of cause and effect, though.

NPR writes that this is the period when Japanese automakers were setting up shop in the U.S. and taking market share away from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (though this situation doesn’t exactly make the case for trade agreements, either.)

Matt Slaughter, associate dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, points out some of the difficulties labor faces in opposing the TPP trade deal.

He says labor should stop trying to kill the new trade pact, and instead push for a more robust 21st century social safety net for dislocated workers.

Again, though, if the trade agreements were so good for the U.S., why would we need to push for a more robust social safety net for dislocated workers?  Why would there be dislocated workers?  Isn’t that admitting that there will be job loss due to the trade pacts?

Tim Waters, the national political director for the United Steelworkers, disagrees with the idea that trade agreements cannot be stopped or changed.

“For us to just say, ‘Oh well, it’s inevitable, we shouldn’t try to stop it, we shouldn’t try to stand up, we should just try to get in there and cut some kind of deal that made it less sickening,’ doesn’t make any sense,” he says.

Waters says that unions aren’t anti-trade; they want fair trade. He says trade deals need to put the concerns of American workers first.

(Updated article)

http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/06/16/414893279/as-nafta-memories-linger-unions-hold-fast-against-new-trade-deal

https://reasonablyliberal.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/difficult-to-pinpoint-number-of-u-s-jobs-lost-due-to-nafta/

Recent Wal-Mart Developments

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union said it planned to seek an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board on Monday to get retailer Wal-Mart to rehire 2,200 employees at five recently closed stores, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The UFCW claims that Wal-Mart Stores closed its Pico Rivera, CA location in retaliation for protests by workers there in recent years seeking higher pay and benefits, states the Post-Dispatch.  Other closed locations are in Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Walmart’s spokesperson, Delia Garcia, claimed “these are not layoffs” just before clarifying that “everyone will have to reapply as if new employees” once the stores reopen, states Jobs With Justice.

Wal-Mart has argued it closed the stores because of “major plumbing issues.” They had said the stores would remain closed to up to six months, according to the Associated Press.

However, Jobs With Justice states that according to city officials in the city of Pico Rivera, Walmart has not applied for permits to engage in plumbing work.

The group OUR Walmart filed the charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, and argues the closings were a “retaliatory” measure against employees.

The store in Pico Rivera, California, was reportedly a hotbed for worker protesting.

The group wants the board to seek a court injunction, which can be quicker than typical NLRB proceedings.

In other related news, Wal-Mart is increasing the pressure on suppliers to cut the cost of their products in an effort to regain the image of low-price leader and turn around its sluggish U.S. sales, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Wal-Mart says it has been telling suppliers to forgo investments in joint marketing with the retailer and to put the savings into lower prices instead. Makers of branded consumer products from diapers to yogurt typically set aside a part of their budgets for marketing with Wal-Mart, spending on things like product displays and online advertisements.

Wal-Mart has long had a reputation for pressing its suppliers to cut costs to help lower prices, but the retailer’s new leadership has embraced the concept with “fresh vigor,” states the Wall Street Journal.

With the growth of dollar stores and other discounters, Wal-Mart is facing more competition on price, which for many customers is the most important point.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new order to lower prices “is creating tension with companies that supply the hundreds of thousands of products on Wal-Mart’s shelves.”

More here

Does Clinton Have Issues With Unions And The TPP?

The likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet to show her feelings towards the latest effort to pass “fast track” trade promotion authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

However, that could happen as soon as Monday morning when she takes the stage with prominent labor leaders at a Washington event put on by a liberal-leaning political think tank.

What she says could improve or worsen her position with unions, Democratic colleagues in Congress, the business community, and/or the sitting president, Barack Obama.

Liberal Democrats urging Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to get in the presidential race want Clinton to clarify her position as early as possible, given the fact that there is pending action in Congress on a “fast track” trade promotion authority bill, said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Democracy for America.

Sroka said that some of the first questions she is asked as a presidential candidate could be about TPP and fast track.

“There’s lots of reasons that people are excited about getting Elizabeth Warren into the presidential race, but her outspokenness in the battle against TPP … is something that speaks to the progressive base’s concerns and is attracting people to this campaign.”

Union groups, including the AFL-CIO labor federation, also have deep concerns about the prospective trade pact with Japan and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific that, along with the United States, represent more than 40 percent of world gross domestic product.

“Every single thing in our trade deals should be openly discussed and subject to public oversight and the full legislative process,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a recent speech. “There should be no question about that. Fast track is wrong and undemocratic. It’s a rotten process, and the American labor movement intends to kill it.”

The labor federation fears the deal will encourage companies to move more jobs overseas, suppressing wages in the United States.

Obama wants Congress to approve the legislation quickly so he can wrap up the TPP pact and submit it to Congress for a vote later this year.

Trade promotion authority would allow him to submit trade agreements, like the proposed TPP, to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments.

The next president – whoever it is – could also use the authority to negotiate a deal bringing China into the pact.

Trade promotion authority is also known as “fast track” because of its expedited voting procedures that union groups and many progressive Democrats don’t like.

Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, used the “fast track” procedure to win approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute blames for hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

Clinton voted against the fast-track legislation the last time it was approved in 2002, although her husband repeatedly pushed for the same authority when he was president.

However, as Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton was closely associated with the agreement.

More:

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/hillarys-trade-dilemma-116278.html#ixzz3V2nFC1LX

(Updated article)

Did MLK Argue For A $15 Minimum Wage?

Kyle Kulinski

It could be argued that – taking yearly inflation into account – Martin Luther King argued for a $15.27 minimum wage, according to Kyle Kulinski.  King argued for a $2.00 minimum wage in 1963, which would be $15.27 today if one takes inflation into account.

Kulinski also states MLK was also pro-union, and was pro-healthcare.

More on MLK’s views on health care:

http://dailycaller.com/2012/01/13/sebelius-invokes-dr-martin-luther-king-in-justifying-obamacare/

An article on MLK’s union views can be found here:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/03/1126088/-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-spoke-for-workers-and-unions-His-last-campaign-was-a-labor-fight#

Big Political Influence of Big Box Stores

Big Box retail stores like Walmart and Home Depot have always been willing to give large sums of money to politicians. And that money has bought them a lot of political favors.

Mike Papantonio talks about the big box return on investment with attorney Dave TeSelle.

Ring of Fire video.