The record is clear, convincing and indisputable. For more than two decades, “free trade” agreements have had a disastrous impact on American and Canadian working families and devastated communities throughout North America.
The BCTGM and our members know firsthand the hardship that results when multinational corporations, Wall Street and their political allies in Washington, D.C. team up to enact “free trade” agreements. In the last 20 years, many thousands of our BCTGM Brothers and Sisters have lost their good, middle-class jobs because the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has made it easy and profitable for companies like Nabisco, Hershey and Kellogg to close plants in the U.S. and Canada and move production to low-wage factories in Mexico.
NAFTA and the numerous “free trade” agreements that have followed are a root cause of the income inequality crisis that is staggering the middle class and undermining the economic and social fabric of our two countries. They have played a central role in the dramatic transfer of wealth and power from working families to corporations and the richest one percent and one-tenth of one percent in society.
And now, as more and more families are falling out of the middle class, American workers are once again up against congressional leaders and, disappointingly, a President who are intent on forcing another round of “free trade” agreements through Congress. As was the case with all previous “free trade” agreements, corporate, financial and Wall Street executives and their allies in government are promising that these new agreements will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs for American workers.
The most dangerous of the new batch of trade deals is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP), also known as “NAFTA on steroids”. It would be the largest free trade agreement in history involving 12 nations, including the U.S. and Canada, which account for 40 percent of the global economy.
The deal is being negotiated behind tightly closed doors. While elected officials and representatives from organized labor have been excluded from the negotiations, leaders of powerful multinational corporations and financial institutions have had a comfortable seat at the table and are involved in the writing of this trade agreement.
TPP is really about advancing the corporate and Wall Street agenda of increasing profits by reducing labor costs and eliminating legitimate regulations that protect workers, consumers, the environment and democracy.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) was right on target in her assessment of TPP negotiations when she stated, “Americans are deeply suspicious of trade deals negotiated in secret, with chief executives invited into the room while the workers whose jobs are on the line are locked outside.”
Before congressional leaders move forward on approving more destructive “free trade” agreements, they will first attempt to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), better known as “fast track”. “Fast-track” legislation is designed to pave the road for new trade deals by forcing Congress to relinquish its constitutional authority to review and amend any trade agreement negotiated by the President.
With “fast track”, Congress essentially is forced to take a quick up-or-down vote on broad, complex trade agreements with no opportunity for amendments. As such, citizens are left with no ability to demand from their elected representatives that changes be made to provisions of trade agreements that hurt working people.
For these reasons, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has declared, “The AFL-CIO doesn’t just oppose ‘fast track’, we’re fighting to kill it. And we’re fighting to win.”
I have personally assured President Trumka that the BCTGM will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the AFL-CIO in this historic fight. I was fully confident in making this commitment because I know that BCTGM members will always stand strong and fight hard when the well-being of our families, communities and country is threatened.
— David B. Durkee, BCTGM International President