A delegation from United Steelworkers Locals 1899 will deliver 1,500 signed letters to Republican Rep. Michael Bost Wednesday, pleading with him to oppose the president on trade.
Trade promotion authority has found support and opposition on both sides of the aisle. Also known as fast-track, if granted by Congress it would allow the president to make trade deals with other countries without being amended or filibustered.
While Democrats and organized labor agree on many policy areas, unions have led the way in opposing the president on the issue. According to Daniel Simmons, the president of Local 1899, the letters are an appeal to Bost to oppose a bill expected to be introduced this week that would grant the president such authority.
“We can no longer be silent with the threat we face,” Simmons declared in a statement. “Last month U.S. Steel served notice on 2,080 steelworkers employed at our Granite City steel mill of an intent to idle operations as the result of market conditions and an illegal flood of steel imports from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries that unfairly subsidize products that now threaten to put us out of work.”
The letter also urges Bost to support better trade laws, agreements that deter and penalize unfair trade and to stop countries from manipulating its currency.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by other labor leaders, particularly AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who has helped to lead the effort to oppose TPA. At the center of the controversy is the Trans-Pacific Partnership which organized labor has expressed great concern over. Unions have argued TPP with the backing of fast-track authority undermines trade that benefits workers as opposed to corporate interests.
The AFL-CIO threatened lawmakers with a political contributions freeze if they supported fast-track. Democrats have the most to lose by a political contribution freeze. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the AFL-CIO Workers’ Voices PAC alone spent $1.1 million dollars in support of Democrats during the 2014 elections while also spending $1 million opposing Republicans.
Though the AFL-CIO has led the way in opposing current trade deals, other unions have also made clear their firm opposition.
“Fast track trade deals mean fewer jobs, lower wages, and a declining middle class,” 64 unions declared in a letter to Congress. “Fast track has been used since the Nixon Administration to advance deals, like NAFTA, that are sold to the American people as job creation measures.”
It’s not just labor unions which have turned their back to the president over trade. Many other left-leaning organizations and Democrat leaders have also noted adamant opposition to the current trade policies.
In a letter, 151 House Democrats told the president, “We write to express our serious concern with the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a potential agreement of tremendous consequence for our country.”
Despite the opposition from organized labor and Democrat lawmakers, the White House has argued the current trade negotiations with the backing of fast-track authority could vastly benefit American workers and the middle class.
“The President does continue to believe that there should be some bipartisan common ground around Trade Promotion Authority,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Feb. 10. “That the idea that we can make it easier for the President to negotiate an agreement that he clearly believes would be in the best interest of American workers and American middle-class families and American businesses is something that Congress should support.”
“And so he’s certainly going to be a part of making that case to Democrats and Republicans on the Hill,” Earnest continued. “And it certainly is going to be the responsibility of members of the Republican leadership who share the President’s view of the benefit of some of these policies — that they’re going to have to spend some time making the case to their own members about why they should support Trade Promotion Authority as well.”
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