Labor unions came out in force against the Obama Administration’s NAFTA-style Korea Free Trade deal today, breaking nearly a week of silence since the agreement was dropped late Friday night.
The AFL-CIO labor federation, the United Steelworkers (USW), and the Communications Workers (CWA) all released simultaneous statements Thursday afternoon saying they would oppose the Korea Free Trade deal. (UPDATE: Can’t forget about the International Association of Machinists [IAM].)
The only labor organizations supporting the New NAFTA are the UAW, which endorsed simply to thank the administration for being included in the talks that will shift 159,000 jobs overseas, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), whose members has about as much of a stake in Korea Free Trade as the Writers Guild. (Think of the UFCW’s support for the Korea deal like the relevance of those mayors the White House trotted out in support of the Obama-McConnell tax deal.)
In years past, labor unions would have been among the first to vociferously denounce NAFTA-style Korea Free Trade agreements. But thanks to the UAW jumping the gun to screw its own members, as well as strong pressure from the Obama Administration, labor organizations were forced to hold their opposition for days.
Now with 3 major unions and the AFL-CIO opposed to the NAFTA-style deal, the fight can begin to stop this new NAFTA. Sign our petition to Congress to stop the NAFTA-style Korea Free Trade agreement.
Key grafs from each of the opposition statements below.
The experiences of union members and working people with too many flawed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization do not justify optimism that this deal will generate the promised new jobs. We’ve seen U.S. multinational companies take advantage of the investment and other corporate protections in past trade deals to shift production offshore, while maintaining access to the U.S. consumer market and undermining the jobs, wages and bargaining power of American workers.And the results have been catastrophic, with chronic and unsustainable trade deficits that sap economic growth and domestic job creation.
So long as these agreements fall short of protecting the broad interests of American workers and their counterparts around the world in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose them.
Our members live with the effects of trade every day and recognize that we live in a global economy. Today’s trade situation has cost the jobs of too many of our members, and they are looking for a change in trade policy that will advance their interests, as well as those of others living around the globe. This agreement, however, does not represent the change in trade policy that will advance American workers’ interests.
South Korea is a strong ally that deserves our friendship and support. They have it. But we do not need to inflict further damage to our manufacturing sector and the lives and livelihoods of our workers to prove the strength of our alliance. We have concluded that, while improved, it still does not merit USW support, and we will oppose its passage.
This agreement gives investment and legal protections to large multi-national corporations which shift jobs offshore in search of the lowest labor and environmental costs and highest profits. With no counter balance, multi-national corporations whipsaw workers and nations to prevent and eliminate bargaining rights. KORUS, as negotiated, does not create an economic and collective bargaining rights framework to support the aspirations of US and Korean workers. [...]
Our current economic climate simply cannot support a trade agreement that does not address U.S. workers’ rights and will cost more U.S. jobs. Further, the Korean union movement strongly opposes the agreement. So long as KORUS falls short of protecting the broad interests of American and Korean workers in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose it.
Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists, voiced concern that the agreement would increase imports of aircraft components from Korea, endangering the jobs of his union’s members. “We see it as just a repeat of Nafta,” he said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, ratified in 1993, which removed many trade barriers among the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Mr. Buffenbarger said that the Korea agreement, like Nafta, promoted free trade, but not fair trade, by increasing imports made by lower-paid workers in other countries. “It helps corporations, but it really doesn’t help workers,” he said.