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Hoffa Tells Congress to Bail on Fast Track


Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa sent a letter yesterday to members of Congress telling them what unions and fair trade advocates have known all along – fast track is the wrong track for America. He took aim at legislation introduced in both the House and Senate that calls for a quick up-or-down vote on trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with little debate and no amendments.

Hoffa in his letter noted that the House version of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, HR 3830, doesn’t even have a Democratic co-sponsor. He urged lawmakers to reject the bill and to work with the Teamsters to come up with an alternative version of fast track that would ensure middle-class prosperity through global competitiveness, consumer safety, workers’ rights and environmental sustainability in trade deals going forward.

The letter states that the Teamsters want to work with Congress to improve income inequality this year by raising the minimum wage, closing tax corporate loopholes and investing in infrastructure. “But if this Fast Track passes and the new crop of big trade pacts, trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic, are ratified without your amendments or even a full debate, and up-or-down votes on implementing legislation that the USTR writes for you, I will predict that the challenges to working families will only increase, as they have for a generation under our flawed and failed so-called ‘free trade’ regimes,” Hoffa wrote.

In addition, the Teamsters president said Capitol Hill should learn lessons from NAFTA, which was implemented using fast track. Almost 700,000 U.S. jobs were lost due to passage of the U.S., Canada and Mexico trade agreement, and that could happen again if the TPP is approved.

There is also the question about Congress giving away its oversight to such trade deals by forfeiting its mandated review of all international trade agreements. As Hoffa stated, “it is simply inappropriate for Congress to relinquish any of your constitutional authority to determine the direction of U.S. participation in the global economy.”

Luckily, there is no shortage of lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, who already oppose fast track in its current form. Those elected officials know it will hurt workers and their families, not only by reducing salaries, but by driving up prescription drug prices, hurting the environment and reducing Internet freedom.

“No member should underestimate our opposition to this very bad bill,” Hoffa told Congress. Teamsters stand ready to back up that claim with action. Let your elected officials know by contacting them and telling them workers won’t stand for bad trade deals that take away U.S. jobs and leave us with unsafe foods, higher medicine prices and less freedom than before.