By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, February 12, 2014
Thousands of Teamsters have contacted their congressional members in recent weeks to let them know “fast track” trade authority is the wrong track for America. And the message is getting through. Lawmakers are increasingly realizing that giving the administration free rein to push through trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) without input from Congress is bad for workers.
Here in Michigan, Rep. Sander Levin (D) gets our thanks for his stance against corporate interests who have engaged in a full court press to push this through. His resistance to the measure as the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee was duly noted by other lawmakers who are taking a close look.
Levin’s stance against HR 3830 and S 1900 has helped solidify the growing movement against a bill that would have Congress give up its constitutional authority to oversee trade deals. More and more, elected officials are seeing the importance of not just going along with a quick up-or-down vote on the TPP and other trade deals.
Last week, new Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced he has no intention of rushing forward with fast-track legislation authored by former Chairman Max Baucus and GOP committee leaders in the House and Senate. He too realizes that the old-style fast track model doesn’t work in today’s economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also made it clear he has no desire to proceed with fast-track legislation. Add that to the bipartisan collection of upwards of 200 members of Congress who previously came out against fast track and that’s a strong base of opposition. But the fight is far from finished.
The Teamsters are confident Rep. Levin will continue to argue for a complete replacement to the Nixon-era fast track that will reflect the trade values of the Democratic caucus and protect workers who are struggling to make ends meet. We are joined in solidarity with him in standing up for middle-class families in Michigan and across the U.S.
Others too are lending a much-needed hand in this struggle. The United Auto Workers, led by my good friend Bob King, has taken a lead role in explaining how the TPP as currently written fails to stop currency manipulation. That in turn would cause fewer U.S. vehicles and other goods to be sold abroad. Fast track would ensure nothing would be done to change it. That’s not the way to help workers.
The growing numbers of lawmakers and leaders coming out against fast track are listening to the will of the people. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have let Congress know as part of a coordinated campaign between unions and fair-trade advocates that fast track will lead to job loss, unsafe food and a dirtier environment. That’s not something anyone wants.
Now it’s time for the administration to get the message. Although the administration has made it clear it wants to move forward with fast track, the writing is on the wall. Congressional leaders and the American people are putting their foot down. It would be wise to listen.