Jerry Reeves knows something about dairy work. For 26 years, the Teamsters Local 463 member has toiled at Dean Foods’ Lehigh Valley Dairies in Landsdale, Pa., working in pasteurizing as well as a fill operator. The job has allowed him to provide a solid middle-class life for his family of six.
“I could not have done it without this kind of job,” he said. “These kind of jobs, you’re not going to get rich, but you’re going to a make a good living. The region needs every one of them, and we need them all over the country.”
But Reeves also knows if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) comes to fruition, that’s not going to happen. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. Countries like New Zealand that have a state-run dairy industry would have an unfair advantage over American privately-owned dairies. It is one of the most sensitive issues currently being discussed as part of the TPP. He told lawmakers and others gathered at a Capitol Hill news conference this afternoon that he worries what the trade deal could mean for his three sons-in-law who also work at the company.
“The real fact of the matter is this is about American families and these trade deals have brutalized the American economy,” he said. “A trade agreement is not an agreement. It is a gun to the head of the American worker.”
Reeves’ message brought home a point Teamsters, other unions, fair trade advocates and their allies have been stating for years – the TPP and other such trade pacts won’t help rank-and-file workers, only big business. It will also lead to unsafe food on U.S. kitchen tables and a dirtier environment.
A key to stopping such bad deals from moving forward is making sure they get a full vetting before Congress. However, if lawmakers approve fast-track legislation, the TPP and other deals will only get a quick up-or-down vote with no chance of being amended. Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said lawmakers should be able to fully debate trade agreements before moving forward with them.
“The issue of fast track is so important. They’ve got the cart before the horse,” Hoffa said of the administration. “They should be coming to [lawmakers] right now and sharing everything with you about these sensitive negotiations. The fact they are not sharing it with Congress means they are not sharing it with the American people. What’s the secrecy? If this is such a good deal, why aren’t they sharing it with everybody?”
Several House members also weighed in against the TPP saying it would continue the outsourcing of jobs overseas since NAFTA and would lead to a hike in the nation’s trade deficit. Several noted that the U.S. can’t compete against countries like Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 28 cents an hour.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) urged her colleagues to stand up for American workers and against this bum trade deal. “There will continue to be a push for us to rubber stamp the TPP,” she said. “That rubber stamp is a non-starter in Congress.”
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said it is important for the U.S. to protect its manufacturing base against the unsavory practices of other nations, not just to help workers, but the nation as a whole. “You can’t call yourself a superpower if you depend on other nations for everything you need,” she said.
The nation’s security also depends on making sure the TPP in its current form does not get implemented, said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). America, he stated, cannot continue to run up massive trade deficits like it has in the 21st century.
“We are spending our money to put foreigners to work,” he said. “They are not buying our goods and services; they are buying our debt. The end game is we will end up with nothing at all.”