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Letter Is Latest House Effort To Support Workers Against TPP


A recent report released by the International Trade Union Confederation detailed the dire state of workers’ rights across the globe. But House Democrats are worried they will get worse if language isn’t included in a Pacific Rim trade deal to improve the situation.

As a result, three-fourths of them signed onto a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman last week saying he needs to do more to protect and strengthen international workers’ rights as part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.  The 153 lawmakers told the USTR that an enhanced framework is needed to protect human and labor rights worldwide.

“We must do everything possible to prevent the American marketplace from being flooded with imports manufactured by workers laboring without human dignity and individual rights,” the members wrote. “The Administration must refrain from validating such woefully inadequate labor norms and the final agreement should be withheld until these countries embrace the need to reform their labor laws and move aggressively to implement them.”

As the Teamsters stated previously, the federal government has documented major abuses of human and worker’s rights in nations such as Vietnam and Brunei, including forced labor and child labor; gender-based discrimination; health and safety hazards; and inadequate wages. When nations are allowed to implement such policies, workers in countries that play by the rules are hurt as well since they can’t compete.

There is a reason the TPP has stalled and why a bipartisan collection of lawmakers have raised concerns about the trade pact and the vehicle supporters want put in place to move it forward, known as fast track. Trade deals do nothing to help create American jobs – in fact, they ship them away by the hundreds of thousands.

Current language included in TPP would also strip our nation’s ability to encourage the government to buy American products. That’s why late last week, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) offered an amendment approved in a House appropriations bill that would keep the provision in place.

“We believe that it is critically important that the TPP provide for an enhanced framework for protecting workers’ rights to help ensure that the agreement benefits the middle class in this country and protect the rights of workers of our trading partners,” lawmakers told the USTR in the letter. It seems so basic a request. But it won’t happen if the nation’s leaders remain hell bent on helping corporations instead of regular people.