Hoffa: No Time to Waste in Letting Public, Lawmakers Know About Fast Track

By Teamsters President James P. Hoffa
Published the Huffington Post, January 26, 2015

For years, big business has pushed for fast-track trade promotion authority so it can get secret trade deals it helps craft like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) enacted. It’s had the support of some in Congress. Now congressional leaders want to move on fast track, and soon. That means those standing up for the interests of hardworking Americans must step up their efforts. After all, not everyone is aware of the consequences that a quick up-or-down vote on the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal will bring. It will devastate not only wage earners, but their families as well.

The Teamsters and our fair-trade friends have seen the damage fast track and bad trade deals like the TPP can do. President Obama in his State of the Union speech last week conceded as much. Millions of middle-class jobs nationwide have been lost, and they are not coming back. The theme of the President’s State of the Union Speech was right on target — it is time for all of our elected leaders to do everything within their power to support and expand the nation’s middle class. It is for exactly this reason that the President and free trade supporters in Congress need to change their position on fast track.

Supporters of trade agreements like to say that these agreements create U.S. jobs. But history shows otherwise. In fact, it would strike at the heart of the industry the president is lauded for helping save — the automobile sector. Because the TPP does not address currency manipulation, other nations will drive up the cost of American goods while at the same time making their goods cheaper. Japan has specifically been called out for the practice and how it affects U.S. automakers.

The good news is there is a strong bipartisan collection of lawmakers who, like the Teamsters, have made it clear fast track does not lead to fair trade. Repeatedly, they have written the U.S. Trade Representative, held press conferences and spoken out publicly about speeding trade deals through Congress. This approach will hurt hardworking Americans by shipping their jobs overseas and endangering their health with unsafe imported food and products. Further, removing congressional oversight of trade deals violates the U.S. constitution.

Polling has shown that the public doesn’t like fast track or the TPP when it discovers the details of both. But the battle is increasing education on the issue. That why the Teamsters, other unions and a coalition of environmental, food safety, health care and even Internet freedom groups plan on using the next few weeks to get the word out and contact lawmakers. We all must let workers know about the problems that would result from limiting debate and outlawing amendments on trade bills.

With Congress set to consider fast track soon, there is no time to waste in letting both the public and elected officials know about the dangers of unfair trade. Less jobs, lower pay, less worker protections and unsafe food and products isn’t good for anyone — except big business.

American workers are facing turbulent times. Corporations are trying to ship U.S. jobs overseas in an attempt to lower the wages they pay. Having seen the costs with the implementation of NAFTA, the Teamsters and their allies cannot let that happen. This nation doesn’t need any more free trade agreements; it needs fair trade agreements. But that will only happen if pro-worker advocates stand up.