Teamsters

North America's Strongest Union

Senate fast track push doesn't stop criticism of trade

The Teamsters have made it clear they are against fast track.

The Senate will begin debate later today on a fast track trade bill that will serve as a vehicle to ram the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress. And despite the smiles and reassurances coming from supporters, new problems with the trade deal keep on popping up.

Take, for instance, the $700 million in Medicare cuts that were added to a package of trade bills bundled together to make fast track and the TPP seem more palatable. Those dollars cover trade adjustment assistance costs. GOP lawmakers insisted on the slashing of senior health care program to support workers who lose their jobs due to trade deals like the TPP, and some Democrats went along with it.

As the National Journal explained:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance reauthorization bill hasn't received as much attention as the fast-track trade authority bill, but Democrats see it as a priority: The program helps workers who have been put out of a job because of foreign trade with job-training and placement as well as health-insurance costs. The House and Senate are expected to move the bill in tandem with the fast-track trade measure, said an aide to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who hashed out the trade deal with Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, both Republicans. 

But ... senior and provider groups started criticizing the proposal. They're unhappy because about $700 million of the $2.9 billion cost would be offset by increasing the cuts to Medicare authorized by the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration in fiscal year 2024 by 0.25 percent, according to a Congressional Budget Office score of the House bill. 

"Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress," Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. "Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes—this time it's the trade adjustment assistance program."

Why should retirees, who worked hard all their lives to earn Medicare, be forced to pick up the tab in exchange for a trade deal that will boost profits for big business? How is that at all justifiable?

Meanwhile, bipartisan opposition to both fast track and the TPP continues to grow. In the Oklahoma House, two Republicans have introduced a resolution calling on that state's congressional delegation to oppose TPP.  The lawmakers say they are troubled that the Pacific Rim trade pact has been negotiated in secret and would allow foreign companies to seek to overturn U.S. law in international tribunals.

And Democrats and union workers in California held a demonstration during the second day of the state Democratic Convention in Anaheim to criticize the TPP and how it would place U.S. workers behind corporations.

Opposition to fast track and the TPP isn't going anywhere. If fast track does make it through the Senate, a bipartisan collection of lawmakers in the House is waiting to challenge it and raise all of its warts for public consumption. This is not a time for the Teamsters and all fair trade supporters to be timid -- it is a time to be strong. The voice of workers is being heard!