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Union Ramps Up Efforts To Oppose Fast-Track For President

As the House prepares to vote on a bill that would grant President Barack Obama unilateral trade authority, a major union Wednesday encouraged opponents to call their representatives.

“This Wednesday, June 3, labor and our allies are acting together to make our voices heard loudly and clearly,” The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) declared in a statement.

“Join us in calling our representatives in Congress to urge them to stop this runaway trade deal,” the union went onto say. “We need fair trade, not another rush to help multinational corporations at the expense of workers.”

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track, has created a wedge between the president and many on the left, including labor unions. If passed, the president could submit a finalized trade deal to Congress that could not be amended or filibustered and would only need a straight up- or down-vote.

At the center of the debate is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which unions claim will benefit corporations and special interests at the expense of working Americans and the environment. If fast-track passes, the president would be able to get TPP through much more easily.

“In the past, deals that were approved through the fast-track process caused a loss of jobs, pushed down wages, undermined our communities and gave special legal rights to corporations,” AFSCME claimed.

Back in April, Republicans Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Paul Ryan, along with Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden, introduced a fast-track bill. After some back and forth, the bill was able to pass and go onto the House, where it has yet to be decided. It is likely, if the House passes it, the president will sign it into law.

“The U.S. Senate approved fast-track authority to complete the 12-nation deal, but the House has yet to vote,” AFSCME also notes. “Working families can make their voices heard on the issue by contacting their member of Congress.”

Despite the adamant opposition among organized labor, Obama has promised the trade deal would include provisions that benefit unions. As Obama noted in a recent speech at Nike, the deal protect workers’ freedom to form unions in countries that previously did not have such protections.

“So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards,” Obama argues. “It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions— for the very first time.”

In the “Labor and the Environment” section, the TPA bill dictates that any trade deal that comes about through it, whether it’s TPP or not, must adopt and maintain measures implementing internationally recognized core labor standards. If true, current unions may very well be granted access to millions of new workers from countries they previously did not.

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