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More Unions At Odds With Obama Over Trade

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Tuesday urged Congress to say no to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) in the all-out media assault by unions against President Barack Obama over trade.

“Highlighting the secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the reluctance of the Obama administration to release details, the UFCW today released a new ad urging members of the House of Representatives to vote no on fast track,” the UFCW declared in a press release.

Despite agreeing on many policy areas, unions and the president have been unable to find common ground on trade. From rallies at the U.S. Capital, television and newspaper ads, to threats of freezing political contributions to politicians that support it, unions have done all they can to oppose TPP.

Like many others on the left, unions have noted concern that the trade deal is going to benefit corporate interests at the expense of working Americans and the environment. TPA, also known as fast-track, if passed would allow the president to submit a finalized trade deal to Congress, like TPP, that could not be amended or filibustered and would only need a straight up or down vote.

Along with a print ad warning of the dangers of TPP, the UFCW wrote a letter to House members urging them not to pass fast-track.

“President Obama has regrettably made the vote about loyalty to him,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone wrote in the letter. “At the UFCW, our loyalty is to the 1.3 million hard-working men and women we represent and their families. Your loyalty should be to this country, to your constituents, and not President Obama, one party, or a secret trade deal.”

“The secrecy has gotten so egregious that when a group of concerned citizens went to the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office last week, not only were they prevented from reviewing the agreement, USTR staff locked the door to the visitor’s entrance,” the letter reads. “It leaves you to wonder: what are they hiding?”

“Our elected leaders must acknowledge what the President refuses to—that unfair trade deals have been catastrophic for hard-working families, driving down wages and benefits, shipping jobs overseas, and exploding income inequality,” Perrone concluded.

The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO which has been at the forefront of confronting the president and any other Democrats that break with party lines to support the deal. The union and its supporters have even gone as far as to personally attack some lawmakers. Some Democrats, though still opposing the trade deal, have noted concern that organized labor has been going too far in its opposition.

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 argued. “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.

With the Senate already approving fast-track, it just needs a favorable vote from the House before it will go onto the president. A vote is expected Friday.

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