From trade to immigration, labor unions are avidly voicing their views of the most important issues likely to be discussed during the State of the Union address.
While unions and the president agree on many different issues, there are still some very important areas they disagree on. The president and unions have both pushed for minimum wage and immigration reform, but have been unable to agree on trade.
“President Obama has accomplished a lot this past year,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement.
“In the face of political headwinds, his administration jumpstarted economic growth, creating 3 million new jobs and providing millions more Americans with affordable health care,” Trumka continued. “In contrast to some, he’s welcomed immigrants and declared no one should be exploited simply because they want to achieve the American Dream.”
Even with his admiration for the president, Trumka warned against a fast-track trade deal, a policy the president has continued to support despite union opposition.
If Congress agrees on fast-track it would mean the president would have the authority to make trade deals with other countries without them being amended or filibustered. The idea is worrisome to many unions who oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other international trade deals.
Back in December, the president argued that a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would be “good for American businesses, it’s good for American jobs, and it’s actually good for labor and environmental interests around the world.”
However, Trumka argues, “He has to decide which matters more; fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations and lower corporate tax rates, or a healthy economy that works for all working people.”
While fast-track and trade reforms have met opposition from unions, many business groups have come out in full support.
“Trade generates higher-paying jobs for workers and lower prices for consumers,” the National Retail Federation said in a letter to the president. “We have opportunities for new trade relationships in both Asia and Europe, and we should aggressively pursue swift passage of Trade Promotion Authority so you can move forward with completion of those agreements.”
Congressional democrats have also expressed their opposition to the president’s trade plan. In a letter, 151 House Democrats told the president, “We write to express our serious concern with the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a potential agreement of tremendous consequence for our country.”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also noted opposition to fast-track and the current trade deals.
“We’re opposed to fast-track,” Johnson told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We’re a union in a sense we’re united,” Johnson continued. “Our policies are developed by our members.”
The biggest concern for Johnson and his members is that TPP is not yet public, and because of this it wouldn’t make any sense for Congress to allow fast-track authority for the president.
“We were reluctant to oppose something we hadn’t seen,” Johnson added. “However, it’s easier to oppose something you don’t know than it is to support it.”
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