Unions Oppose Congress Action on Korea, Colombia Trade Deals
The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union federation, will lobby Congress to oppose free-trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea and pass legislation that adds U.S. jobs, President Richard Trumka said.
“We will be talking to every legislator out there,” Trumka said today on a conference call with reporters. Trade deals are “not what is needed right now. We need job creation. We need infrastructure spending. We need aid to state and local government. We need to do everything we can do to actually put people back to work.”
Trumka cited a study from the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute that found the Colombia and South Korea deals would cost 214,000 U.S. jobs. The Colombia accord is of “special interest” to the AFL-CIO, because of the “number of trade unionists targeted for assassination” in that nation, he said. Lawmakers also are considering a trade deal with Panama.
Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had pressed lawmakers to act on three pending trade deals along with a program of aid for workers displaced by overseas competition amid concern that companies will fall behind rivals as the nations strike deals with other governments. The White House has urged action on the deals as a means to spur hiring amid 9.1 percent U.S. unemployment in July.
U.S. Senate leaders ended an impasse on Aug. 3 on the stalled trade accords, agreeing to vote after the August recess on benefits for workers who lose their jobs because of overseas competition, and then take up the trade deals.
Seeking ‘Same Urgency’
Trumka said unions also are seeking “the same urgency” from President Barack Obama on jobs that he applied during the “manufactured crisis” on the debt limit. A slowing economy that’s “dangerously close to dead” has been worsened by Tea Party Republicans “pursuing an extreme ideology,” he said.
The AFL-CIO is planning to collect signatures from more than 800,000 activists on petitions this month seeking urgent action by Congress to create jobs, according to a statement.
Labor activists will attend meetings, fundraisers and local events where lawmakers appear to demand action on jobs. Union members will show up today and Aug. 8 at events held by Representatives Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Colorado Republicans who are backed by the Tea Party, the AFL-CIO said.
“It’s going to be a long, hot summer for legislators,” Trumka said.
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