The Living Wage and the Transpacific Partnership (TPP)

 “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses, leading to more Made-in-America exports and more higher-paying American jobs here at home. By cutting over 18,000 taxes various countries put on Made-in-America products, TPP makes sure our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses can compete— and win—in some of the fastest growing markets in the world. With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside our borders, TPP will significantly expand the export of Made-in-America goods and services and support American jobs.” (https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/TPP-Protecting-Workers-Fact-Sheet.pdf)

The meaningless paragraph above is the propaganda put out by the office of the United States Trade Representative. This office is headed by Michael Froman who worked at the White House during the formulation of NAFTA and is now Pres. Obama’s “principal advisor, negotiator and spokesperson on international trade and investment issues.” Mr. Froman’s credentials include service in a number of roles at Citigroup, Citigroup Inc. or Citi, the ‘world’s global bank’, a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations and a Fellow at the German Marshall Fund.  Citi has had much news coverage since the Wall Street debacle of 2007. Much of the wealth of the American worker was lost during this “Great Recession”. Now, under the tutorship of Mr. Froman and his cronies Pres. Obama is on the brink of destroying what is left to the American worker – the Hope of an opportunity for a decent paying job that provides a living wage.

 “(TPP) levels the playing field for American workers”

I guess if Froman is talking about the workers named Corbat, CEO, Citi; Dimon, CEO, Chase; or Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs we would have to take this is a true statement. But if he’s talking about the American worker in the industrial sector I believe 20 Pinocchio’s wouldn’t be enough to describe this statement. Who is it that he expects would believe such rubbish? Nor would it take a long investigation to determine who Mr. Froman’s target is for “more higher-paying American jobs here at home”. Clearly, he is not talking about the American worker subjected to competition for the meager amounts left to the middle class.

To fully understand the outrageous assertions of the TPP we should examine Mr. Froman’s claims found in the Protecting Workers-Fact Sheet. (Supra)

Protect the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

Before the United States signs such an agreement we must first have a Constitutional Amendment. Recentt events in Wisconsin reveal bargaining collectively is not a right in the United States. Also, how could  the United States sign an agreement that would protect the freedom to form unions? We certainly have not been successful in the United States through many years effort. This “freedom” is not available to workers when the wealth of the Koch brothers and the Walton family is applied against forming a workers union.

Recent headlines from Washington D.C reveal that Walmart threatened the City- in effect saying that if the Council passed a living wage requirement they would not build the planned stores in DC. A living wage does not come close to collective bargaining. If we put this wage in perspective, it would take a worker 1.5 million years to amass the wealth of just one Walton billionaire. The average Walmart worker would need to labor 6 million years to amass the wealth of the Walton family. Still, their namesake company has as a policy that refuses to build in an area that requires a living wage. The idea that the worker would be free to form unions and bargain collectively is a farfetched exaggeration or an outright lie.

Eliminate exploitative child labor and forced labor.

The USA has enacted Laws that prohibit child and forced labor. Still, there are reports of child labor, slavery and indentured servitude among the migrant and undocumented workers in the United States.

  • Protect against employment discrimination.

Without a definition of ’employment discrimination’ this is a meaningless phrase.

Require laws on acceptable conditions of work related to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

The key words here are “acceptable conditions”. The only acceptable conditions for the American worker is that all of these conditions should be equal in each of the participating countries. It is only then that the American worker can play on an equal playing field.

  • Prevent the degradation of labor protections in export processing zones.

These are just words without meaning when not accompanied by definitions. It’s like telling a reader that I will go outside without worry about sunburn omitting the details of when or what going outside entails.

  • Combat trade in goods made by forced labor in countries inside and outside TPP.

Once again the devil is in the details. The signatories of this agreement seem to imply a new United Nations. How bold it is of them to subject nations not signatories to their agreement? Very bold, a condition that implies policing of member and non-member States.

  • Establish a transparent and responsive process to allow for labor unions, advocates, and other stakeholders to raise concerns regarding any TPP country’s adherence to the labor commitments.

Well isn’t that nice? This agreement is going to allow labor advocates to raise concerns. That’s it folks, start raising concerns.

  • TPP also includes separate, comprehensive commitments by Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei to ensure compliance with the high labor standards included in TPP

What are the high labor standards? What is the minimum wage, hours of work and occupational safety and health standard? Will they be equal in all countries? Will they meet the standards in the United States of America? If they do not meet the standards of the United States of America, now and in the future, this is not a fair agreement for the American Worker.

  • Mexico is also developing parallel labor reforms, including to better protect collective bargaining and reform its system for administering labor justice.

If Mexico does not develop labor reforms that meet the standards of the United States of America now and in the future this is not a fair agreement for the American Worker.

  • TPP renegotiates NAFTA, putting fundamental labor rights at the core of the agreement, and making those rights fully enforceable through the same type of dispute settlement as other obligations, including the option to impose trade sanctions.

Renegotiate NAFTA? The USA should remove its name as a signatory to that agreement which has already cost millions of American industrial worker jobs and gave multinational corporations an opportunity to relocate to other countries for cheaper labor opportunities and free importation into the USA.

  • These rights include freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, prohibitions on and effective elimination of child and forced labor, and protection against employment discrimination. And for the first time in a trade agreement, TPP requires countries to adopt laws on minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

Once again, unless the laws adopted requiring minimum wages hours of work and occupational safety and health are equal in each of the countries signatory to this agreement that is not an equal playing field. Although this applies mainly to the USA at this time it might soon include other countries more advanced than the other signatories of this agreement.

With respect to Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, who are first-time signatories to a trade agreement with the United States, TPP contains country-specific labor reform commitments to meet their TPP obligations that are themselves subject to dispute settlement.

So what? Does all trade cease during dispute settlement? If not this is just another meaningless assertion.

  • Furthermore, TPP requires each TPP country to establish a public submission process to allow for labor unions, advocates, and other stakeholders to raise specific concerns related to any TPP country’s adherence to the commitments under the labor chapter.

Raising concerns does not resolve disputes. Without the necessary equal labor requirements the concerns are already raised the resolutions are the lacking ingredient.

  • By bringing enforceable commitments on fundamental labor rights into our trading relationships with TPP countries, TPP expands the fight for decent work around the world and creates a more fair and level playing field for American workers.

Although the TPP may expand the fight for decent work around the world it does not create anything comparable to a fair and level playing field for American workers. The fact that each participant has not already expanded labor rights in their countries speaks volumes to the probably success of the proposed TPP.

  • TPP puts into place the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights in history, more than quadrupling the number of people outside the United States that are covered by enforceable labor provisions. This expansion helps make it more likely that strong labor provisions in trade agreements will become the new global standard.

Unless the labor provisions of the new global standard are equal to those provisions already provided to the American worker the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights cannot be seen as any benefit to the American worker.

As can be seen from the brief above the TPP does not offer the American worker a fair and equal playing field with the workers in the countries signatory to this agreement. It is as though Pres. Obama and Representative Froman have forgotten that the economic health of the free world depends in large part on the economic health of the middle class of the United States of America.

The TPP as written must be defeated if America’s middle class is to have any chance to rebound from the devastation caused by the poor decisions of our political leaders over the last 40 years. This is not a political Party issue–this is an American Middle Class issue. Please contact your representatives.

Say NO to TPP!

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