At a press conference held at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342 in Concord, Congressmen Garamendi and Miller joined union and trade association leaders to announce their support of the TRADE ACT of 2009. The focus was on the broad sweep of the Act rather than to discuss or explain the details of it. Currently the Bill (#3012) has 134 Co-Sponsors including George Miller, and now John Garamendi, and was universally described as being a very hard fight to be brought to the floor and passed.
Both Miller and Garamendi emphasized that the Bill would require a relook at all trade agreements. Being targeted here was NAFTA and the WTO, both of which were opposed by Miller, who made it clear that “they were a bad idea then and they are a bad idea now.” Labor Representatives and Miller echoed that the promise of better jobs with NAFTA has not occurred on either side of U.S. borders. Union speakers posed that NAFTA has benefitted only the greed of top owners of the businesses, and all that was done is to export good jobs in the U.S. to poverty level jobs overseas, where workers’ conditions were steeped in abuse.
Garamendi called for a “military procurement” sort of restrictions on government purchases. He sees this as a way to force items to be made in America to return jobs and recreate industries here. He used as an example the replacement of BART trains saying that the trains as well as the replacement trains in NY and elsewhere should be done by “Government Motors” and built here. (The last set of BART trains came from France).
The theme of Buy American was also picked up by labor reps presented including the dock workers (ILWU) which said that while traffic into the ports was good for ILWU, it was of no comfort to know that people do not have the jobs to buy the things that are now all being made overseas.
In mentioning the proposed Columbian Free Trade deal in Congress, Miller also talked about the killings of union organizers in Columbia, highlighting actions of the government in conjunction with business management to destroy worker rights advocacy, saying that over 2,700 people have been killed trying to organize workers in that country.
The TRADE Act 2009 bill calls for the establishment of goals in American Trade Agreements to require participating countries to insure worker rights and, by direct reference, the entire U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Man as a goal of the U.S. Trade negotiation.
Briefly touched upon, but very critical in the impact of the Bill, is that it would halt future reinstatement of “fast tracking” of trade bills started under the Nixon Administration and thus opens future trade bills to the full in depth review and discussion by the Congress who could amend the treaty. This prospect would certainly have trade negotiators reaching for Prozac as the combination of 400+ constituents lobby groups and power blocks try to get their own piece of all trade deals. That whirlwind of back channel dealing is what forced us to go to the Up and Down method of the Fast Track in the first place.
Repeated in its various forms, the message was that the movement of Free Trade in the last 20 years has resulted in negatives for the U.S. Worker, and that both Miller and Garamendi want a focus on Fair Trade and the use of the Trade Agreements as a means to better the worker conditions in the signatory countries.