Stay out of the TPP

From the AFL-CIO

Working people want to move forward on trade, not backward. President Donald Trump’s reported interest in reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the wrong idea. He should focus on upgrading the protections for worker freedoms in the ongoing negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Three years ago, a united movement of working people rose in opposition to Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, upsetting the conventional wisdom and changing the course of American trade policy.

Our opposition had nothing to do with political parties. It was a grassroots groundswell, and it came after years in which trade experts from the AFL-CIO and our member unions offered feedback, detailed testimony and policy language to the trade negotiators, who simply allowed corporations to have too much control over the proposed deal.

Trump saw the changing dynamic and made new rules on trade a centerpiece of his campaign. One of the only promises he has fulfilled to working people has been to withdraw the United States from the TPP.

Yet after months of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which still has huge problems regarding protections for the freedom of working people, Trump has indicated a sudden interest in coming back to the TPP.  To rejoin the job-killing, wage-lowering TPP would be the ultimate betrayal of promises made to working families to fix America’s trade problem.

2 million: That’s how many American jobs were lost in 2015 alone because of currency manipulation and bad trade rules with Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, a situation the TPP would have worsened.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder