News / Economy

Top US Labor Leader Calls Trade Deals Flawed

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (file photo)
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (file photo)

The head of the biggest union organization in the United States says flawed trade agreements are helping to destroy the American middle class, and is calling for a new approach that puts jobs ahead of corporate profits.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Washington needs to change tax incentives and investment policies so they encourage companies to keep jobs and production in the United States instead moving to lower-wage nations.  The comments come as the debate is heating up in Washington over pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says trade problems are one reason that there are 15 million unemployed people in the United States and another 25 million who are under-employed, and he thinks Washington's approach to trade is broken.

"Our trade and economic policies have not served the interest of the United States as a world power by delivering the good jobs or completive edge that we must have.  And around the world, inequality and strife are expanding even as trade and investment flow grow, and trade agreements multiply," Trumka said.

Watch related Mil Arcega video report

The former coal miner says to fix that, Washington must revise tax laws and trade deals with the goal of maximizing employment rather than just profit.  He repeated a call for investment in the infrastructure and education that he says will make the United States, and its workers, more competitive in a global market.

The union leader also argues that the U.S. Congress should not yet approve a long-stalled free trade agreement with Colombia because, in his view, that nation does too little to protect labor organizers from violence.  Trumka says 51 union officials were assassinated there in the past year, including two who were in the middle of negotiating an agreement.

"He was on a bus, there was a bus that commuted from the mine to the town about three-quarters of a mile (nearly a kilometer)) away.  They assassinated the ((Union)) Vice President at the mine.  They got half way back to town, they stopped the bus with all the workers on it, make him kneel down in the ground and they put a bullet through his head," he said.

He also says a pending free trade agreement with South Korea is likely to cost many U.S. jobs, even though it has been re-negotiated to do more to boost U.S. auto exports to that important market.

Trumka's comments come as the Obama Administration is getting ready to submit a free trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for approval.  Opposition Republicans in Congress are urging the administration to also submit pending agreements with Colombia and Panama for approval at the same time.

Trade supporters, like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, say delaying trade agreements allows competitors to win new customers and take market share away from U.S. exporters.  Portman, a Republican and former U.S. Trade Representative, says trade agreements help the U.S. economy because the United States tends to have trade surpluses with nations where Washington has hammered out free trade agreements.

Portman is optimistic that the trade agreements will move forward soon. "Based on what the president and his cabinet have said recently, it seems like we many have a basis to move forward on some of these agreements.  I'm very hopeful of course that we can do it and do it very quickly," Portman said.

The Obama Administration has pledged to double U.S. exports over the next few years as a way to cut high unemployment.  White House officials say each $1 billion in exports creates thousands of jobs in the United States.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocidei
X
Elizabeth Lee
August 31, 2015 8:23 PM
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8874
JPY
USD
120.83
GBP
USD
0.6497
CAD
USD
1.3271
INR
USD
66.162

Rates may not be current.