Category Archives: Unions and Organized Labor

Does TPP’s slow death mean the world is now unsafe for trade deals?

Charles Hankla, Georgia State University

It seems that the world has become unsafe for trade agreements. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major new trade deal among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, has become a political lightning rod for both the left and the right.

As if to highlight that fact once again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that he would not bring the TPP to a vote until after the new president takes office in January.

That’s bad news for the trade agreement – and for President Barack Obama, who sees its passage as the final plank in his foreign policy legacy and who is pushing hard for a vote during Congress’ post-election lame duck session.

But the controversial Asian pact is not the only trade agreement potentially on the chopping block. Last month, the European Union’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, decided not to fast-track the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) due to the anti-trade climate prevailing on the continent.

And France’s President François Hollande just declared that his country would not support moving forward with the gigantic Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the U.S. and the EU. His announcement came on the heels of a statement by Germany’s vice chancellor that TTIP “has failed.”

It seems that every time we get closer to the conclusion and ratification of a trade deal, a new barrier emerges to block any progress. What, then, are we to make of the tremendous obstacles confronting these three major agreements?

McConnell, second from right, has endorsed Trump, who has made anti-trade rhetoric a big part of his campaign. Jim Young/Reuters

The times they are a-changin’

First and foremost, opposition to trade is a sign of the times. The Great Recession, among other events, has generated strong pushback against globalization and liberal exchange, something that seems to have caught political elites around the world off guard.

The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had already come apart well before the recession. Its failure meant that a multilateral deal, one that would have committed nearly all of the world’s countries to the same trade agenda, was no longer possible.

At the heart of Doha’s collapse were the interests of the newly rising BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – which could not be reconciled with those of the U.S. and the EU. The failure of the WTO, in its turn, gave new impetus to regional agreements such as TTIP and TPP.

Initially, these regional agreements, along with their more modest bilateral cousins (deals between only two nations), were treated with suspicion by free traders, who feared that they would carve up the global trading system into inefficient blocs. But, in time, such agreements presented themselves as the best, and only, way forward in a more complex, multipolar economic environment.

Still, TTIP and TPP are more than just victims of the general skepticism for globalization that has arisen in the past few years. They are also the collateral damage from political events in the world’s major trading countries.

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström worries about the public opposition to CETA and TTIP. Jason Lee/Reuters

Illiberalism on the rise

First among these is the U.K.’s Brexit vote, which is likely to result in the country’s withdrawal from the EU. Brexit, which is itself the fruit of growing illiberalism in England and Wales, has distracted European leaders to such a degree that TTIP and CETA have moved onto the back burner.

Moreover, in the United States, the success of Donald Trump in mobilizing the anti-globalization working class has made Republicans in Congress, who typically support trade as good for business, wary of trade deals. It has also led Hillary Clinton to distance herself from previous statements supporting TPP made during her tenure at secretary of state.

Another problem facing TPP and TTIP is their unprecedented scope. Not only do these agreements create free trade blocs that encompass much of the world’s economic output, but they also touch on a variety of issues from internet freedom to generic drug prices to the right of private investors to sue states for compensation. Many of the most controversial elements of the agreements relate to these issues rather than to the traditional components of trade protection.

What happens next?

What would be the consequences if these agreements fail?

Economically, the U.S. is already tightly linked with both Asia and Europe. The TPP agreement would essentially expand the Pacific trade bloc beyond NAFTA to include nine additional countries, most significantly Japan. Similarly, TTIP would deepen the already significant economic interdependence that traverses the Atlantic.

The loss of these agreements would certainly have negative economic effects on all sides, as least in the aggregate (since some jobs would be saved by the reduced competition). Agreements this large cannot be jettisoned without consequences.

That said, given the deep connections that already exist among Asia, North America and Europe, the purely economic results of killing the agreements are likely to be important, but not enormous. More serious would be the geostrategic implications.

A rejection of TTIP by either side could signal a reduced U.S. presence in Europe, a particular concern in the face of increasing Russian assertiveness.

Meanwhile, an end to TPP could encourage a number of Asian countries, unsure of America’s future in the region, to move into China’s growing sphere of influence. It is no surprise that this last argument is the one being made most aggressively by the Obama administration.

Long live free trade?

If TTIP and TPP are not likely to be approved any time soon, does this mean that they are already dead?

A President Trump would certainly kill the agreements. If, however, Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, as the polls seem to indicate, their future is harder to predict. Clinton seems to be, at heart, a believer in open markets, but the current political situation makes it hard for her to say so directly.

If elected, Clinton’s statements during the campaign would make it difficult for her to support TPP out of the gate, especially with strong opposition from Bernie Sanders supporters. As envisioned by Cato trade analyst Simon Lester, she may well try to renegotiate a portion of the agreement as political cover and then resubmit it to Congress for approval.

By this point, if Trumpism has been defeated, Republicans may have a greater appetite for foreign trade. The question, of course, is whether the other TPP signatory countries will be willing to reopen portions of the agreement that have already been concluded.

Similarly, in Europe, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made until the Brexit issue is resolved and growth starts to pick up.

Despite all the obstacles, however, I believe that it is important to keep moving forward on free trade. The rejection of these important agreements could risk becoming merely the first step in a gradual erosion of support for the global economic architecture.

This architecture, so carefully created and maintained by the United States after 1945, has contributed mightily to international prosperity and peace. Maintaining it is of critical importance.

The Conversation

Charles Hankla, Associate Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Editor’s note: Occupy World Writes believes that TTP/TTIP would be bad not only for American workers, but for workers around the globe. However, we feel that there is another side that deserves to be heard concerning the potential impact of not ratifying these agreement. Hence, this article.

 

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How the Decline in Union Membership Is Hurting All of Us: Report

‘Rebuilding our system of collective bargaining is an important tool available for fueling wage growth and ending the era of persistent wage stagnation’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-30-2016

At a Verizon strike earlier this year. (Photo: Thomas Altfather Good/flickr/cc)

At a Verizon strike earlier this year. (Photo: Thomas Altfather Good/flickr/cc)

The decline of organized labor in the United States has contributed significantly to wage stagnation and rising inequality, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The analysis finds that as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen precipitously—from one in three in the 1950s to about one in 20 today—wage inequality has risen as a result. In particular, EPI states that the labor movement’s decline has contributed to wage losses among workers who don’t even belong to a union, which “translates into
millions of lost dollars to American workers.” Continue reading

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World’s Largest Strike? Tens of Millions in India Rise Up Against Right-Wing Economic Policies

Public sector workers across India went on strike to protest Prime Minister Modi’s push for privatization and demand higher wages

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-2-2016

Strikers in , India. Photo: Twitter

Strikers in Jadavpur, India. Photo: @RitabrataBanerj/Twitter

Tens of millions of public sector workers in India went on strike Friday to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for privatization and other right-wing economic policies.

“This strike is against the central government, this strike is for the cause of the working people,” said Ramen Pandey, of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, to Al Jazeera.  Continue reading

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Walmart, Gap, H&M Called Out for Global Worker Exploitation and Abuse

Three years after Rana Plaza collapse, labor violations still rampant, reports find

By Nadia Prupis and Deirdre Fulton, staff writers for Common Dreams. Published 5-31-2016

The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster killed more than 1,100 people. (Photo: Jaber Al Nahian/flickr/cc)

The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster killed more than 1,100 people. (Photo: Jaber Al Nahian/flickr/cc)

Some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Walmart, Gap, and H&M, have failed to improve workplace safety three years after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,100 people and turned a spotlight on dangerous labor conditions faced by some of the world’s poorest workers.

A series of new reports released Tuesday by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of rights groups and trade unions, finds that tens of thousands of laborers in Bangladesh are still making garments in buildings without proper fire exits, while pregnant workers in Indonesia and India face discrimination and wage theft. Continue reading

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Demanding ‘What We Need to Survive,’ Workers to Descend on McDonald’s Shareholders Meeting

Fast food giant also faces renewed calls to ditch controversial ‘McTeacher’s Nights’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-25-2016

Fight for $15 protesters outside a Chicago McDonald's in 2013. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr/cc)

Fight for $15 protesters outside a Chicago McDonald’s in 2013. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr/cc)

As McDonald’s prepares to hold its annual meting on Thursday, low wage workers—buoyed by successes from the “unstoppable” Fight for $15 movement—are gearing up to confront the burger giant and again demand a decent wage and union rights.

On Wednesday, in addition to a mid-day strike at the flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s in Chicago, organizers say thousands of underpaid workers will stage a protest at the company’s headquarters just outside the city, in Oak Brook, Illinois. Continue reading

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US Government’s Own Report Shows Toxic TPP “Not Worth Passing”

‘This report indicates the TPP will produce almost no benefits, but inflict real harm on so many workers.’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-19-2016

"This report validates that the TPP is not worth passing," said United Steelworkers (USW) International president Leo W. Gerard. (Photo: SumOfUs/cc/flickr)

“This report validates that the TPP is not worth passing,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International president Leo W. Gerard. (Photo: SumOfUs/cc/flickr)

The government’s own assessment of the toxic Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) shows that the controversial trade deal will produce negligible economic benefits while damaging most Americans’ jobs and wages.

The U.S. International Trade Commission’s (ITC) report (pdf), issued Wednesday, shows that the TPP “would likely have only a small positive effect on U.S. growth,” Reuters reported. Continue reading

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FBI’s Own Report Exposes “War on Cops” as Pure Propaganda — It’s the Citizens Who Are in Danger

The objective here, once again, is to penalize rhetoric as a criminal act against a member of a specially protected class. Apparently, the “War on Cops” won’t be won until citizens who criticize them face criminal prosecution for doing so.

Written by William N. Grigg. Published May 18 by Free Thought Project.

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Following a year in which the public was relentlessly barraged with alarmist rhetoric about a “war on cops” and the dreadful impact of the so-called “Ferguson Effect,” official FBI statistics confirm that violent line-of-duty police deaths declined precipitously in 2015.

According to the Bureau:

“Preliminary statistics … show that 41 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2015. This is a decrease of almost 20 percent when compared with the 51 officers killed in 2014.” A greater number of officers (45) suffered fatal injuries in duty-related accidents, 41 of which involved motor vehicles.

Through May 17 of this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 35 line-of-duty police officer deaths, 21 of which involve violence, such as gunfire or vehicular assault. This suggests that 2016 might see an increase in that grim total, but fortunately that remains only a possibility.

Throughout 2015, law enforcement officials, police unions, and even FBI Director James Comey warned of a “war on cops” that was supposedly an outgrowth of what they called the “Ferguson Effect” – police reluctance to use force because of concerns over negative publicity. On May 10, for instance, Comey reiterated that theme, insisting that the “viral video effect” has changed “the way police may be acting” by inhibiting them from taking assertive action to deal with violent crime. This supposedly leaves police more insecure, thereby emancipating criminals to wreak havoc on under-protected communities.

However, as former Baltimore police officer-turned-police reform advocate Michael Wood Jr. told The Intercept, there are cases in which less aggressive policing has corresponded to a decline in violent crime: Where police don’t treat the public as an enemy to be subdued, the public responds by seeking help, and giving it, in the effort to deter crimes against persons and property.

“Police now for the first time are having to consider the consequences of being brutal, being unethical, and doing things that for the longest time they could do and not be accountable for,” Wood declares. “But that doesn’t make crime happen.”

Comey’s melodramatic statements about a “chill wind blowing through law enforcement,” and reliance on things he has been told “in lots of conversations privately with police leaders” demonstrate that “he is pushing an ideology,” Woods continues. “Comey’s position is that if the armed enforcement wing of the government takes its boot off the neck of the public, just a little, then we will just become killers.”

While fewer police suffered violent deaths last year than in any year since 2013 – when 27 officers were feloniously killed – there is no evidence that the police have been inhibited in the use of deadly force. According to unofficial tabulations, at least 1,200 Americans died in violent encounters with the police last year. Official notice is taken of each of the exceedingly rare instances in which police are violently killed, but there is no official tally of people killed by the police, or accounting for whether each use of lethal force was legally justified.

It is true, as Comey and other law enforcement officials have said, that last year’s murder rate was about eleven percent higher than the year before, as defined by crime statistics gathered in the country’s 30 largest cities. However, as the Brennan Center for Justice points out in its detailed report on the subject, “Even with the 2015 increases, murder rates are roughly the same as they were in 2012”; furthermore, while murder rates were up in 14 of the 30 largest cities, 11 others saw that rate go down last year.

When all documented offenses against persons and property were taken into account, elaborates the Brennan Center, the crime rate for 2015 declined by 1.5 percent.

“It is important to remember just how much crime has fallen in the last 25 years,” underscores the Brennan Center report. “The crime rate is now half what it was in 1990, and almost a quarter (22 percent) less than it was at the turn of the century.”

Since violent on-duty police deaths are vanishingly rare, and crime of all kinds at near-historic lows, what is the real “Ferguson Effect”?

Perhaps the true meaning of that expression is found in the emergence of a movement spearheaded by police unions to define law enforcement as a “specially protected category” for the purposes of “hate crimes” prosecution.

Police officers already enjoy the benefits of “Blue Privilege” – qualified immunity and special consideration in the use of occupational violence. Criminal offenses against police officers are already treated as serious felonies. However, at the urging of police unions and their allies, legislatures in several states are considering bills that would treat violence against police – such as actively resisting arrest – as hate crimes.

Versions of that legislation, which is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) – the country’s largest police union – have been introduced in Maryland and Louisiana, and as ordinances in several cities. The Louisiana bill, HB 953, would make any offense committed against a person or property because of “actual or perceived … employment as a law enforcement officer or firefighter” a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

An FOP-supported bill in Maryland that would likely serve as a model for federal legislation would make resisting arrest a “hate crime” owing to the identity of the supposed victim. State legislatures elsewhere are considering similar measures, and some municipal governments are enacting resolutions endorsing the FOP’s demand to swaddle police officers in federal “specially protected” status.

In a letter to President Obama, Chuck Canterbury, National President of the armed tax-feeders’ union, demanded that “the current Federal hate crimes law be expanded to include law enforcement officers. This call has gone unanswered and our nation’s law enforcement officers continue to die in the streets.”

Displaying tone-deafness as to what his comments say about the supposed valor of police officers, Canterbury demanded that cops be designated a “specially protected” group who are “hunted and targeted just because of the uniform they wear.” This woeful account of insurgent criminals and besieged cops evolved into a demand that “hate speech” be treated as a federal offense.

“Elected officials are quick to console the families of the fallen and praise us for the difficult and dangerous work that we do every day,” sniffles the FOP commissar. “Yet, too many are silent when the hate speech floods the media with calls for violence against police or demands that police stand down and give them” – Canterbury never defines “them,” interestingly – “`room to destroy.’ The violence will not end until the rhetoric does which is why I have called on Congress and your Administration to work with us to address the surge of violence against police by expanding the Federal hate crimes law to protect police.” (Emphasis added.)

The objective here, once again, is to penalize rhetoric as a criminal act against a member of a specially protected class. Apparently, the “War on Cops” won’t be won until citizens who criticize them face criminal prosecution for doing so.

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Detroit Schools Shuttered as Lawmakers ‘Illegally’ Withhold Teacher Pay

“Teachers are not volunteers. Why doesn’t the state of Michigan take responsibility for funding the schools?”

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-3-2016

Teachers say the bankruptcy claim is a "scare tactic to get terrible legislation passed through that will give us money now but screw us all over even harder in the long run." (Photo: DFT-Local 231/Twitter)

Teachers say the bankruptcy claim is a “scare tactic to get terrible legislation passed through that will give us money now but screw us all over even harder in the long run.” (Photo: DFT-Local 231/Twitter)

Ninety-four of 97 Detroit Public Schools (DPS) remained shuttered on Tuesday as the ongoing city-wide teacher “sickout” prompted calls for Michigan lawmakers to “stop playing political games and do the right thing for Detroit’s students, educators, and community.”

The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) announced a second day of action after the city and state lawmakers failed to assure the union that teachers will be paid their full yearly salary.  Continue reading

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‘Today Marks the End of TTIP’: Greenpeace Leak Exposes Corporate Takeover

The secret documents represent roughly two-thirds of the latest negotiating text, and in several cases expose for the first time the position of the U.S.

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-2-2016

WikiLeaks had previously announced a €100,000 "bounty" for the full TTIP text. (Image: Greenpeace)

WikiLeaks had previously announced a €100,000 “bounty” for the full TTIP text. (Image: Greenpeace)

Confirming that the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) amounts to “a huge transfer of power from people to big business,” Greenpeace Netherlands on Monday leaked 248 secret pages of the controversial trade deal between the U.S. and EU, exposing how environmental regulations, climate protections, and consumer rights are being “bartered away behind closed doors.”

The documents represent roughly two-thirds of the latest negotiating text, according to Greenpeace, and on some topics offer for the first time the position of the United States.  Continue reading

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Calling Corporate-Backed Deals an “Indisputable” Good, Obama Makes Pitch for TTIP

Sitting next to Chancellor Angela Merkel during a summit in Germany, U.S. president continued to ignore opponents as he defended controversial agreement with European nations

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-24-2016

Photo: droppants

Photo: droppants

Despite the tens of thousands of people who marched against the deal in Germany ahead of his arrival and the steady drop in support for such neoliberal trade deals overall, President Barack Obama stood next to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday and defended the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and said similar past deals have been an “indisputable” benefit to the U.S. economy.

“It is indisputable that [“free trade”] has made our economy stronger,” Obama said during a joint news conference. “It has made sure that our businesses are the most competitive in the world.” Continue reading

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