Decades of Broken Promises in Trade Deals, Report Shows

Former IAM District 102 Directing Business Representative Mike Patrick is featured in a New York Times article on the harmful effects of unfettered trade. Patrick remembers when Maytag shipped hundreds of IAM jobs to Mexico in 2004. (Photo: Ryan Donnell for The New York Times)

A newly published report by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers a scathing assessment of the failure of the Obama and previous administrations to enforce labor standards in foreign trade agreements.

The most recent push for fast track approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has forced labor and many Democrats to voice their disapproval of what Obama calls “higher labor standards” and “new tools to hold countries accountable.” The report elaborates on how trade agreements since 1993 have been touted by Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama with the same kind of rhetoric.

The reality is that past agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, along with deals with Peru, South Korea, Colombia and Panama have resulted in “widespread and persistent violation,” the Government Accountability Office found in 2014.

Warren’s report, Broken Promises, gives examples of how administrations of both parties have made bold claims of how free trade agendas support more and better jobs for American workers and guaranteed enforcement of environmental and labor rights. The GAO concluded that the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Labor Department “do not systematically monitor and enforce compliance with FTA labor provisions.”

Today, the emphasis on getting fast track approval and the secrecy of what is included in the TPP raises even more concern.

“While we understand the sensitivity of delicate multilateral negotiations, we as a country must fully understand the impact to working families across America,” wrote 21 U.S. Senators in a letter to the U.S. Trade Ambassador. The letter was in support of concerns voiced by the Labor Advisory Committee, chaired by IAM International President Buffenbarger.

The effects on the town of Galesburg, IL as a result of free trade deals hit home in a sobering New York Times article. The town was front and center when NAFTA shipped IAM jobs at a Maytag refrigerator factory to Mexico in 2004.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators to vote “no” on Fast Track for TPP. Call your Senators at 202-224-3121.