June 8, 2006 – The AFL-CIO filed a petition today with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) charging the Chinese government with violently suppressing workers’ basic rights as part of a systematic effort to maintain an unfair trade advantage in the global marketplace.
The 301 petition, named after the section of U.S. trade regulations, says China’s failure to protect workers’ rights amounts to an unfair trade practice that has cost more than a million U.S. jobs. The petition calls on President Bush to use his authority under U.S. law to impose sanctions against China and to implement a system to verify compliance with internationally recognized workers’ rights.
“China’s outrageously low wages and abysmal working conditions which are indicative of a country which refuses to honor basic human rights—like the right to form real unions and to engage in collective bargaining,” said IP Buffenbarger. “For the sake of U.S. jobs and basic human rights, the President must use his power to compel China to honor fundamental human rights, including internationally recognized labor standards.”
In March 2004, the AFL-CIO filed a similar petition, and while the USTR did not dispute the charges at that time, it rejected the petition, saying Bush was taking other actions to advance workers’ rights. Since then, the situation has worsened.
“Workers’ rights are a fundamental element in a system of human rights. The repression of these rights are unfair trade practices leading to job loss, lower wages and exploitation of U.S. workers, as well as our Chinese brothers and sisters,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said at a press conference today in Washington, D.C. “Exploitation of human beings through repression of fundamental rights for economic gain is both morally repugnant and economically dangerous. The fact is that China is violating international trade law, and our nation is doing nothing about it.”