Congress will soon consider legislation to give the President “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). As the President of the Northwest Florida Federation of Labor, which represents thousands working families in Northwest Florida, this is cause for grave concern.
Past trade deals have a poor track record and are known job killers (including 118,000 jobs displaced from Florida alone due to our enormous trade deficit with China). What our economy needs is more jobs and higher wages. The best way to do that is by building and fixing roads, schools, rail, and airports, raising the minimum wage, and ensuring that workers cannot be fired or discriminated against simply because they want to form a union.
Trade agreements should only be considered if they help raise wages, create jobs, boost small businesses, and protect against unsafe imports or labor and human rights abuses by repressive governments. Instead of big corporations negotiating deals in secret, we need an open and inclusive discussion, where all workers voices can be heard. Giving corporations the power to negotiate trade deals behind closed doors hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work now.
James Lingley is President of the Northwest Florida Federation of Labor.