The Trans-Pacific Partnership will hurt Inland Empire workers: Guest commentary
By Laurie Stalnaker
POSTED: 01/01/16, 2:20 PM PST
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is back, and it is even worse now that some of the language becomes clear. This is a threat to the economic security of working families across the Inland Empire.

The stated goal is that lowering trade barriers will encourage more trade and create more jobs for everyone while providing more choices for consumers. President Obama has been supportive on labor issues, but his support of TPP would wipe out his prior support of working families.

The logic Obama and members of Congress use to support TPP is the same which was used to support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). American corporations sent well-paying jobs to Mexican factories, or maquiladoras, during the 1990s.

As if this wasn’t enough reason to prove that NAFTA and TPP are a race to the bottom, Mexico wasn’t even the bottom. The jobs which were in Mexican border cities in the 1990s moved to China, where wage rates and worker protections are worse.

Hillary Clinton, who supported the TPP while a member of Obama’s cabinet, now opposes the TPP. The TPP issue has not been raised much among establishment Republicans during their presidential debates. It might not have been raised to an important level among Democrats without the outstanding work of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Like NAFTA, corporate TPP supporters claim there are protections for abuses against working-class families and their representatives. This can’t be considered seriously given that the typical wage in Vietnam is 56 cents an hour and Brunei is a Middle East dictatorship.

In addition to the United States, the other nations negotiating this treaty are Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Among countries outside of NAFTA, only Japan and Australia have significant populations and market sizes which might prove of any possible significance for United States’ exporters. How would good jobs with good wages come to United States workers from the nations signing these treaties?

Creating jobs was an empty promise of NAFTA. It is less likely jobs will be created by the TPP. Promising job creation and actually creating jobs are two different things.

The TPP also threatens the environment by allowing dirtier products not meeting American environmental standards into the United States. Supporters of Internet Freedom are also expressing concern about TPP.

The TPP is not good for the United States because it isn’t good for Americans. Among congressional members who represent the Inland Empire, Reps. Pete Aguilar, Paul Cook, Raul Ruiz, Mark Takano and Norma Torres all voted against giving the Obama administration fast-track authority to negotiate the TPP. Reps. Judy Chu and Duncan Hunter, whose districts contain pieces of the Inland Empire, also voted against TPP.

There is still time to defeat TPP, and the chances get better every day we get closer to the 2016 elections. Keep friends, fellow employees and the media aware of the damage TPP will do to the American economy.

Laurie Stalnaker is the executive secretary-treasurer of the Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

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