Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was correct when he wrote in The News Tribune that “our nation is experiencing a dramatic comeback" (Viewpoint, 1-30). And we know that the comeback is thanks, in large part, to President Obama’s economic leadership and the secretary’s efforts to protect workers on the job and raise living standards.
So why is the Obama administration prepared to undermine that success by pursuing a trade strategy that will widen income inequality, drive down wages and outsource more jobs?
Today we know the harm that trade deals like NAFTA have caused. We cannot afford a new trade agreement based on NAFTA’s outdated model. But that’s what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is.
As it’s currently contemplated, the TPP would force Americans to compete with countries that use child labor, pay their workers embarrassingly low wages, violate international worker rights standards, and lack adequate food safety and environmental standards.
That’s why saying that TPP includes "the strongest labor and environmental standards in history" is like saying "more nutritious than sugar" or “more popular than Congress.” It doesn’t mean much.
As the secretary acknowledged, past trade deals haven’t lived up to their hype. We’ve yet to see why this one is any different.
(Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO.)