Democrats Cave on Free Trade with Peru, Colombia, South Korea.
According to Democracy Now
Democrats say they’ve won guarantees to protect labor rights and environmental standards in all future trade deals, starting with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Labor rights would include union organizing, collective bargaining, and bans on child labor and workplace discrimination. On the environment, countries trading with the US would be forced to comply with existing laws and international accords.
Charlie Rangel (D – NY) defends the deal on CNN as ensuring the right to organize countries party to future free trade agreements. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes that there is nothing in the agreement requiring adherence to International Labor Organization standards. Predictably, if there is no enforcement, labor, wage and environmental protections will not be honored, as they have been entirely ineffective with respect to NAFTA.
Harpers’ publisher Rick MacArthur points out to Amy Goodman at DN that the compromise struck by the Democrats leaves the fast-track negotiations untouched, as they have been since the Reagan Administration.
Approving toothless side agreements gives the Democrats a figleaf’s distraction to show their constituencies, the AFL-CIO and corporate environmental groups. In return, the Democrats can raise funds in the business community on par with the Republican Party.
Leading Democrats have participated in the corporate boards of particularly ruthless corporations for years, but these arrangements would have been more rare in the day of Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Once upon a time, HHH plausably pretended to be a man of the people. Relationships between leading Democrats and corporations are brazen now. For example, Hillary Clinton was a member of WalMart’s board from 1986 to 1992.
Following an election in which Ross Perot had threatened to cancel the whole agreement, President Clinton approved NAFTA with the addition of side-agreements similar to those approved by Rangel. These agreements are entirely abstracted from the mechanisms of government available to the people subject to the free trade arrangement. The result will be the same with respect to Colombia and China, as it has been to Mexico. Says MacArthur…
I keep trying to explain to people that Wal-Mart is not a public service organization, that they’re in the business of making money. They’re also in the business of maintaining these relationships with dedicated factories in China, particularly, where you cannot form a labor union, independent of the All Chinese Labor Federation, which is controlled by the government. Wildcat strikes are met with violence. You get your head busted or you get thrown in jail.
And I also wish people would understand that the same situation — it’s not as disciplined or as rigid in Mexico, but it’s still largely the case that if you try to start a labor union, an independent labor union, that is independent of the CTM, the national labor union, which has historically been a subsidiary of the Mexican government, you get your head busted, you get thrown out, you get intimidated. You’re lucky if you have the CTM in a plant, but if you actually have the guts to form your own union, you’re risking your life.
As the Democrats will make it much more difficult for workers to organize outside the most competitive environment, the Teamsters are approaching the All China Federation of Trade Unions to discuss cooperation. Contrast that with the focus on organizing and cooperative grassroots orientation of the Mexican Authentic Labor Front and the United Electrical Workers of the USA.