Kaptur, Brown’s efforts come to Toledo UAW hall
BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Before a packed house at UAW Local 12 hall in Toledo on Monday, two members of Ohio’s congressional delegation attempted to mobilize local workers against efforts to fast track the Obama Administration’s negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“Our trade deficit will only grow with the TPP and cost us more jobs,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio). “We can beat this agreement. We know what happens when we don’t.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said those who want to fast track the trade agreement don’t have the votes to do so in the House. But she said she’s never seen any president turn down a trade agreement if it gets to their desk for signing.
That is why, she said, the TPP needs to be stalled before it gets to President Obama.
“We are going to lead President Obama to the promised land. He needs our help on this,” she told the hall packed with members from several UAW locals plus other supporting unions.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty that involves the Asia-Pacific region countries of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
Some members of Congress supporting the treaty want the President to have Trade Promotion Authority, or the ability to fast track the agreement and conclude negotiations swiftly.
Miss Kaptur, who vigorously opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994, and Mr. Brown said pushing the TPP through without extended discussion would be disastrous and most likely lead to job loss.
Miss Kaptur said that in her view, those who set foreign policy for the United States often do so without thinking how it might affect the U.S. economy. They will propose a treaty to strengthen South Korea economically, “and never think about how this is going to affect the people back in America,” she said.
Mr. Brown said that years ago after all the promises of NAFTA, he went down to Mexico to see how it was working. He found auto plants that were clean and well-maintained, but they had no parking lots.
“There were no parking lots because workers there aren’t paid enough to afford a car,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Brown said, America and Ohio see its middle class eroded and oft-repeated situations like the one that happened in Tiffin to Vincent Gaietto, a former union president and worker at the now-closed American Standard Co. plant there.
Mr. Gaietto described Monday how in 2002 the company delivered take-it-or-leave-it offers to about 700 workers after it had set up competing operations in Mexico under NAFTA. In 2007, the plant was sold to Bain Capital Partners, who opted to close the plant just days after the sale. That put 165 employees out of work.
Mr. Gaietto said if others don’t want to suffer a similar fate, workers must fight “for fair trade, not free trade.”
At Monday’s meeting, Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said under NAFTA, 60,000 U.S. factories have closed and Ohio faced an import-export deficit of $18 billion in 2014.
It is crucial, he said, for Ohio’s congressional delegation to understand that the TPP could lead to even more job loss and a blow to the state’s economy.
He urged union members and others to contact Mr. Brown’s fellow senator, Republican Rob Portman, and let him know they are against fast track and the TPP by writing letters and calling Mr. Portman’s constituent hotline.
“We can stand by and get rolled over or stand up and fight,” Mr. Burga said.