State House of Representatives and PA Fair Trade Coalition Say No Extension of Fast Track Trade Authority

Jun 04, 2007, 01:00 ET from Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

    HARRISBURG, Pa., June 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
 President William George and Secretary-Treasurer Richard Bloomingdale today
 joined State Representative Robert Belfanti, Jr. and other leaders
 representing unions, small farms, students and the faith community in
 announcing the creation of the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition to help
 build broad-based citizen support against the reauthorization of Fast Track
 Trade Agreements negotiated by the President. Fast Track trade
 authorization expires at the end of June if the Congress doesn't approve an
     On May 23, 2007, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved
 House Resolution 276 by a vote of 133-66, calling on the members of
 Congress to rescind the President's Fast Track authority and to replace it
 with a genuine democratic model that maintains the regulatory and
 procurement authority of the state and allows for consultation with
 representatives of state and local governments and industry regarding trade
     "Overwhelming approval of H.R. 276 sends a strong message to members of
 Congress to say no to Fast Track," Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William
 George said. "Pennsylvania's workers have also spoken, and they've said,
 that it is time for the United States to protect its citizens from unfair
 trade practices and trade agreements that favor multinational corporations
 and jeopardize the viability of their jobs, families, and communities,"
 George said.
     As a result of free trade agreements with foreign nations that engage
 in unfair trade practices: like currency manipulation, the operation of
 sweatshops, and the dumping of below-cost subsidized products into the
 United States market, Pennsylvania has lost more than 185,000 good
 manufacturing jobs that sustained families and communities.
     "If Fast Track is renewed, corporations will continue shipping even
 more of our jobs out of the country to exploit low wages, sweatshop
 conditions, child labor, political and economic repression, and denial of
 fundamental human rights and environmental standards around the globe,"
 George said.
     "Members of Congress need to exercise their authority to amend trade
 agreements to ensure that our trade policies protect the jobs and living
 standards of America's workers," Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer
 Richard Bloomingdale added.
     State Rep. Robert Belfanti, Jr., the House Labor Relations Chairman and
 prime sponsor of H.R. 276 said, "Fast track authority shuts out appropriate
 review by Congress of trade agreements and severely limits states' ability
 to protect their economy, their workers and the environment. Our companies
 cannot compete with countries where workers are paid a fraction of what
 U.S. workers are paid and where companies don't have to worry about
 protecting the health and safety of their workers or the environment."
     Hershey Foods' recent announcement that 1,500 local jobs would be
 outsourced to Mexico is symptom of the failed U.S. trade policies. "The
 company and the community of Hershey were monuments to company's founder
 Milton Hershey and the generations of dedicated and productive workers who
 built the company and the community," said Jake Long, Vice President of
 Chocolate Workers Local 464. "Now they're selling the legacy and the
 tradition for cheap foreign labor," he said.
     Larry Breech, President of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union added,
 "Pennsylvania family farmers are going under because Fast Track trade
 agreements force family farms to compete with heavily subsidized
 agri-business giants, as well as low-wage and poorly regulated foreign
     The Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition will lobby the Pennsylvania
 Congressional Delegation to oppose renewal of Fast Track and to ensure that
 trade agreements are not tilted in favor of multinational corporations and
 against the majority of Pennsylvanians. The members of the coalition
 include: the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; United Steelworkers, District 10; United
 Students against Sweatshops; Mid-Atlantic Region, PA Joint Board, UNITE
 HERE; Communications Workers of America, District 13; International Union
 of Painters and Allied Trades Council 57; A United Methodist Witness in
 Pennsylvania; Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO; Pennsylvania Farmers Union;
 Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, District 10; Pennsylvania
 Council of Churches; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 13;
 Allegheny County Labor Council; Pennsylvania State Electrical Workers
 Association; and the Pennsylvania Council of Machinists.

SOURCE Pennsylvania AFL-CIO