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 extension. 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 issues. "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 producers." 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