The New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan led a delegation of 50 state labor leaders and rank-and-file members to Washington, DC, on Wednesday March 4, for a National Labor Lobby Day to oppose the renewal of “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
The Lobby Day was part of an ongoing push by the AFL-CIO to defeat any “Fast Track” legislation that comes up in Congress for a vote. In addition to visiting Washington and emailing our Congressional representatives, the AFL-CIO Executive Council agreed to suspend political contributions to lawmakers until after the Fast-Track vote in Congress.
Our affiliated unions who joined us in Washington helped make our lobbying efforts a resounding success. New Jersey was well-represented with a state labor delegation that included representatives from 10 affiliated unions, who spent the day on Capitol Hill engaging in trade conversations with members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation.
New Jersey’s labor delegation was joined by union brothers and sisters from across the country. Collectively, they urged Congress to rebuff President Obama’s request to allow him to negotiate trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves 12 countries and is responsible for 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, with minimal input and debate from Congress.
The National Lobby Day began at AFL-CIO headquarters, where Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre kicked off the day’s event. “Congress should not be giving away their right to amend a bill,” he said. “They need to know this is something we’re going to hold everyone accountable on.”
Reps. Donald Payne, Jr., Albio Sires, Donald Norcross, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Bill Pascrell, Frank LoBiondo, Frank Pallone and Chris Smith pledged their commitment to working people by opposing “Fast Track.” Meetings were also held with Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and with Rep. Tom MacArthur.
Rep. Norcross also expressed his opposition during a Capitol Hill press conference. “This is going to create thousands of jobs, they’re just not going to be in our country,” said Norcross, IBEW 351, the first union business agent elected to Congress. “The one percent is going to make out, and that’s who’s pushing this.” Bad trade deals are responsible for 20,000 lost manufacturing jobs in his district alone.
“We went to Washington to urge our members of Congress to keep our state’s working people in mind when negotiating future trade deals,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “Our state, and the country as a whole, have already lost too many jobs to foreign competition – companies that keep their costs down by ignoring commonsense labor, environmental and safety standards. Giving President Obama exclusive trade negotiating authority will result in more bad deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, which sent jobs overseas and failed to fulfill promises to improve working conditions for our brothers and sisters in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, who are often intimidated by threats and violence at work.”
We want to thank the affiliates who took part in today’s Lobby Day, including United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, International Association of Machinists, Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, American Federation of Musicians, United Auto Workers and the Transit Workers Union.
Thanks to all of you who made the effort to visit our Congressional delegation and help make a difference in the lives of working families.