STANDING UP FOR AMERICA'S WORKERS
Last week, the House passed a trade agreement with Peru.
Along with 131 of my colleagues, I voted against the agreement, which I believe will hurt working families. Unfortunately, it passed by a 285-132 vote.
In my opinion, this agreement – and the President’s broader trade policy – takes America in the wrong direction.
In our community, we’ve already seen the devastating impact of “free trade.” Factories have closed as companies moved jobs overseas. High-wage manufacturing jobs at Caterpillar, International Harvester, Sara Lee, Kellogg and other district factories have been replaced with low-wage service sector jobs, many of which fail to provide for employees’ health care or retirement.
Across our state, the result of the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements – both of which I voted against – has been fewer jobs and lower wages for America’s workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, California lost nearly 125,000 jobs because of NAFTA alone. Many manufacturing workers found other jobs – but these paid an average of 11 to 13 percent less than they used to make.
Our broken education and immigration policies add insult to injury. Rather than investing in education and training the next generation of American scientists and engineers, we provide temporary visas to skilled professionals from other countries – further depressing wages for the Americans who do pursue education and work in these fields.
That’s why America’s labor unions – including those in our community – oppose the agreement. Both of Peru’s labor federations, its major indigenous people’s organization, and a prominent Archbishop in the country oppose this agreement as well.
Rather than improve on President Bush’s trade agreements at the margins, Congress can and should take American policy in a new direction. We should set the terms of the President’s negotiating authority in a way that honors our commitment to America’s workers.
I’ll hope you’ll join me to discuss trade, real estate and other aspects of our economy at my town meetings on Saturday, December 1st.