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Latest News - December 2010

November 09, 2010
AFL-CIO, Steelworkers Split with Auto Union on Korea Trade Deal
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
By: Holly Rosenkrantz

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. union group, and the United Steelworkers oppose the Obama administration’s trade agreement with South Korea, splitting with unions representing auto and farm workers.

“The labor movement’s concerns about the Korea trade deal go” to a “fundamental question about what a fairer and more balanced trade policy should look like,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today in an e-mailed statement.

The AFL-CIO split with the United Automobile Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers, which back the agreement that will scale back tariffs on cars and beef. Michigan Representatives Sander Levin, a Democrat and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Dave Camp, a Republican who becomes chairman next year, also endorse the agreement, signaling bipartisan support.

Obama administration allies such as the Steelworkers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers joined Trumka to oppose the Korea agreement.

Labor unions have fought free-trade agreements in the past, saying the deals will cost American jobs. The UAW, a member of the AFL-CIO, praised the agreement reached Dec. 3 and said the pact will increase U.S. auto exports to South Korea.

“An agreement was achieved that will protect current American auto jobs, that will grow more American auto jobs, that includes labor and environmental commitments, and that has important enforcement mechanisms,” the UAW said in a Dec. 3 statement.

Currency Manipulation

Trumka said the Korea pact “fails to address the potential problem of currency manipulation” and has lax provisions for determining where products are made in order to determine tariff liability. The deal doesn’t resolve human-rights concerns and “does nothing to improve or strengthen the provisions negotiated by President George W. Bush in those key areas,” Trumka said

President Barack Obama has hailed the trade accord as a “win-win” for both countries that offers more choices for Korean consumers and more jobs for American workers.

“From the beginning of the process, all stakeholders, including organized labor, have had a seat at the table,” Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The support from the UAW and a bipartisan group of lawmakers “has shown he made the right choice and that the final deal” will boost the U.S. economy, she said.



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