Up until now the United States has never had a trade agreement that protects basic rights and raises wages and living standards for working people. Previous ones have failed to ensure integrity of the process and preserve environmental protections. The big question is whether this agreement will have improvements to the labor chapter over the years, and this has to be seen because the enforcement record has been pretty mediocre.
In 2010, the U.S. and Colombian governments with an eye to speeding the long stalled U.S.-Colombia trade deal, announced a labor action plan which was intended to bring Colombia into compliance with the internationally recognized labor rights. Since the plan’s announcement, 105 Colombian trade unionists have been assassinated and even in the new standard it is insufficient for the monumental task of creating a fair playing field. The labor movement has fought for more than 20 years to include labor provisions in trade deals. Workers in the U.S. and trading partners have economic interest in ensuring that basic rights are respected, and if employers can violate the right to unionize, then they can easily bring down the wages. That’s why AFL-CIO working with union federations from other TPP countries has offered suggestions to the government over past 5 years to improve the labor chapter and address previous failures of trade deals.
The recommendation from the labor party includes
(1) The right to bring labor claim based on a single egregious coalition
(2) Clear rules and deadlines that would require timely action on meritorious cases
(3) Protection for migrant workers
(4) Ban on goods produced with forced/child labor.
(5) Independent secretariat to study and review labor practices
(6) New standards related to labor inspections and decent work
There is no public draft of TPP, so the AFL-CIO doesn’t know yet whether any of the suggestions have been taken into the TPP. Countries like Vietnam, Mexico, Brunei and Malaysia are notorious labor and human rights violators which are out of compliance with the standards in the TPP. There is no plan to withhold TPP benefits for these countries. SO this raises serious doubts of whether TPP will create a level playing field for the workers.
That is why AFL-CIO is opposing Obama administration giving fast-track to the final deal. They say that the administration should release a public text and let the people judge for themselves whether this deal will truly raise labor standards and conditions for workers when in history every deal has been ineffective.