Obama suffers Congress defeat after unions lobby Democrats to block Fast Track.

Democrat Senators in the US Congress voted against Fast Track on Tuesday after strong opposition from unions. This represents a serious setback for Obama, as Fast Track was a major legislative priority. It shows serious and growing opposition to the trade liberalisation that has fuelled globalisation at the cost of increased inequality and the loss of quality jobs.

“Fast Track” is the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. It gives the Government the right to negotiate — in secret and out of public view — as many trade agreements as it can up till June 30, 2018.

Unions argue that the bill fails to hold the executive branch accountable for achieving negotiating objectives, addressing the job-killing U.S. trade imbalance (which currently stands at $505 billion) or ensuring that trade deals do not continue the current race to the bottom in terms of pay and benefits, workers’ rights, environmental protections, access to affordable medicines, food safety rules or other vital protections for workers.

Steelworkers president Leo Gerrard said,

“American working families are tired of Washington politicians telling them what’s economically best. We are all living today’s reality of trade policies that have accelerated offshoring and outsourcing of good jobs. Working Americans don’t want their elected leaders using a rubber stamp for a trade deal that is hidden behind a veil of secrecy.”

The blocking of Fast Track is parting of growing worldwide opposition to trade deals, such as TPP, TTIP and CETA, which aim to consolidate corporate power over democracy.

US unions have opposed Fast Track because of their experiences with NAFTA in the early 1990s, which saw a lot of manufacturing jobs disappear. As Tim Dolan of the Teamsters put it an address to anti-TTIP activists in Scotland,

“they got NAFTA and the workers got the SHAFTA”.

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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