Unions Are Outsmarting Big Business And Winning The Battle Over Trade and TPP

Big business is getting bashed and outmaneuvered by unions who have mobilized and are winning the battle over the TPP and trade agreements.

Politico reported on the grumblings of House Republicans:

Top House Republicans believe the business community is blowing its chance to clinch a trade deal.

Unlike unions, they say, Big Business advocates aren’t flooding Capitol phone lines. They’re not winning over skeptical Republicans. And they haven’t made much headway with business-friendly Democrats who are considering voting for the package, either.

That threatens to create a dangerous reality for supporters of a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim nations: that it will become more politically tenable for Republicans to be against trade promotion authority legislation than for it.


TPP and trade supporters all thought that they were looking at an automatic win. Boehner and McConnell were counting on passing fast track trade authority. They thought that trade would be their big achievement that Republicans could use to prove that they are capable of governing. President Obama supports fast track and TPP for the same reasons that all presidents support trade. TPP is a legacy builder, and as the President hits the final stretch of his time in office, he has fewer opportunities to accomplish big things.

What the pro traders never counted on was a large mobilization of unions and workers. The mobilization against TPP began a year ago, and workers have been flooding the phone lines telling members of Congress to vote against fast-track trade authority.

The conventional political wisdom has long been that unions are dead, but workers are flexing their muscles on trade, and for the first time in decades are set to pull off a win against big business.

There is a movement on the ground that can be felt in this country. The sting of the Great Recession is still all too real, and millions of Americans are responding by taking their country back. If fast-track trade authority is defeating, it will mark a major turning point in a battle that has been dominated for decades by big business.

Unions are on the cusp of a decisive victory for workers all across the United States.

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32 Replies to “Unions Are Outsmarting Big Business And Winning The Battle Over Trade and TPP”

  1. No they’re not.

    TPA will pass this week. Every president has had it, they will not deny this one either. He will quietly negotiate, as all presidents do, with his teams of advisors, then they will hand it over to be public for 60 days.

    Then it will go up for an up or down vote.

    As always.

    And so far, if the amendments and provisons are as they have said they are, then it will pass with wide support of everybody.

    Like always! History repeats itself.

  2. Froma Harrop:Progressives wrong on fast-track trade issue. The case put forth by a showboating Sen. Elizabeth Warren — that Obama cannot be trusted to make a deal in the interests of American workers — is almost worse than wrong. It is irrelevant. Did you hear their ally, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the day after the Senate vote? He denounced TPP for being “patterned after CAFTA and NAFTA.” That’s not so, but never mind. There’s this skip on the vinyl record that the North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed American manufacturing. To see how wrong that is, simply walk through any Wal-Mart or Target and look for all those “made in Mexico” labels. You won’t find many. But you’ll see “made in China” everywhere.- But then we have Warren stating with a straight face that handing negotiating authority to Obama would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank.”

    continued below for space:

  3. But then we have Warren stating with a straight face that handing negotiating authority to Obama would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank.” Huh? Obama swatted down the remark as wild, hypothetical speculation, noting he engaged in a “massive” fight with Wall Street to get the reforms passed. “And then I sign a provision that would unravel it?”

  4. Hillary is not on a fence. She stated her opinion in several ways:

    She said in Austraila:

    So it’s fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.

    To the press:
    “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security.”

  5. continued Hillary on TPP – not on a fence.

    “Both in Iowa and then yesterday in Keene, and today at the Institute, you see these machines, most of which are not made in the United States, but they’re made in advanced economies,” “Can we bring back that level of advanced manufacturing with the right incentives, so that we can compete? It’s one thing if a low-wage country out-competes us, but if we’re competing against other advanced economies, how do we bring those jobs back?”

    Her spokesperson:

    She “will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation” and “improve labor rights, protect the environment and health” in the final deal. “We shouldn’t be giving special rights to corporations at the expense of workers and consumers”

    Where is a fence? Senator Sanders and Senator Warren have access to the deal. Private citizen Clinton does not.

  6. Lets see, the Republicans are all for it, big business (including the oil companies) is all for it. Neither NAFTA or CAFTA has done much to benefit the American worker. So why would one suppose that TPP will be any better?

    I really don’t care about the President’s “legacy”, that is his problem, but his “legacy” will mean nothing if this deal turns out to do as little for our workers as the other agreements have. NAFTA was suppose to have been part of Bill Clinton’s legacy also. That hasn’t worked out so well, now, has it?

    I don’t know exactly what your problem is with Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders, other than they might be competition for Hillary Clinton, but I trust them to tell the people the truth and they feel this agreement is not good for the American worker, nor the U.S. as a whole. And I, personally, do not like all the secrecy surrounding the contents of the agreement. If it is so good why hide it?

    Nope, sorry, I don’t like it one bit.

  7. Unions are on the cusp of a decisive victory for workers all across the United States.

    I don’t trust U.S. unions anymore now that it’s been exposed that the AFL-CIO and Hoffa’s “Brotherhood of Teamsters” were fighting to get Keystone XL passed – the bill President Obama VETOED – thank god.

    President Obama has done MORE for American workers in his short presidency than Unions have in the last three decades for their members. It appears that all they want is to become “king makers” while doing NOTHING for the American worker. In fact, President Obama SAVED union jobs with the auto-bail-out to protect jobs for workers who were facing pink slips. Unions were helping fast-track the demise of those jobs with their stubbornness.

    I’m sorry, but those who side with Unions after the above need to ask themselves who did the most for American workers – President Obama or Trumka and Hoffa.

  8. Yep. They will get 90 days to review it and an additional 120 days to vote on it. Unlike with past TPA bills, this one can no longer be called fast-track since, well, seven months is anything but fast.

  9. Unions ‘outsmarting’ Big Business smacks more than a little like a gambler who has the ‘sure way’ of beating the house, to me.

  10. Unless I’m wrong, I’ll be one to admit one thing, just call me dumbass. yet I’m not ready to wear the tri corner headdress, not yet. Prez Obama would surprise me if I end up being a dumbass, for sure. I’m just not convinced until I see what he’s got in this thing that will piss off the GOP. The first credit downgrade, wasn’t about to happen again. It didn’t. Just want to see what’s in it to tick off some Republicans & Patriots. I’ll call it when I see it. NAFTA’s rules weren’t even enforced even though the damn thing stunk bigtime.

  11. All trade deals have always been secret, they must be so because each country has different deals with each other and they are in a bargaining process. Release it to the public and it is open to the people they are dealing with! you do not show your cards in poker, either.

    ALWAYS, go look at any deal in our gov’ts history, including obamacare. When it is negotiated, it becomes public BEFORE the vote.

    The TPA will be done, complete very soon, this month likely.

    Then, in secret, due to foreigners not being allowed details, Obama and team will negotiate the final deal.

    This has been explained to the public for decades and there is a wikipedia link above to see for TPA specifically.

    It is how goverment makes deals that encompass enormous volumes of details.

    Also, the Democrats are also for it. They just wanted to use a “no” vote last week to negotiate on their own and get the provisions they want added.

    When the deal is done, in a long time from now, we can decide…

  12. Mostly so.

    TPA will be passed before summer break which is soon they just have to debate provisions this week.

    The TPP when it is complete is an up or down vote with no debates. The reason is – it is not just us, it is all those nations. We can’t have those nations arguing with all our Congress critters.

    They deal with the President, the congress approves it or not, he signs it.

    Congress still gets a say, and if it sucks they will have to deal with the blowback if they vote against their constituents.

    Trade is liked by dems. See the WaPo article I linked to.

  13. Neither is now or ever will be a threat to Hillary. This deal shows how wrong they are on some issues.

    Warren has been lying. Totally. And her fan kids do not know enough to realize it. She pumps her fist and acts radical and they buy the grandstanding display of, as obama said “a politician” which was nice of him, because when he said she was “wrong” he could have said what the truth is. She is a typical politician who is wrong and knows that she is wrong so that means she is lying and pandering to her base. I can’t stand PHONEY people. She was a republican for 50 years, screw her. She is good on one issue. BANKING and she took enough money flipping houses in real estate. Obama called her a liar basically but did so nicely. TONS of people know she lied. IT IS NOT SECRET. We will see it before it is voted on, FCS, like ALWAYS.

  14. As for Bernie, I have much less of a problem. He is a good guy, not much more than that. Great for Vermont. Not so much for our nation. Nobody takes him very seriously. He pandered to voters too, his NRA rating was F in 2003 so he supported horrible gun mfg. laws and the Brady Act.
    So he would get votes. I just found that out this week. My other objection is his socialism. Not for me, but that wouldn’t stop me from voting for a person if they were good otherwise.

    He went on TV and instead of talking to him about him they spent the whole interview mentioning Hillary every sentence. Not hurting her but still, what the hell? The guy isn’t top tier and isn’t going to be.

    I know Bernie long ago and he is the real deal, most of the time, but now he is just spouting $15 and hour, free college etc. to get supporters… and guess what, he’s in need of lots and lots of money, although he is “pure and holy” he needs lots and lots. A Bllion. He is a distraction, not a threat.

  15. It is all politics for show. They will be behind this deal, if it will mean jobs and more growth. They hold out support, it is chess, they check their options then go where they get a seat at the table then they stomp and yell and then they smile and support the dem candidate.

    Repeat every 4 years. I was AFSCME. The only time we got really worried was when Trumka turned beat red. Then someone was gonna get whoop ass. We made Rendell then we attacked him for screwing us. Then we loved him again. Dems screw dem unions all the time and these days they have less teeth than ever.

    And obama did do a lot for workers. Unions were holy and sacred in the past, then got a bit too big for their own good, then got taken down some pegs, now are going back to smaller and less states and less power. Even blue states are going Right to Work because of budgets. SADLY.

    I wish everybody had a union job. Not to be. Some of us were lucky.

  16. When NAFTA was made they thought they could enforce the environmental and labor provisions. Turned out they were separate but not equal and when they tried to enforce them they realized a little loop hole that would make it not worth it.

    That was a long time ago and an error was made – not purposefully – but they know better now. There are trade agreements all over they say they need this one to balance against China. We join a pact and have more pull. I will leave the “good or bad” deal decison to experts and that will not be decided until it is seen.

    Then there will be lots of people with fine tooth combs who know if it sucks or not for us. The unions will love it if it brings jobs. Period.

  17. Let me ask you a question. If the unions were responsible for the loss of jobs at GM and others, how come Ford was able to continue to manufacture and sell cars? Ford had the same deal with their union workers as the other companies, but managed to make it WITHOUT asking for a bailout.

    I don’t always agree with the unions, but I’d rather have them on my side than not. Whether you can acknowledge this or not, unions have been the center of creating a good solid middle class. Why do you think Walker, Pence, Brownback, Jindal and all the other red states are so eager to make their states right-to-work states? Get rid of the unions, you have promised pensions tossed, minimum wage jobs, cancellation of health care and no one to fight for them. Is this what you want?

  18. We’ve lost more jobs than the USA can afford. No on TPP. Corporations have to start thinking about making products here to sell here. When possible, I buy American made. If we all did, they would be forced to return jobs here.
    That corporations can merge with a foreign company and evade taxes is unreal. There should be minimum taxes on every seller in the USA.

  19. I’d like to think the middle-class and unions are on their way back, but why didn’t the backlash begin long ago–against companies who export jobs, off-shore bank accounts, RTW, prevailing wage, etc.? I feel like we’ve already given the 1% the entire cake, we may as well give them the cherry on top.

  20. There has always been a backlash. Unions formed long ago and have been fighting like wildcats since. People have marched on Washington and formed all kinds of groups and political actions to fight for sanity.

    Then they go and elect people who lie to them and who bring us to war instead of dealing with economy improvement.

    And they turn Clinton surplus to deficit and we start all over trying to dig out of a hole.

    This year, perhaps, I pray, we will keep control. Dems will transfer power to another Dem – first time 8 years dem to another hopefully 8 years dem.

    16 years of dems – you will see change.

    Give it back to them, you will see war and poverty instead of peace and prosperity.

  21. I never claimed that Unions were responsible for the loss of jobs, but they didn’t help, either.

    I understand that Unions’ only fiduciary responsibility is to ensure jobs – hence their support of Keystone XL – and nothing else. Well, produce low-quality products and consumers won’t buy which in turn kills jobs. And that’s what happened.

    The low-quality of cars produced in American auto factories long before the $80B bail-out and the refusal by the executives at those plants to retool and improve their product were the reasons for the auto industry catastrophe.

    And just so you know, it’s a myth that Ford didn’t get any Gov’t bail-out $$s. It’s true that they didn’t take from the $80B pot, but they did get $5.9B in government loans in 2009, and lobbied for and benefited from the cash-for-clunkers program — contrary to Ford’s propaganda that it is “standing on their own.”

  22. Hillary had a few things to say, basically reiterating what she already said for those who think she is on a fence who didn’t hear her the first time:

    She wants rules that would penalize countries for driving down the value of their currencies in order to give their exports a price advantage in the US.

    She said she’s concerned about a provision to overturn health,environmental and labor rules.

    She wants to judge the final agreement.

    She said “I have been for trade agreements and I have been against trade agreements”

  23. Hillary’s comments on TPP today (listed just above this) and Feinstein explaining it isn’t CORPORATION TERRROR non-sense. (last line is wrong)

    You know, it is just the way our planet has functioned since, forever. Small family owned businesses are EVIL too I guess to hysterical “irresponsible wing” of the democratic party.


    No rhetoric needed. No grandstanding.

    Just the facts of life in this world.

  24. That Jared Bernstein is way over my head but it seems to be he is arguing for the general idea of trade based on many past contracts. Obviously so, he hasn’t seen this devil and doesn’t know its details.


    My ex was the financial wizard and was for trade but surely saw the good and bad of some of the deals.

    In Mexico you see a whole lot of Made In The USA merchandise everywhere. I spent two months in small towns and nearly every item not local (farm goods) was USA label.

  25. Also, forgot to say…

    Bernstein ends with this:

    “I’m all for more trade and globalization, and not just for us but for developing economies as well. And it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t. That toothpaste ain’t goin’ back in the tube. But a useful debate must be informed by the real benefits and costs I’ve tried to summarize above.”

    And that is my point too. In the article above by Jason it is talking about Phone calls making a difference on world trade and the lack of it by proponents changing the decisions of congress. No it won’t.

    Business is in on the actual talks. It is about them not people in the street waving their arms over their heads in fists. Their lobbyists are surely not on telephones to switchboards ranting. They are presenting financial data in large bound info packets to our critters.

  26. Actually, I do not agree with most if not all of Jason’s piece.

    It is not a legacy builder, it is a trade bill, a normal and frequent part of world commerce, a concern of presidents all over the world.

    The parts about FAST TRACK are wrong and it being a great big secret.

    Future POTUS cannot change multinational deal between 11 countries.

    ETC. Those are the obvious stand outs the first time I read what he wrote.

    What is the point? Socialism good, Capitalism bad? Not in the real world.

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