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Ironworkers Lead Construction Union Contingent in Rally to Boost Fair Trade, End Fast-Track

Photo courtesy of CWA

Photo courtesy of CWA

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This is a guest post by Jennifer Badgley…

Angel J. Dominguez, General Organizer of the Ironworkers International Union, and a group of young DC-area ironworkers joined more than 1,000 working family advocates and allies at a rally near the U.S. Capitol last week in opposition to fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals that ignore the rights of workers.  Dominguez said they were at the rally, which was organized by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), because the Ironworkers want to make sure young local workers who are organizing at their workplaces can work under collective bargaining agreements that afford them proper training, economic security and lifelong careers.
Construction work is dangerous work, and Ironworking can be especially threatening.  The lives of the people Angel accompanied to the rally depend on the training and skills of their brothers and sisters as well as properly functioning equipment and properly prepared materials. “We need to know more about what TPP means for local workers, local construction companies, and the quality and price of construction materials that we use every day before we fast track any trade deal,” Dominguez said.
The Ironworkers weren’t the only construction union making their voices heard at the Capitol.  Members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) waved signs bearing their clenched-fist logo and simple “Solidarity!” slogan.  The painters were energized when a long-time member of their union, Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), addressed the crowd, saying, “This is the biggest and the baddest of the trade deals.  This is NAFTA on steroids… This is everything that we’ve seen in the past that has cost American jobs and will continue to cost American jobs. And yet, we don’t even know what’s in it.”
The TPP is a trade deal being negotiated, in secret, between the U.S. and 11 other countries. In its current form it would allow multinational corporations to challenge the laws passed by elected officials at every level of government.  Fast-track authority would usurp Congressional power, permitting the House and Senate to vote simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the deal without amendments. Although consideration of fast-track has been staved off until after the November elections, union members and their community partners known there is much work to be done to avoid a trade disaster.
Unions want working people at the negotiating table.  Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) magnified this point:
“When fast-track was brought up, we said ‘Look, we don’t agree to fast track. If anything, we have no idea what the hell is in it [the TPP]…We also must ensure there is transparency. …so those in the labor movement have a right to see all the documents that the business world sees.”
From bricklayers and electricians to Teamsters, insulators, plumbers and pipefitters, a unified construction union call for fair trade that expands American opportunity was heard last week. “We work for big multinational companies and we work for small local contractors,” Dominguez said.  “We do not want to fast-track any trade deal that puts local workers or the companies at which we work at a disadvantage.”  


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