Fair Trade



When our trade policies are written by multinational corporations, jobs are sent overseas to cut costs and boost profits. There’s no dignity of work when American factories close here at home and then reopen in other countries. We can and should negotiate trade agreements that put workers first and respect the dignity of work. That means:

  • Negotiating trade agreements to benefit workers, not multinational corporations;
  • Establishing and enforcing strong anti-outsourcing provisions;
  • No longer pitting workers against each other during trade negotiations;
  • Including strong enforcement mechanisms and no corporate handouts in the form of special corporate courts; and
  • Giving workers a seat at the trade negotiations table.

We know exactly why corporations outsource jobs: low wages and poor labor and environmental standards make it cheaper to do business in other countries. So the best way to stop jobs from going overseas is to require countries to agree to raise their labor and environmental standards before negotiations even begin. These anti-outsourcing protections, which are critical to the dignity of work, should not be up for negotiation. And the United States should not enter into trade agreements with countries who will not agree to these worker protections upfront.

Too many communities in America have seen the consequences of factories shutting down. We know which industries have been hurt by or are sensitive to outsourcing. Unfortunately, American industries in past agreements have been pitted against each other and traded off for other trade agreement provisions in last-ditch efforts to get a deal. We know workers lose when they have to accept the conditions imposed by their employer or risk their jobs being sent overseas. Our trade negotiators should develop plans for sensitive industries in advance of trade talks, and push for agreement provisions that support those sectors and protect them from import surges that will threaten American jobs. In other words, our trade agreements should put workers, not multinational corporate profits, first.

Our trade agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on unless they’re enforceable, and still we have yet to negotiate a trade agreement that has meaningful enforcement mechanisms. If we want our trade agreements to respect the dignity of work, we should take away the special corporate courts our agreements have set up to allow multinational corporations to challenge actions or policies taken by the United States and our trading partners. We should also improve the enforcement process so it doesn’t take too long, allowing countries to continue violating the agreement and undermining the dignity of American workers.

Finally, if we want our trade agreements to put workers first, we should make sure workers are at the table and that the proceedings are more transparent. We can’t allow multinational corporations, who view workers as a budget line item to be minimized, to write an agreement that will help them shift jobs overseas. Our trade policy will respect the dignity of work only if it reflects the input of our workers.

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