Steelworkers Stage 'End Sweetheart Trade Deals' Demonstrations
Members of the United Steelworkers union are taking part in demonstrations today in 11 cities, including Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Paul, and Houston, to push for passage of a U.S. Senate bill aimed at strengthening consumer protections. The union has been crusading against "toxic trade deals," and its support of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's U.S. Food and Product Responsibility Act of 2007 is part of the campaign.
Brown, D-Ohio, is an ardent foe of NAFTA and similar free trade agreements. His bill, S. 2081, was filed last September and is stuck in the Agriculture Committee. It would apply to food, drugs, biological products, consumer products, meat, poultry, and eggs; it would bar manufacturers from distributing these products unless they have sufficient insurance to cover the entire cost of a recall of the product, including administrative costs, compensatory damages, and costs of any lawsuit relating to the products.
News about the union's "Stop Toxic Imports" campaign is available at www.stoptoxicimports.org. The union currently represents more than 850,000 workers in the United States and Canada. As for Brown, he says trade is vital to America's economy, but the trade deals of the past decade have failed Ohio workers and small businesses. "In the U.S. Senate, I am working to strengthen the coalition for a new trade policy that puts enforceable labor, environmental and food safety standards in the core text of agreements, enables access to affordable medicines, and ensures transparency and accountability in the trade negotiation process," Brown says in a position statement posted on his office's Web site. "I am also focused on combating the illegal trade practices of trading partners. These practices come in many forms. China, for example, manipulates its currency, awards unfair subsidies to attract manufacturing jobs, ignores health and safety regulations, and abuses labor and human rights. The debate is not about whether we should trade or not trade. It is about the rules we use to manage trade in a manner that preserves the economic, environmental, and social progress our nation has made and enables thriving commerce to the benefit of all trading partners."