AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, international trade policy has had a tremendous impact upon the American economy and on the jobs of workers around the world, and current negotiations over trade policy and trade in services threaten the rights of workers and our ability to reclaim the promise of America; and

WHEREAS, the last 30 years of U.S. trade policy have had significant global and domestic effects on workers' rights, wages, climate change, corporate dominance, financial investment, consumer safety and the wealth gap; and

WHEREAS, after 20 years of trade agreements modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement, evidence has shown that NAFTA has led to increased corporate profits at the expense of working families and increased protection of foreign investors but not workers or our environment; and

WHEREAS, free trade agreements (FTAs) currently under negotiation with new partners, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are likely to follow the same outdated and failed NAFTA model; and

WHEREAS, our country cannot afford to further exacerbate the economic inequality that has been generated by lowering wages for working Americans—even though our productivity has increased, by offshoring our jobs in an era where over 60,000 factories have disappeared, and by pitting our labor force against workers worldwide, all of whom are caught in a race to the bottom: circumstances which are worsened by recent FTAs; and

WHEREAS, this race to the bottom has thrust workers worldwide into the cogs of neoliberal exploitation, while the internationally recognized labor principles adopted by FTAs—known as the May 10 agreements—have failed to protect workers' rights to freely associate and organize, expect safe working conditions, and bargain collectively without fear of retaliation, threat or death; and

WHEREAS, the labor principles outlined in the May 10 standards will require adoption and enforcement of the legally binding International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention in future FTAs; and

WHEREAS, the May 10 standards have also fallen short on environmental protections and will require greater enforcement mechanisms to ensure that member countries in future FTAs will protect and conserve their natural resources by complying with their commitments to international environmental treaties; and

WHEREAS, instead of protecting working families and our environment, FTAs have done more to protect investors and corporations through investor-to-state dispute settlement, modeled after NAFTA's Chapter 11, under which millions in taxpayer dollars have been wasted on defense costs and corporate rewards; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the TPP and TTIP, the Trade in International Services Agreement poses a serious threat to the vitality of our public services, particularly in the healthcare and education sectors, by promoting privatization, requiring "equal treatment" of for-profit foreign providers and restricting local governments from regulating services; and

WHEREAS, trade in services provisions ought not to interfere with our ability to protect our public sector and create jobs within the private sector through Buy America, Buy State and Buy Local procurement requirements, policies which help stimulate our domestic and local economies; and

WHEREAS, the TPP, TTIP and TISA have all been negotiated in secret despite the public's real stake in the outcomes, yet big business continues to push for even less transparency through Fast Track, a trade promotion mechanism that limits Congress' constitutional power to regulate commerce by publicly debating and amending trade agreements, thus circumventing our democratic process; and

WHEREAS, if given the opportunity to shape trade policy through open and democratic processes, workers, their unions and community members can harness the power of FTAs to promote shared prosperity by using them as a tool to check unfettered corporate dominance and ensure that trade policy not be used as a backdoor mechanism for undermining the economic interests of workers everywhere:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will call on the U.S. trade representative to strengthen the May 10 labor and environmental standards of all future FTAs by insisting that members agree to the ILO conventions with enforcement mechanisms; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call for reforms to the dispute resolution process, which we oppose for its cost to taxpayers and infringement on our self-determination; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to advocate for a strong public sector by opposing the privatization of services which are a bedrock of our democracy; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for transparency and accountability by lobbying against Fast Track; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work toward trade policy solutions that enhance labor rights and worker voice on the job; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with community partners and the AFL-CIO to pressure the U.S. trade representative to allow labor, environment, human rights and other public-interest groups access to negotiations in order that we may continue to track TPP, TTIP and TISA and educate our members about the agreements' potential risks and costs. Mobilizing for action on trade policies that help reclaim the promise of America.