Last night the United Auto Worker's Union (UAW), which was bailed out by American taxpayers two short years ago, announced they were endorsing the Obama administration's NAFTA-style free trade agreement with South Korea and would act as liberal "postage stamp" for the deal.
UAW President Bob King decided to endorse trade pact despite strong opposition from his staff.
The UAW then joined with Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, Vikram Pandit of Citigroup, Tom Donahue of the US Chamber of Commerce and John Engler of the National Association of Manufacturer in congratulating Obama on reaching the deal with South Korea.
Earlier in the day, the White House invited interested parties to a briefing where they announced the NAFTA-style trade pact. They embargoed the story until 7pm, however, so that it could be released in the dark of night.
According to sources close to the discussions, King was on a plane from Europe all day and when he landed, the first one who got him was Obama. King told UAW staff that he supports the deal because he trusts the president, and is confident that it will be a good deal for auto workers because Ford has endorsed it.
Ford, however, manufactures in China -- and Thailand, and the Philippines -- so what is good for Ford is not automatically good for the UAW. But by choosing to endorse this agreement, which includes many of the provisions that have led to massive manufacturing job losses under NAFTA and CAFTA, King once again demonstrates that the UAW has become a Chinese-style union: much closer to the interests of management and the government than those of its line workers.
What does the UAW get for selling out American workers? A total of 55,000 additional cars, or about 800 jobs.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Korea Free Trade deal (KORUS) will cost 159,000 American jobs over the next five years.
Sander Levin, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, worked the phones aggressively to whip support for the bill. Heavy pressure is being brought to bear on United Steelworker President Leo Gerard, in an attempt to keep the AFL-CIO on the sidelines. Getting a rather cheap "give" from the Koreans to the auto industry to buy off the UAW was actually quite clever -- because the steelworkers are also being told that with all the cars that will be sold to Korea, there will be US steel used to make them.
Of course, that's a crock. Korea would still face a lower tariff (2%) in the US than the US will face in Korea (4%).
The deal will devastate the building trade unions, also part of the AFL-CIO, who have been the hardest hit by NAFTA-style trade agreements. Much of their work has been building factories in the Midwest, and as those factories get shipped overseas, their jobs have disappeared. In splitting the member unions, the administration hopes to sideline the powerful resources of the AFL-CIO which would otherwise organize to protect the building trades.
It's a deviously brilliant plan, which makes me suspect it didn't originate at the White House. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of the deal, and are already organizing online to pass it.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has also been on the phone, pressuring labor presidents into supporting the trade deal. As someone who raised money for her and supported her when she was in congress, she can officially kiss my ass in Macy's window.
The White House had recently told the building trade unions that they had no intention of dealing with Korea Free Trade for another year. They used the same tactic with the Social Security groups -- telling them they would not be taking up the issue for another year, knowing all the while they would spring the deficit commission on them imminently.
In June of this year, Obama said he wanted to submit the George W. Bush negotiated Korea Free Trade Agreement to a vote in Congress. That bill contains many provisions which are in violation of the pledges he made on the campaign trail, and there has been no signal from the White House or anyone else involved that any fixes have been made other than sweetheart deal for autos and beef.
Earlier this month, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips launched a broadside attack against NAFTA-style free trade agreements. It will be an interesting first test for the freshmen Republican members of Congress -- will they stick with the Tea Party activists who carried them into office, and who largely oppose such deals -- or will they be captivated by Republican leaders like John Boehner, who (like Freedomworks head Dick Armey) strongly supported NAFTA?
Republican representatives Dave Camp, Allyson Schwartz and Kevin Brady also cheered Obama for reaching the deal, thumbing their nose at the same Tea Party members they courted less than a month ago when the election was at stake.
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