Labor, House Dems Stall Panama Trade Deal

06/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There's little question that the Obama administration has tacked hard to the right on international economic policy since coming in to office. Its efforts to ram $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund through Congress via the war supplemental without reform language that would stop the IMF from making recessions worse through demands for budget cuts -- as the IMF is now doing in Latvia -- are just the most recent example.

But if the Wall Street boys thought they were just going to run the table on international economic policy in this administration, they had another think coming.

Bloomberg reports:

A U.S. trade accord with Panama, which is opposed by labor unions, won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new "framework" for trade, an administration official said.

The decision, announced by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, is a reversal from statements in March that the U.S. wanted to pass the accord soon.

As Bloomberg notes, this announcement followed two key developments:

Eissenstat's comments follow remarks by John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO labor federation, that unions would oppose a rush to ratify the deal. Also today, 55 House Democrats told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reject the Panama accord unless it is renegotiated.

The 55 House Democrats included Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter, who said she would "fight to the death" to prevent the bill from coming to the floor.

These developments should give pause, at the very least, to those who are ready to write off the prospects for major labor law reform this year. It's true that there aren't 60 votes in the Senate right now for the Employee Free Choice Act as introduced. But if the Chamber of Commerce continues to jam up any significant labor law reform this year, there could be consequences. The Chamber of Commerce has other irons in the fire. Some members of their coalition care about other things more than keeping workers from organizing. They should ask themselves if it's really in their interest to stay joined at the hip to Wal-Mart.