For years, the Teamsters have been strong supporters of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislative efforts that have offered support to thousands of workers who have lost their jobs due to bad trade deals. But not this time.
As lawmakers get ready to consider TAA legislation in the House in an effort to sweeten the pot and encourage the passage of the fast track trade bill, they too should reconsider their support of the measure. For while past efforts have provided the necessary funding to cover training, income and other support for this workers, the current version fails to deliver. And that cannot be overlooked.
There are signs that House members are beginning to realize this. While a vote on TAA could happen as soon as tomorrow, bipartisan opposition is stiffening as grassroots forces raise their opposition to the measure. A vote may now slip until next week, or even longer if opponents keep the pressure up.
No matter when it takes place, however, lawmakers must oppose TAA. This incarnation of the bill is not equipped to handle the massive size of either the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In addition, the legislation has other significant faults. It would inexplicably force some $700 million in cuts to Medicare. Given the financial challenges the health insurance plan for seniors already faces, it is unconscionable that Congress would place this additional burden on it.
Medicare should not be raided to pay for unrelated legislation. Maintaining the financial integrity of the program is essential to ensure that it can provide the services those aged 65 and over count on. Seniors deserve dependability for health care services that Medicare gives them. Their needs should not be pitted against those of workers dependent on TAA. Some lawmakers already realize this, but it's time for more to get on board.
The Teamsters also oppose any legislative efforts to try and backfill Medicare in a different bill. We've seen that play out before, and often such efforts don't follow through as planned. Covering the cost of TAA should be handled in the TAA bill. There are other ways to fund trade assistance for workers without undermining Medicare.
In addition, the current TAA doesn't cover public sector workers, who were included under the 2009 TAA renewal, leaving them vulnerable to having their jobs privatized or just scrapped. The Teamsters represent some 260,000 public employees. We cannot allow them and millions of other public sector workers to be left out in the cold as casualties of another failed trade agreement. The TAA in this form is unacceptable.
TAA will be considered concurrently as the House mulls fast track. That's intentional, as it's supposed to give cover to those who vote in favor of fast track to show they are looking out for workers who are going to be hit hard by agreements like the 12-nation TPP that will be implemented if the trade promotion vehicle is approved. But all that will happen is workers will get hammered even more.
We can't allow that to happen. That's why the Teamsters and many other unions signed onto a letter sent to House lawmakers yesterday. It lets elected officials know they are not doing hardworking Americans any favors by supporting TAA in this form.
The Teamsters have been telling Congress for years that fast track is the wrong track for this country. Well, now so is this TAA.