House, Senate Dems urge action on international labor law violations

House, Senate Dems urge action on international labor law violations
© Greg Nash

Four top House and Senate trade Democrats on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to take immediate specific action to combat international labor law violations that hurt U.S. workers.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenScrutiny ramps up over Commerce secretary's stock moves Hillicon Valley: Justices require warrants for cellphone location data | Amazon employees protest facial recognition tech sales | Uber driver in fatal crash was streaming Hulu | SpaceX gets contract to launch spy satellite On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Supreme Court allows states to collect sales taxes from online retailers | Judge finds consumer bureau structure unconstitutional | Banks clear Fed stress tests MORE (Ore.), House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal (Mass.), and Trade Subcommittee ranking members Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyAction by Congress is needed to help victims of domestic violence Poll: Casey holds double-digit lead over Barletta in Pa. Senate race Ivanka Trump to press Senate on vocational training bill MORE Jr. (Pa.) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (N.J.) called for the White House to act immediately to end foreign labor practices that lower wages of U.S. workers and cost jobs.

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They argue that despite promises from President Trump and other top administration officials, the administration has failed to take action to address trade-related labor violations overseas.

“Without enforcement, American workers are forced to compete against imports made with slave and child labor, or otherwise produced by workers facing deplorable conditions overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaSmall businesses just scored a win on health-care costs RNC chairwoman, Labor secretary pull out of annual Latino conference New Labor rule will be a big health care boon for small businesses MORE, Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump cannot blame policy of separating children on Obama North Korea looked to set up communications back channel through Kushner: report North America wins 2026 bid to host World Cup after lobbying from Trump MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE.

The lawmakers identified three actions they are demanding the administration take within the next month to demonstrate its commitment to labor enforcement.

They are calling for an end to cuts of labor enforcement staff and resources at the Labor and State departments as well as urging the administration to spend congressionally authorized enforcement funding.

Second, they want the U.S. to seek ambitious, enforceable commitments from Mexico on labor rights as part of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, which continue in Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday.

The trade lawmakers also are asking that enforcement action be taken against countries that fail to comply with labor obligations.

"The failure of U.S. trading partners to accord basic labor rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, enables substandard wages overseas and exerts downward pressure on wages in the United States," they wrote. 

The lawmakers argue that during the campaign, Trump seized on the issue saying that the absence of labor protections overseas were “undercutting American workers”

“How the administration addresses these issues will, in our judgment, clearly indicate whether it is truly committed to leveling the playing field for American workers or whether it is content to stand by and allow U.S. wages and working conditions to be eroded by foreign labor practices,” they wrote.

The lawmakers will be reviewing the administration’s record over the next 30 days and reporting the results.