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 WydenClimate advocates turn sights on Wall Street Democrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Pelosi open to scrapping key components in spending package MORE (Ore.), House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal (Mass.), and Trade Subcommittee ranking members Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Manchin, Sanders to seek deal on Biden agenda Democrats struggle to gain steam on Biden spending plan 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 AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaOn The Money: Trump slams relief bill, calls on Congress to increase stimulus money | Biden faces new critical deadlines after relief package | Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority MORE, Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' 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.