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 Wyden (Ore.), House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal (Mass.), and Trade Subcommittee ranking members Sen. Bob Casey 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.

{mosads}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 Acosta, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

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.

Tags Alexander Acosta Bob Casey Donald Trump Labor rights North American Free Trade Agreement Rex Tillerson Robert Lighthizer Ron Wyden

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