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ILWU Opposes Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement

Despite potential increases in cargo movement benefiting dockworkers, union opposes proposed Korea-United States trade agreement because it continues failed trade policy and is harmful to workers, consumers, and the environment in both South Korea and the United States

December 13, 2010

VIA FACSIMILE: 202-225-4188
(and First Class Mail)

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-0508

Dear Madame Speaker:

President Obama has reached a trade agreement with South Korea. That agreement must now be submitted for Congressional ratification. We anticipate that the President will aggressively shepherd this pact through Congress.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents approximately 14,000 full time dockworkers and 14,000 part time dockworkers on the West Coast of the United States and in Hawaii and Alaska. Our members are in the business of moving cargo. By all accounts, the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) will increase trade between South Korea and the United States, which will result in an increase in cargo movement between the two countries. An increase in cargo movement is good for dockworkers. However, this fact alone is insufficient to overcome the vast deficiencies of the KORUS FTA.

The KORUS FTA will cost jobs, lower environmental, labor, food and product quality standards, and empower corporations from the United States and South Korea to challenge public interests in both countries. The labor standards provision of the agreement only provides that each country enforce its own laws to adhere to the core labor standards identified by the International Labor Organization. The United States and South Korea’s laws and enforcement in this area are completely inadequate and must be amended prior to the implementation of the agreement.

Labor supported President Obama and numerous other democratic candidates two years ago. In exchange for this support, we were promised a return to policies and practices that maintain, restore, and strengthen the middle class and working people across the United States. For two years, we have watched campaign promises be broken, one after the other, on this relentless march down the road of business as usual. Now, despite his campaign promise that he would only support trade agreements that “put workers first”, the President is pushing a trade agreement, the largest since the NAFTA debacle, that undeniably puts workers in South Korea and the United States in jeopardy.

On December 10, 2010, the International Executive Board of the ILWU voted unanimously to oppose the KORUS FTA. The ILWU will not support trade policy that exacerbates inequities, awards special rights to foreign investors, allows banks to practice the same disastrous policies that resulted in the current economic downturn, opens domestic environmental laws to foreign challenge, increases the trade deficit, and costs jobs. We urge Congress to support the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, which outlines a way forward to a new trade and globalization agenda that would be better for labor, the environment, the economy, consumers, and our trade partners.

If my letter serves but one purpose, let it be to communicate this basic message: we have had it. Today, we join the growing chorus of labor unions who oppose the KORUS FTA. We also ask that our representatives in the Democratic Party stand up, discard meaningless oration, and remind us, with action, what the Democratic Party stands for because we have forgotten.

The Democratic Party needs to reject the KORUS FTA and stop taking its base for granted.


[Signed by Robert McEllrath]

International President

Ray Familathe, International Vice President, Mainland ILWU
Wesley Furtado, International Vice President, Hawaii ILWU
Tom Dufresne, President, Canada ILWU
Ray Ortiz, Jr., Coast Committeeman, Coast Longshore Division ILWU
Leal Sundet, Coast Committeeman, Coast Longshore Division ILWU
Lindsay McLaughlin, Legislative Director, ILWU
All ILWU Locals and Affiliates
Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor
Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Tom Chamberlain, President, Oregon AFL-CIO
Rick Bender, President, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Vince Beltrami, Executive President, Alaska AFL-CIO
Democratic Congressional Delegation, West Coast States
Luis Negreiros Criado, Member of the National Congress, Peru
Cecilio Lepe Bautista, General Secretary, Federación Nacional de Trabajadores de
Transportes y Maniobras Marítimas y Terrestres, Mexico
Albino Vargas, General Secretary, National Association of Public and Private
Employees, Costa Rica


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