American Casualties of Free Trade Policies to Brief Congress

Declining Wages and Loss of Jobs and Labor Protections Draws Attention of Lawmakers As the United States Negotiates More Trade Agreements
(Oakland, CA)-In an open challenge to the United States Trade Representative and the Bush administration's economic policies, a delegation of America's working poor from all walks of life will expose the harsh reality behind free trade at a congressional briefing, sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on June 12, 9:00-11:30 a.m. at 2168 Rayburn House Building, Washington, DC. This briefing will be webcast live at: www.foodfirst.org.

U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, argues that free trade helps American workers, saying, ''It is our shared hemispheric vision that free trade and openness benefits everyone and provides opportunity, prosperity and hope to all our peoples.''

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the United States has lost an estimated three million jobs. Today, those Americans who have found employment in the post-NAFTA economy work longer hours, with less job security and fewer benefits. Overall, real wages have remained stagnant and the low-skill jobs created by free trade agreements on average pay 13 percent less than before.

''One of the great myths perpetuated by the United States government is that free trade helps poor people and communities in America,'' said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, the organizers of the briefing. ''No one has asked working Americans what their experience has been. We've had NAFTA for nearly a decade and its effects have been tragic. Now Congress will hear the truth from representatives of the hundreds of thousands of people who lose from free trade.''

Several members of Congress, including Representatives Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Marcy Kaptur, and Sheila Jackson-Lee, will preside over the briefing.

''With our economy on the skids and unemployment on the rise, now more than ever, it is time for us to review how NAFTA and our trade policies have had a damaging effect on this economy,'' said Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH). ''I look forward to participating in this important forum and taking a critical review of these polices.''

''The spectrum of testimony at the briefing is broad, from workers in U.S. sweatshops, to farmworkers, family farmers and unionized workers,'' said Christine Ahn, Coordinator of the briefing. ''As the U.S. prepares to seal the WTO Doha round, CAFTA and the FTAA, this briefing could not be more timely. The voices of these Americans deserve to be heard.''

Testifying organizations include AFL-CIO, American Corn Growers Association, Association of Border Workers, Black Farmers & Agriculturalist Association, California Senate Select Committee, Charleston 5 International Longshoreman's Association, Chinese Progressive Association, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Fuerza Unida, National Family Farm Coalition, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, Public Citizen, Tennessee Industrial Renewal Network, and United Farm Workers of America.

For more information, please contact Nick Parker at (510) 654-4400 ext. 229 or visit www.foodfirst.org.

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There will be a live webcast of Food First and Congressional Progressive Caucus briefing on the impact of free trade agreements on America's working poor. This Congressional hearing comes at a critical juncture in the development of U.S. trade policy and in the mounting global justice movement in opposition to trade liberalization. Check it out at FoodFirst.

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice
  • 110 Trade Justice

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