Unions expand fight against Pacific free-trade pact, trim contributions to federal candidates

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The AFL-CIO union says it and its affiliated unions are freezing political contributions to federal candidates "until further notice" to channel funds into the labor's intensifying battle to stop or at least help shape a proposed free-trade agreement being negotiated by the U.S. and other nations that border the Pacific Ocean.

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Meanwhile, the Teamsters union called for U.S. negotiators on the trade pact to press for a crackdown on Mexican cross-border trucking as part of the emerging agreement.

Both unions have been critical of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The unions are battling legislation now being considered by Congress to give the negotiations a "fast track" to passage in the House and Senate.

Such a trade shortcut has been used before, notably in the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.

In a statement Wednesday, the AFL-CIO said it and its affiliated unions "are freezing all Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions to federal candidates until further notice in order to conserve resources for the historic legislative battle around fast-track...and the debate" over the Pacific free-trade proposal.

Earlier U.S. trade deals "form a mountain of broken promises made to workers," the union said.

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With negotiations on the trade proposal going on in Hawaii, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked at his daily briefly whether the AFL-CIO stance would make it harder for the administration to find Democratic support in Congress for fast-track authority.

"We understand that there are some groups that have traditionally been aligned with the Democratic Party that are very skeptical of any sort of trade deal," Earnest said. "But, you know, the fact is the president has made a firm commitment to both Democrats and Republicans that any sort of trade agreement that he signs onto will be one that he firmly believes is clearly in the best interests of American businesses and American middle class families. And that is not going to change."

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