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Perrone and Johnson: Food safety, Local Agriculture at Risk if Congress Passes TPP

via the Colorado Statesman

by Marc Perrone and Roger Johnson on April 27, 2016

downloadDo you care about the quality of your food and where it comes from? If you do, and you should, it is time to be concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The TPP, like other trade deals before it, is being sold as a boon to the American agricultural industry. But the real track record of these agreements tells a different story. In reality, the Pacific trade pact represents a major, ongoing threat to American food processing workers, family farmers, ranchers, fisherman and consumers.

Nearly every trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has  promised to stimulate the U.S. agricultural industry. The unfortunate truth of these agreements is that they flood American grocery stores with cheap and low standard foreign meat imports. Not only is this bad for our families, it puts U.S. farmers, ranchers and workers at a significant disadvantage as they struggle to compete with countries who pay workers mere pennies per hour.

The growth of live cattle and meat imports brought by trade is especially dangerous to the U.S. beef sector. The beef market is more fragile than others because the biology of a cow demands 39 months from conception to slaughter. By flooding the market with unexpected imports, the historical ebb and flow of this cycle is disrupted, harming both U.S. ranchers who raise and sell cattle and plants who process beef. Just since NAFTA passed, 50 beef processing plants have closed, costing our country thousands of high paying jobs with good benefits that were often located in rural communities.

If the TPP passes, we will be forced to accept even more live cattle and foreign beef imports. This will hinder the ability of ranchers to rebuild the U.S. cattle herd, resulting in continued plant closings and the loss of even more good jobs.

In addition to the loss of jobs, U.S. consumers could also be faced with a major loss of appetite. The TPP would increase food imports from countries like Malaysia who have notoriously lax safety standards. And unfortunately, avoiding food imports of questionable origin may not be so simple.

A prime example of this threat happened recently when the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. must forego country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat or pay more than $1 billion in penalties to Canada and Mexico.

The WTO ruling claimed that by telling U.S. consumers where their food comes from so that they can make informed choices about what they eat, meat products from Canada and Mexico were being unfairly discriminated against.

As a result of the WTO sanctions, Congress repealed COOL, so consumers no longer have easy access to information about where their beef or pork came from.

The WTO’s decision perfectly illustrates how global trade agreements like the TPP can quickly put the profits of global corporations above the protection of consumers and more importantly, above American law. In this case, Congress rolled back this once-celebrated law to avoid fines, effectively forcing people to buy meat of unknown origins simply to enhance the profits of foreign corporations.

It is inexplicable how any elected official, whether Democrat or Republican, can support the TPP when it so clearly puts American jobs and our food supply at risk. With these facts in mind, we hope every member of Congress will oppose this dangerous trade agreement. The American agricultural industry and the millions of consumers who rely upon it to feed their families deserve better than the TPP trade deal.

UFCW Joins Immigrant Rights Groups at the Supreme Court to Demand Justice for Immigrant Workers

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In the midst of an ongoing legal battle that has suspended President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the UFCW joined labor leaders and immigrant families as they gathered at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to demand the implementation of the president’s immigration programs. The deferred action programs, known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), would have provided immigration relief for over five million aspiring Americans. Unfortunately, the implementation of this program has been held up in the courts by an anti-immigrant lawsuit that has made its way to the Supreme Court.

Under strong pressure from the UFCW, the Obama Administration gave hard-working men and women the ability to apply for legal work status and some piece of mind. While these programs are temporary and not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, the UFCW knows that they are necessary and long overdue for our members.

Yesterday’s rally at the Supreme Court sent a strong message that the UFCW will continue pushing forward with our efforts to build worker power for immigrants and ensure that when the legal ruling on DAPA and expanded DACA are rendered, UFCW members are first in line when the application process begins.

With Big Help From Local 227, Kentucky House Stays Pro-Worker

Local-227-and-Kentucky-House-300x169Members from UFCW Local 227 helped to propel three pro-worker candidates to victory in Kentucky’s Special House Elections last Tuesday. These wins ensured that the Kentucky House will remain controlled by pro-worker legislators who are committed to raising wages and keeping “right to work” out of the Bluegrass State.

By canvassing, phone calling and having worksite conversations, Local 227 successfully convinced thousands to vote in the special elections for candidates who will stand up and fight for the issues that matter the most to our hard-working members.

Bob Blair, president of UFCW Local 227, was proud that working families were able to win in spite of outside groups dumping large amounts of money into the special elections.

“Kentuckians stood strong against the attacks on hard-working men and women that have taken money out of the pockets of families and put on-the-job safety at risk in so many other states. We are a family, and we work hard for Kentucky families to have a better life because they’ve earned it,” said Blair.

Major media outlets throughout the state credited labor unions like Local 227 for energizing so many voters to participate in the election. The Louisville Courier-Journal, the largest paper in Kentucky, had this to say about the election:

“Conventional wisdom is that much of the bite has been taken away from the state’s labor unions as voters more and more cast ballots on social issues rather than their pocketbooks. But with the GOP nearing a takeover of the House and promising to pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation – which would allow people to work in union shops without paying union dues or representation fees – the unions were energized, especially in northeastern Kentucky where voters witnessed what has gone on in West Virginia with passage of such laws.”

With the stakes so high and so much on the line, Local 227 members in Kentucky proved that by working together, our union family can accomplish truly great things.