AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says it's better to have no trade deal than a bad trade deal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The head of the largest U.S. trade union federation said Monday that a bad deal is worse than no deal, and he urged Congress not to support fast-track legislation that would make it easier for President Barack Obama to get congressional approval for a trade deal between a dozen Pacific Rim nations.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke at a news conference about 10 miles (16 kilometres) from Nike Inc. headquarters in Oregon, the spot where Obama recently defended the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trumka said he’s in the state for an organizing summit, and it’s only a coincidence he was speaking near Nike. He jabbed Obama for his choice of venue.

“If I were somebody who was advocating or supporting TPP or fast track, the last place I would have gone is Nike, for the number of jobs they’ve offshored, for what they’ve done to drive down the wages of every Oregonian and everybody else.”

The fact-track legislation would allow the Obama administration to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could support or reject but not amend.

Besides the United States, the accord would include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Most business interests support the Pacific Rim deal while labour groups have said it will cost American jobs and suppress wages.

The details of the partnership have not been made public. The Obama administration says such a disclosure would hurt complicated negotiations with the 11 other countries.

Trumka said that if the agreement is better for workers than the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, as supporters claim, then let the public see it. He added that the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, knows many of the details.

“What we have seen falls short — far, far, far short of what it should be to protect workers’ rights.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects the fast-track trade legislation to receive a final vote by week’s end. Trumka said he will visit as many states as possible before the vote, and he would be “blowing the whistle” on those Democrats “putting corporate profits before people.”

“The people who support fast track right now say it’s the TPP or nothing,” he said. “What we’re saying is we want a process that lets us take an agreement and make it better.”