Before Thursday night, Dan Oldham of Cover Hill didn’t know much about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a proposed trade and investment pact between the US. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. He came to a town hall meeting because a friend told him about it and because he’s interested in the local economy.
What he got was a frightening scenario from regional and statewide activists and organized labor leaders: Thousands or millions of more American jobs lost to off-shoring and replaced with workers in developing countries at wages under a dollar an hour, organizers said.
“It’s literally going to destroy workers in the middle class in this country,” said Bob McAuliffe, director of United Steelworkers District 10, which covers Pennsylvania.
McAuliffe was one of a handful of speakers at a town hall meeting organized by the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition and Johnstown Regional AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. The proposal, made public last fall, already is before Congress for approval or dismissal.
The organization offered flyers outlining what it sees as the ills of the proposed pact – those also outlined under the Trans-Pacific Partnership tab of the coalition’s website, citizenstrade.org.
Amy Conahan, the Pennsylvania coordinator for the coalition, started the meeting with a story about her husband working as a crane operator for FreightCar America in Johnstown, when the city still was busy with manufacturing sector jobs.
“This town was once a booming steel town,” she said.
“Free trade has taken what American towns have thrived off of – our jobs and our livelihoods. It has sent our manufacturing overseas.”
Other speakers at the meeting, held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 459 hall in the Cambria City section of Johns-town, urged citizens to consider candidates’ stance on the proposal as the state heads into its primary elections this month.
George Piasecki, part of United Steelworkers Rapid Response program, said multinational corporations have dictated the arrangements set in the Trans-Pacific Partnership – and it extends damage created through previous trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement – which he said has shuttered 60,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities.
“This cuts across every sector,” he said. “This is about our families, our communities, our jobs.”
Frank Snyder, AFL-CIO secretary/treasurer, referenced the recent Pennsylvania Verizon workers strike and concerns that the corporation may ship call center jobs overseas.
“There is no sector where you should feel safe,” he said. “It’s not just a federal issue. It’s a local issue.”