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UAW Under Fire For Backing Korean Trade Pact


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UAW Under Fire For Backing Korean Trade Pact

UAW Chief King counters the agreement protects American jobs.

by Joseph Szczesny on Dec.08, 2010

"A fat load of nerve"? UAW President Bob King takes heat on trade bill.

UAW President Bob King is coming under fierce attack from inside organized labor for his support of the proposed Korean Free Trade agreement.

Other union leaders, particularly from the International Association of Machinists, are fit to be tied, according to an article on the political web site “Politico.” The fracas comes at a tough time for King, the new leader of the United Auto Workers Union, who is struggling to find a balance between market realities and rank-and-file demands as the UAW prepares to renegotiate its contracts with Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

“It takes a fat load of nerve for the UAW to be asking others to abandon their long time positions just because the UAW went yellow-belly-flip-flop,” IAM political director Matt McKinnon said during a meeting at the AFL-CIO this week, according to an account on another web site.

King announced last week that he would support the agreement after the Obama administration succeeded in negotiating several major concessions on auto sector trade with a nervous South Korean government., The South Koreans offered the concessions after a military clash with North Korea, which underscored the need for continuing US military support of the Seoul-based government.

“President Obama, Vice President Biden and their administration gave the labor movement, and particularly the UAW, an opportunity to be part of the discussions about this agreement,” countered King.

“Working in collaboration with the Obama Administration….and top management from the auto companies, especially Alan Mulally of Ford, we believe an agreement was achieved that will protect current American auto jobs, that will grow more American auto jobs, that includes labor and environmental commitments, and that has important enforcement mechanisms,” King argued.

The tentative breakthrough with Seoul came shortly after Ford led a national campaign to demand concessions for American automakers. (Click Here for more.) The maker ran a series of national advertisements – and created a special website – to point out what it said was a lopsided trade relationship between the U.S. and Korea. But Ford has since reversed course and is now supporting the trade pact.

In endorsing the changes to the agreement, King said it revised some critical factors that work in favor of Detroit – and U.S. workers. In an earlier, 2007 pact that never won ratification, 90% of Korea’s auto exports to the United States would have received immediate duty-free access on the day it took effect. But, under the current proposal, King noted, that will be delayed five year, “giving U.S. automakers the time to reverse the damage caused by decades of South Korean protectionism.”

Also, the revisions delay for eight years the elimination of the 25% “chicken tax” tariff on truck imports to the U.S., King said. Thus, the agreement substantially reduces the chances South Korean manufacturers will decide to export any kind of trucks to the U.S. which the union exec hailed as a victory for American workers.

“This agreement is an important step toward a global rule-based trade system, an important step in giving labor a real voice in trade negotiations. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration on the issue of global rights for workers — especially the right to organize and bargain collectively,” King said.



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AFL-CIO, steelworkers split with UAW to oppose South Korean trade pact

"It's an agreement supported by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and Americans on all sides of the political spectrum, from the UAW (United Auto Workers union) to the Chamber of Commerce," President Obama said today. "And I look forward to working with Congress and leaders in both parties to approve it."

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The largest U.S. labor organization will fight President Barack Obama on a free trade deal with South Korea, despite changes his administration made to the pact to broaden support and gain the backing of the United Auto Workers union and others.

The revised deal still fails to meet the AFL-CIO's requirements in areas ranging from workers' rights to currency manipulation, said Richard Trumka, president of the 12.2-million-member group.

"So long as these agreements fall short of protecting the broad interests of American workers and their counterparts around the world in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose them," Trumka said in a statement Thursday.

He also said the pact leaves open the possibility that goods produced in a North Korean industrial zone near the South Korean border could one day qualify for duty-free treatment in the United States.

The AFL-CIO has "grave concerns" over the North Korea's record on labor rights and the potential U.S. job losses that could result from competing against workers paid "perhaps the lowest wage levels in the world," Trumka said.

The statement foreshadows the battle that Obama can expect within his own Democratic Party as he pushes forward next year with his plan to ask for Congress to approve the pact.

Obama praised the trade deal in a speech on Thursday to members of his export advisory council.

"It's an agreement supported by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and Americans on all sides of the political spectrum, from the UAW (United Auto Workers union) to the Chamber of Commerce. And I look forward to working with Congress and leaders in both parties to approve it," he said.

The UAW has praised changes U.S. and South Korean negotiators made to auto provisions of the agreement in a marathon negotiating session last week.

The revisions also won strong backing from Ford Motor Co., which had been a vocal critic of the original pact.

White House spokesman Jen Psaki said Obama listened to all stakeholders, including labor, as he sought to strike a deal that "grows the economy and supports jobs here at home."

"The support of certain unions, including the United Auto Workers, plus Ford Motor Company, Democrats and Republicans and a broad group of business leaders has shown he made the right choice and that the final deal does just that."

Trumka acknowledged the new auto provisions would "give some much needed breathing room to the auto industry" and added the AFL-CIO appreciated the hard bargaining that was needed "to win these important changes."

"However, the labor movement's concerns about the Korea trade deal go beyond the auto assembly sector to a more fundamental question about what a fairer and more balanced trade policy should look like," Trumka said.

The United Steelworkers union said it also believed the revised agreement falls "far short of what is necessary to ensure that U.S. workers and businesses have a fair deal."

"We have concluded that, while improved, it still does not merit USW support, and we will oppose its passage," the union's executive board said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20101209/OEM/101209814/1117#ixzz17eqg8VNe

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