Two major unions in the AFL-CIO have condemned the labor federation's decision to back U.S. government negotiators' objectives in global talks about rewriting the rules of world trade. The U.S. team's agenda will lead to the export of American jobs, the unions contend.
United Auto Workers President Stephen P. Yokich resigned in protest from an AFL-CIO panel. The federation's endorsement of U.S. objectives at the upcoming Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization "is yet another sign of a serious failure to understand the significance of trade issues for our entire economy and especially for the industrial sector," Yokich wrote in an Oct. 28 letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
James Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, also issued a statement of dissent about the upcoming meeting, which will bring together the 130-plus member nations of the WTO. The Geneva-based body oversees the rules of global commerce. "There is no disputing that corporations have used WTO rules to take jobs away from hard-working Americans," Hoffa said in the statement.
Last week, together with most other members of an advisory panel on which he sits, Sweeney signed a letter to President Clinton expressing "broad support" for the U.S. agenda. The federation said he did so because U.S. negotiators are to push for formation of a working group to study labor conditions and how they should fit into rules of trade.
In a subsequent memo to AFL leaders, Sweeney said the federation continues to question many aspects of the U.S. position, such as opening additional service sectors to foreign competition, and has not changed plans to bring members to Seattle to demonstrate in the streets for a labor voice in the talks.
The Teamsters and the UAW last month also dissented from an AFL-CIO decision to endorse Vice President Gore for president. Privately, their officials cited concerns over Gore's trade views.