On International Women’s Day, Liz Shuler Highlights TPP’s Negative Impact on Women

On International Women’s Day, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler Highlights TPP’s Negative Impact on Women 

By Rachel Warino

March 8th is recognized worldwide as International Women’s Day (IWD). This is a day meant to celebrate the contributions of women to their communities across the world and to continue our fight for global equality.  

IWD may be trending on Facebook and Twitter – and rightfully so – but many may not know that this day has its origins in labor history. The United Nations celebrated IWD for the first time in 1975 but chose March 8th to honor women in the labor movement who bravely stood together on the same date in 1857 and 51 years later in 1908. 159 years ago today, a picket led by women and children garment workers to demand safer working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women was broken up by police. Their sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again to honor the 1857 march decades later on the same day in 1908. 15,000 women joined this historic march to demand the right to vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labor.

We continue to honor their legacy with our fight to improve the lives of women worldwide. Today the AFL-CIO released a fact sheet on the negative impact the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have on women both in and outside the United States. If passed by Congress, this massive trade deal would be a race to the bottom for women making minimum wage:

Modeled after other failed trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, the TPP will accelerate the race to the bottom, benefitting global corporations. If Congress passes the TPP, Americans will be forced to compete more directly with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents an hour. Women—especially women of color—are disproportionately affected by downward pressure on wages.

Women comprise nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers, and a race to the bottom in wages will most dramatically impact women of color, who make up a much higher percentage of minimum wage workers (23%) than their population in the workforce (16%). Trade agreements tend to discourage unionization and increase competition with international workers, which in turn erodes wages and worsens working conditions here at home and globally.

The fact sheet also points out that the TPP would create an economic partnership between the United States and a country that jails single mothers (Brunei), jeopardize access to medicine, and woefully lacks necessary safeguards to put an end to human trafficking and slave labor.

Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer discussed these negative impacts the TPP will have on women across the world:

“This International Women’s Day, the labor movement recognizes that while women in the workplace have gained a great deal, the harsh reality is too many of us continue to struggle when we shouldn’t have to. The bad policies of the TPP are another corporate attack on women and we will continue to fight for policies that lift all women up and recognize the immense contributions we make to the economy.”

Thea Lee, AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff further emphasized that TPP will be a race to the bottom for women everywhere:  

“There is no question that flawed trade agreements and policies have cost America’s working women good jobs and have contributed to stagnant wages and growing inequality. We need to address unfair trade practices like currency manipulation, illegal subsidies and workers’ rights violations and must defeat TPP so we do not accelerate the race to the bottom that benefits global corporations.”

We know that the TPP deal was crafted behind closed doors by lobbyists of the world’s largest corporations and the politicians they bankroll. This deal was crafted to rake in billions in profits for them while leaving the rest of us behind. We saw it with NAFTA, and we cannot let it happen again. On this International Women’s Day, we have to take note from our sisters who stood together 159 years ago in the face of incredible odds. We have to fight back against trade deals like the TPP that will only exacerbate inequality facing women worldwide.  We deserve better!

You can read the full fact sheet by the AFL-CIO here: Bad Trade Deals and Their Impact on Women Globally Lower Wages, Reduced Access to Lifesaving Healthcare and Human Trafficking