White House Loses Labor Support over Keystone, TPP

Published on November 9th, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
November 9, 2015
Friday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report provided a bright job for analysts searching for good news. The economy added 271,000 jobs, far more than the anticipated 180,000 some had projected. Wage growth also got a nominal boost to 2.5 percent over the year.
But the Economic Policy Institute warned that Wall Street should be cautious and not read too much into a single month’s data. Job growth has averaged less than 200,000 for the first three quarters, and the all-important prime age employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) shows that employment is barely keeping pace with population growth. During 2015 EPOP, currently at 77.2 percent, has remained flat which means that the labor market is simply absorbing the new population, and not expanding.
As usual, many of the October jobs were created in low-paying and part-time sectors like retail or the service industry. And the outlook for better jobs has diminished considerably since President Obama has killed the Keystone XL Pipeline and may have opened the floodgates for more immigrant workers through his Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. 
Obama’s historic Democratic base—labor unions—is irate about the president’s decision to reject Keystone on environmental grounds. The Laborers’ International Union of North America called Obama’s choice to kill the pipeline cowardly, shameful and proof that the president cares more about the environmental lobby than the nation’s economic well-being. LIUNA president Terry O’Sullivan charged Obama with throwing hard-working, blue-collar workers “under the bus” in pursuit of his dubious legacy.
Estimates about how many jobs Keystone would vary widely. The State Department said that if completed in one year, the pipeline project would create 3,900 full-time jobs. If two years were required, 1,950 jobs would be added. The Chamber of Commerce envisions 250,000 new jobs.
As much as the Keystone jobs will be missed, TPP could have wider-ranging, longer-lasting and more serious consequences for American workers. For months, administration officials including the new House Majority Leader Paul Ryan insisted that TPP would not have immigration provisions, but would deal exclusively with trade. Now that the 5,554 page agreement has been released, and experts have reviewed it, two chapters allow for the temporary entry of business workers. Foreign nationals could enter the United States on visas including those issued to tourists, visa waivers, and could also come on either a temporary or permanent basis. Since the visas have no cap, an unlimited number of workers might enter and displace Americans.
TPP, negotiated in secrecy, will effect dozens of occupations, many of them paying middle-class wages, and will put American workers at risk. Among the most vulnerable occupations will be consultants, accountants, engineers, and construction workers. Congress will no longer have the final say on guest worker programs. The responsibility would shift to international trade regulators whose job it is as part of TPP to facilitate the free movement of people.
Little wonder that skeptics are out in force. The infamous North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994, cost Americans about one million jobs. Supporters insisted that NAFTA would create jobs, a promise that TPP enthusiasts have echoed. But historically, trade agreements boost corporate profits, not individual wage earners. A no on Keystone coupled with a yes on TPP does nothing to help the forgotten, vanishing American middle class.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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