Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Build labor rights into trade pact: Worker Institute's Compa
Monday, November 24, 2014

Negotiations on a transatlantic trade agreement between the United States and the European Union present both a threat and an opportunity to workers and trade unions, Lance Compa told German trade unionists and allied groups Tuesday in Frankfurt.

Compa, an ILR senior lecturer who helps lead the Worker Institute's International Collective Action Initiative, spoke at the headquarters of IG Metall, the German metalworkers' union. The threat, he said, would be a deal benefitting only investors, bankers and executives.

If that happens, he said, "the gains from trade will flow uphill to already-wealthy elites rather than being spread broadly to working people and their families in the United States and Europe." The result would be increasing social and economic inequality, Compa said.

Negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are underway between the Obama administration and the European Union Commission, and are expected to finish in 2015.

Despite posing a threat, Compa said, the negotiations also present an opportunity to include a strong labor rights chapter in the agreement.

"A labor rights chapter with a strong enforcement clause can generate a high-road approach to working conditions in the United States and Europe," Compa said. "Negotiators should block a labor market deregulation agenda that erodes workplace standards."

Compa stressed the importance of compliance with International Labor Organization standards on workers' freedom of association.

"It should protect workers' organizing and bargaining rights and put a stop to transatlantic union-busting," he insisted. If the trade pact fails to accomplish this, he said, "American and European labor movements and their allies should mobilize to block approval in the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament."

Compa was joined on the forum program by law professor Manfred Weiss of Goethe University and Professor Christoph Scherrer, a political scientist at Kassel University. The forum was sponsored by IG Metall and the Hans Böckler Foundation, Worker Institute partners.

Compa's talk was based on a paper (pdf) published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, another sponsor of the Frankfurt forum.

The paper is also part of "TTIP: Implications for Labor," a volume edited by Scherrer: