Statement by the Communications Workers of America on the proposed Korea-U.S. Trade Agreement:

Washington, D.C.– In July 2010, delegates to the CWA Convention called on the Administration to renegotiate the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) to enhance “larger societal goals of economic justice, sustainable communities and a sound environment, and human rights, including trade union rights.”  CWA also urged the Administration to incorporate workers’ rights into the legislation that would implement KORUS.   Since then, CWA has engaged in discussions with the AFL-CIO and Administration to improve KORUS.

The proposed agreement, as announced, does include positive improvements that address UAW and labor concerns about jobs in the automotive sector, including auto parts operations where IUE-CWA represents thousands of workers.  Further, CWA also recognizes and appreciates the national security value of this agreement with South Korea.

However, this agreement does not meet the criteria adopted by CWA.

This agreement gives investment and legal protections to large multi-national corporations which shift jobs offshore in search of the lowest labor and environmental costs and highest profits.  With no counter balance, multi-national corporations whipsaw workers and nations to prevent and eliminate bargaining rights. KORUS, as negotiated, does not create an economic and collective bargaining rights framework to support the aspirations of US and Korean workers.

The language and protections covering investments and government procurement programs, and particularly, rule of origin provisions that allow up to 65 percent foreign content, disadvantage both South Korean and U.S. workers, particularly when compared to the pending agreement between the European Union and Korea.

Our current economic climate simply cannot support a trade agreement that does not address U.S. workers’ rights and will cost more U.S. jobs.  Further, the Korean union movement strongly opposes the agreement.  So long as KORUS falls short of protecting the broad interests of American and Korean workers in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose it.