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LI union leaders call on Trump to make trade deals to benefit workers

January 17, 2017
In The News

Local union leaders, environmentalists and liberals called yesterday for President-elect Donald Trump to pursue free trade agreements with foreign countries that benefit both U.S. workers and corporations.

Meeting with Rep. Lee Zeldin in Patchogue, the trade activists urged him and the Republican-controlled Congress to support the inclusion of strong workers’ rights and environmental protection standards in future trade deals.

The activists, who numbered about 35 people, also praised Zeldin (R-Shirley) and other lawmakers who opposed the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP, between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

The TPP has languished in Congress since 2015 because unions say it would lead to U.S. job cuts and more pollution. The deal is probably now dead because it is opposed by Trump.

John R. Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, an umbrella group representing unions, said future trade deals should be about “increasing jobs, rising wages and broadly shared prosperity, not higher corporate profits and increased offshoring of America’s jobs.”

He and others said they will watch to see if Trump keeps his campaign promise to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Zeldin, who is starting his second House term, said he hopes Trump will pursue trade deals with the United Kingdom, Israel and other nations with standards of living that are similar to ours.

The union leaders welcomed Trump’s push to re-examine NAFTA, but some expressed concern about Cabinet nominees whom they said have not supported workers’ rights.

One leader challenged Trump’s assertion that he had convinced automakers to return jobs to this country from Mexico since the election.

Brian Schneck, president of Local 259 of the United Auto Workers in Hicksville, said his union had negotiated the jobs’ return with the Big Three automakers in 2011 and 2015.

“It takes tremendous effort and time to plan to bring manufacturing back,” he said. “This doesn’t happen because of a tweet” by Trump.