TPP Pits Americans Against Abused Foreign Workers

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries would pit U.S. workers against those in countries with long histories of human and labor rights violations, including child and forced labor.

Violations that would shock the conscience of most Americans are described in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, annual reports produced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The 2014 report details abuses in four TPP countries: Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico and Brunei.

The worst among these is Malaysia.  Workers there who attempt to unionize are often punished with temporary detainment, wage abatement or firing.  The State Department also reported that Malaysian companies use child and forced labor and employ victims of human trafficking. 

In Vietnam, the state department reports, it is a federal crime for workers to unionize outside of an organization that answers directly to the Communist Party.  This restriction limits workers’ freedom of association because unions are under the supervision and control of that organization, which is not run by workers.

The State Department reported that Mexico legally delineates workers’ rights but fails to enforce them.  The government ignores workers’ safety complaints, for example. Additionally, “protection unions,” which are company-controlled labor organizations, hinder independent, worker-run unions in their attempts to negotiate legitimate bargains on behalf of workers. 

Brunei, another partner in the TPP, plans to execute two final phases in its Syariah Penal Code that would include punishments such as stoning to death for sexual crimes, amputation for thievery, and death for renouncing the Prophet Mohammed.

The AFL-CIO and other organizations have urged the President and Congress to forego deals with countries cited for egregious violations of worker and human rights until after the countries end these practices.

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