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Wed Feb 20, 2013, 04:24 PM

Unions hope US-EU trade talks can be lever to change US labor laws

Unions want to use negotiations on a U.S.-European Union (EU) trade deal as leverage to win stronger labor laws here in the United States.

Germany and other European nations have stronger union protections than does the U.S., and labor believes the trade talks could pressure U.S. officials into strengthening U.S. laws. “People in labor see this as an opportunity, not as a threat,” said George Kohl, a senior director at the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

European trade union representatives will be lobbying EU negotiators to pressure the U.S. to strengthen its labor laws in the context of the trade talks, said Owen Herrnstadt, director of trade and globalization for the International Association of Machinists. And with a labor-friendly White House, unions would have a president predisposed to helping them improve labor standards working on their side. Herrnstadt said he “fully expect[ed] that the European trade unions will voice their position with EU negotiators.”

“Now we get to benchmark against a more progressive economy and raise up labor engagement here in the United States,” said CWA's Kohl. “We would hope that the U.S.-EU trade discussions would make improvements to how corporations treat their workers here.”


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