U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro came to Ansonia Monday to take what she called “a walk through history” — to a time when manufacturing jobs in the Valley were plentiful.
Flanked by labor, environmental, and religious activists, DeLauro used the dilapidated Ansonia Copper & Brass company as a backdrop to rally opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement the congresswoman said will send American jobs overseas.
She said Ansonia Copper & Brass was the perfect place to oppose the agreement — because the business was gutted by prior trade agreements to which the United States signed on.
‘This Is Insanity’
“Not so long ago the company employed thousands,” DeLauro said inside the company power plant off Riverside Drive, as rain poured through the building’s leaky roof and puddled on the floor below. “Today this site is vacant. All of the jobs are gone.”
“What closed this plant?” she asked rhetorically, before providing an answer. “Unfair competition from overseas exacerbated by bad trade deals.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, known as TPP, would bind the United States and 11 other countries, and would require approval from Congress.
Click here for some information from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is negotiating the deal on behalf of President Obama.
As the New York Times reported last week, the debate over TPP has aligned the president with some unusual allies — Republicans.
DeLauro, ordinarily a close ally of Obama, has split with the president on TPP, saying the deal would destroy American jobs, hurt food safety measures and weaken environmental regulations.
DeLauro also takes issue with the president’s request to “fast track” approval of TPP, meaning lawmakers wouldn’t be able to offer amendments, as well as the secretive nature of the negotiations.
Click here for background on DeLauro’s opposition to TPP from a story by the CT Mirror’s Ana Radelat.
“Look at what TPP does: it forces Americans to compete with low-paid workers in developing countries like Vietnam,” DeLauro said Monday.
The minimum wage in Vietnam? Fifty-six cents an hour.
She said approval of TPP would be a repeat of trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which saw American jobs shipped overseas.
Those deals were a boon to multinational corporations hungry for cheap labor, she said. But not the average America worker.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” DeLauro said. “This is insanity.”
Lori Pelletier, the executive secretary of the Connecticut chapter of the AFL-CIO, thanked DeLauro for opposing TPP.
Pelletier said the potential signatories to TPP are “no friends with workers.”
“Vietnam, they have no open labor unions. The only union you can join is the Communist Party,” Pelletier said. “Brunei, if you are a worker and you happen to be gay, then you’re going to be stoned in the town square.”
She said the Obama administration was putting the cart before the horse with TPP.
“Talk with these countries, have them raise their standards first, then maybe we can talk about a trade agreement,” Pelletier said.
Marty Mador, legislative and political chair of the Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club, also spoke out against TPP, calling it a “grave mistake.”
“It will ship jobs overseas, decrease wages, bring unsafe food to our dinner tables, and sell out our clean air and clean water standards, and all we get in return is enhanced corporate profits,” Mador said. “That’s not a good deal for the country.”
Former President Talks
John Barto, Cheshire resident and past president of Ansonia Copper & Brass, asked those present Monday to spread the word.
He said prior unfair trade agreements had ruined the company, and TPP is no better.
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“In 2008 we had revenues of $50 million,” Barto said of Ansonia Copper & Brass. “Now there are zero jobs and zero revenues.”
All that’s left now — a skeleton crew of workers is now stripping the property’s buildings of metals to salvage, he said.
“The fact is the enemy is ourselves,” Barto said. “We have to get our senators and all of our elected representatives to understand what we’re up against.”