Labor Scores Win
With House Rejection
Of 'Fast Track'
The House of Representatives decisively rejected "Fast Track"
legislation on Sept. 25 by a 243-180 margin. The legislation would have renewed President
Clintons authority to negotiate trade agreements that could not be amended by
The defeat of fast track was a labor victory. UE and other unions saw the
fast-track vote as a prelude to expansion of NAFTA or the Multilateral Agreement on
While the Clinton Administration supports fast track, the White House
would have preferred waiting until next year to bring the measure to a vote. Most
"yes" votes came from Republicans; some Democratic supporters of fast track
voted "no" because they saw last months vote as an attempt to embarrass
their party during an election year.
The White House pulled a fast-track bill last year when it became clear
that a number of Democrats would oppose the measure.
House Speaker Newt Gringich taunted the Democratic "no" voters,
saying: "You know what the real issue is. The real issue is that your unions
wont let you vote for free trade."
But opponents of fast track, led by Democratic Whip David Bonior (D.,
Mich.), emphasized their opposition was based on what Bonior termed the "grim harvest
of NAFTA:" lost jobs, the impact on family farms and child labor and an increase in
drug trafficking. The issue, said Rep. Peter Visclosky (D, Ind.), is the 72 people who
lose their jobs every day because of NAFTA.
Calling fast track and NAFTA "a race to the bottom," Rep. Bernie
Sanders (I., Vt.) said, "We need to help poor people of the world get higher
standards, not watch ours go down."