Jan 13, 2015
CWA President Larry Cohen, recalling his trip last fall to Honduras in the wake of Central American children flooding U.S. border areas to escape poverty and violence in their nations, talked about a nightmare future even worse than the one created by the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
Experts agree CAFTA fueled that migration crisis when that bad trade deal ruptured the rural and subsistence farming that was long a way of life people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador before Big Ag seized their lands and pushed the people into cities in hope of jobs. The cities, teeming with people, many of them unemployed, became crime-ridden.
San Pedro Sula became reputed as the most violent city in the world outside a war zone. So, young people surged to the U.S., seeking a safe haven, but only to be deported right back into the violence and poverty they were trying to escape. Cohen met planeloads of these young people, handcuffed as they got off at the San Pedro Sula Airport.
They told Cohen they would bide their time and make another effort to return to the United States.
“What I saw in Honduras in those four days has continued to shock me and the sadness,” Cohen, talking about his trip, told a roomful of people on Capitol Hill today,” “I felt as an American, ten years into CAFTA, I don't think I could convey that. And I felt that really constantly.”
Cohen, during a tour of a Fruit-of-the-Loom factory, pulled a manager aside and asked what would the Trans-Pacific Partnership do to his factory, if it were to gain approval. The TPP, which is still being negotiated, is a gigantic deal that dwarfs all previous trade deals as Pacific Rim nations like Vietnam vie to be dumping grounds for low wage jobs. Hundreds of American corporations, chasing lower costs through cheap wages, are pushing for this devastating trade deal to be approved.
The manager’s response to Cohen was telling.
“We cannot compete with that cost structure,” he told Cohen. “It's hard enough for us to compete with the rest of the Hanes and others that are in these enterprise zones.”
Vietnam, with average hourly wage of less than $1, is a major center for this kind of low impact final assembly of clothing. Should the TPP pass, all those lamented Central American jobs will be headed to Southeast Asia. The unending nightmare of scared children swarming American borders, looking for safety, may just be a prelude that the worst is yet to come. If the TPP becomes a reality, its destabilizing force could be felt across the whole wide world.