PITTSBURGH – Flanked by local labor leaders and Pennsylvania workers, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday said trade deals he opposed and Hillary Clinton supported have devastated Pennsylvania manufacturing and hurt working families.
“Over the last 35 years, our trade agreements have been rigged by corporate America to shut down manufacturing plants in Vermont, in Pennsylvania and throughout this county,” Sanders said. The result, he added, has been that Pennsylvania workers lost jobs that went to Mexico, China and other low-wage countries.
“On this issue,” he added, “Secretary Hillary Clinton and I have very strong differences of opinion going way, way back.”
The North American Free Trade Agreement cost 850,000 good-paying jobs in the United States, including 26,300 in Pennsylvania. Normalized trade relations with China which led to the loss of 3.2 million jobs including 122,600 in Pennsylvania. Sanders opposed both agreements while Secretary Clinton supported them.
He cited examples of how bad trade deals have hurt Pennsylvania.
In 2013, General Electric announced that it would eliminate 950 jobs at its Pennsylvania locomotive plant in Erie moving many of these jobs to Mexico.
Allegheny Technologies shut down two steel plants in western Pennsylvania last year, laying off 600 workers due to a surge in cheap imports from China.
Hershey in 2009 shut down its York Peppermint Patties plant in Reading. Three-hundred jobs were lost when the plant was moved to Monterrey, Mexico, where workers are paid a fraction of what they were paid in Pennsylvania.
Sony closed the last television manufacturing plant in the United States in 2008 when it closed a Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, plant that employed 560 workers and moved the plant to Baja, Mexico.
Sanders has a consistent record in Congress fighting job-killing trade deals. In Congress, he has led opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal that Clinton, as secretary of state, called the “gold standard” for trade agreements.
Clinton recently signaled that she might seek modifications in the pact, but Sanders said that’s not enough. “I will not renegotiate the TPP, I will reject it. I will not send any trade deals to Congress that make it easier for corporations to shut down in this country and move abroad.”
He pledged to rewrite the worst trade deals of the last 30 years, including NAFTA. Sanders will also impose countervailing tariffs on imports from China and Japan until they stop dumping steel into the United States and stop manipulating their currencies.
At the news conference here, Sanders was joined by President Mike Smith of the United Steelworkers Local 1557-2 and President Scott Slawson of the United Electrical Workers Local 506.
Pennsylvania voters go to the polls on April 26 to decide how the state will allocate its 189 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer in Philadelphia.