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United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts calls passage of CAFTA "a kick in the teeth for American working families"

Source: UMWA

President Roberts praises Sen. Byrd's leadership as West Virginia congressional delegation votes against job-destroying trade pact

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts said today that last week's late-night passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was a "tragedy for American working families that will ripple through our society for years" unless it is undone by a new pro-American worker majority in congress.

"Over 7,500 West Virginians lost their jobs as a direct result of the last flawed trade deal our government negotiated," Roberts said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994. "In addition, our state has lost over 16,000 manufacturing jobs just since 1998, many of them a direct result of NAFTA and other trade deals making it easier to transfer jobs across our borders."

Roberts noted that the West Virginia delegation in Congress voted against CAFTA. "Senator Robert Byrd and Senator Jay Rockefeller understand the threat to our jobs posed by trade deals like CAFTA, and they voted to keep our jobs here at home. Representatives Nick Rahall and Alan Mollahan stuck to their guns and provided early opposition and leadership against it in the House, and Rep. Capito eventually voted against it.

"Senator Byrd has been particularly forceful in his opposition to unfair trade deals like CAFTA. I and the UMWA are eternally grateful for his principled stand," Roberts said.

"You would think that our government's trade negotiators had learned from the debacle that is NAFTA, but instead of including language to make it less desirable to move American jobs to other countries, CAFTA makes it easier," Roberts said. "It's a kick in the teeth for American working families. It will lead to fewer jobs and more pressure to cut wages for American workers as well as Central American workers. The only choice American workers have is to elect a new majority in Congress in 2006, one that will stand up for meaningful jobs here at home.

"Nobody wins with CAFTA except a handful of multinational companies and their executives, who will make billions from the labor of low-paid Central American workers," Roberts said. "The free- trade supporters tell us it will lead to lower prices. What they don't want us to think about are the social and economic costs to American workers and our communities of fewer American jobs, lower pay and nonexistent health care benefits for millions of American working families. Those costs far outweigh saving a buck on a t-shirt at Wal-Mart."


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