Merkley, Baldwin, Gillibrand Introduce Legislation to Level the Playing Field for American Workers and Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), today introduced the Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act of 2019, to support American manufacturing by making sure American workers and businesses are not undercut by foreign imports produced in hazardous, polluting conditions by workers who are paid sub-standard wages.

“President Trump is right that we need to crack down on China and other trading partners who cheat, but indiscriminate ad hoc tariffs don’t meet the challenge. Instead, we need a smart and targeted approach to level the playing field,” said Merkley. “This bill ends the race to the bottom by making the exploitation of workers or the dumping of pollution an illegal trade practice. When American businesses and workers have a level playing field, they can out-compete anyone.”

“Bad actors like China are not playing by the rules on steel, aluminum and paper. We need the new tools provided in this legislation to take on China’s cheating,” said Baldwin. “As the nation’s leading paper producer, when China cheats, our Wisconsin workers and manufacturers lose. This legislation will help level the playing field and support Wisconsin workers.”

“America has always been a global leader in manufacturing, and other countries who don’t hold their manufacturing sector to the same labor and environmental standards should not be in a trade deal with the United States. This would only undercut American manufacturing and hurt our middle class. I’m proud to introduce legislation to help ensure that any trade deal with our nation protects fair wages, safe working conditions, and the environment,” said Gillibrand. “For too long, bad trade deals have undermined our workers, and at a time when the president has created chaos with his lack of a trade strategy, I urge my colleagues to support this bill that works to strengthen the American economy.”

Recent studies have detailed how stagnant middle class incomes and declining wages are squeezing middle class families. A critical underlying factor accelerating the decline in reliable, well-paying manufacturing jobs is companies’ shift to doing business in countries that do not adhere to comparable environmental, workplace, and wage standards – costing American jobs, accelerating climate chaos, and exposing workers to unsafe work conditions.

The Level the Playing Field Act in Global Trade Act of 2019 would treat foreign producers’ failure to meet basic standard for worker pay, working conditions, and environmental practices as unfair subsidies in violation of international trade obligations, allowing the federal government to penalize those imports. Countries that successfully meet benchmarks will be rewarded with streamlined trade and protection from enforcement actions.

The bill also requires that any new trade agreement is made publically available before it is signed, allowing workers and consumers to read and comment on potential deals.

The legislation is endorsed by the United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the United Steelworkers, and the AFL-CIO.

The full text of the Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act of 2019 is available here.