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OOIDA: Peters reverting to ‘economic fear mongering'; Teamsters also critical

By The Trucker News Services
Posted Mar 11th 2008 1:19AM

T_Spencer.jpgGRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) reacted to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ plea to keep the Mexico truck program today, saying Peters is attempting “to use economic threats to scare lawmakers” into supporting the program. The Teamsters Union also organized a press conference to voice continuing opposition to NAFTA generally and the trucking plan in particular.

“It’s a sad attempt at economic fear mongering,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Despite their lip service, they well know that the pilot program is outside of the law.”

An OOIDA news release stated that “the economic interests of a few have been placed above the safety and security of many.”

“The Secretary seems to be encouraging Mexico to step in and help the Bush Administration force this down the throats of Americans,” said Spencer. “Where the hell does she get off encouraging Mexico to impose fees and tariffs on U.S. goods?”

Spencer said he found humor in Peters’ “contention that the cross-border pilot program presents U.S.-based truckers with a ‘promise of prosperity’.

“Safety standards in Mexico simply are not on par with those in the United States, and few U.S. trucking companies even appear interested in going south,” added Spencer. “The program is being spun as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.”

 â€œThe program is supposed to work both ways across the border, and yet there are very few signing up on either side,” said Spencer. “Big businesses want the cheap labor, but for a number of reasons trucking companies on both sides of the border don’t want to get involved.”

In comments following Peters’ news conference, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa likewise blasted the Bush administration for its “reckless indifference to the economic struggles of working Americans.”

“No matter how many jobs we lose, no matter how many foreclosures, no matter how many people die on the highways, the Bush administration just doesn’t care about the safety and security of American workers,” Hoffa said.

Hoffa pointed out that the United States buys $70 billion more goods from Mexico than it sells to that country.

“I don’t buy it,” Hoffa said in a conference call with reporters, referring to Peters’ concern for retaliatory action by Mexico. “They’ve got a $70 billion trade surplus. They’d be foolish to do it.” 

Hoffa was joined by Dr. Robert E. Scott, director of International Programs for the Economic Policy Institute. Scott said that NAFTA cost 1 million jobs in the United States during its first 10 years of implementation. Without NAFTA, U.S. workers would have earned $7.6 billion more in wages in 2004 alone, according to Scott.

“It’s been really bad for workers in the United States,” Scott said.

Pennsylvania and Mississippi — both with upcoming presidential primaries — are two of the states hardest hit by NAFTA, Scott said.

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