LULAC Condemns the Passage of Anti-Immigrant Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act

Today, LULAC National Executive Director, Brent Wilkes, issued the following statement in response to the passage of the anti-immigrant amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by U.S. House Representative Mo Brooks.

“We are disappointed with the passage of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Congressman Brooks which stripped language encouraging the Pentagon to consider allowing DREAMers with work permits to serve in the military. The passage of the amendment does a disservice to our nation by prohibiting a class of patriotic Americans from serving their country. Congress should instead be focusing on developing ways to encourage and properly support all the brave men and women who want to serve their country. Members of Congress who voted to strip this provision need to be reminded that serving our nation is an honor all Americans value – including those in the immigrant community.”

Weekly Address: Creating Opportunity for All

In this week’s address, the President highlighted the importance of expanding opportunity for all Americans — a principle that has guided his work throughout the past six years. This past week, the President attended a summit at Georgetown University where he discussed issues like poverty and inequality, and what we can do to ensure everyone gets a fair shot.

We’ve seen real results in this area, but there is still more that can be done. And lack of opportunity is not the only barrier to success. That’s why, on Monday, the President will travel to Camden, New Jersey to visit with local law enforcement, meet with young people, and hear directly about efforts to build trust between the police and the community in a city that has faced one of the highest crime rates in America.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

Senators Heinrich and Udall Celebrate First Anniversary of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Today, Friday, May 15, and tomorrow, Saturday, May 16, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich  will attend events in Doña Ana County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Tonight, Senator Heinrich will help kick-off the celebration at an event sponsored by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance at the Farm and Ranch Museum. The event will feature a tribal blessing, the unveiling of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Achievement badge for the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest, entertainment, and information related to the monument. The event will also include a “class picture” taken of all of the groups and individuals who worked to help establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

On Saturday, Senator Heinrich will join residents, small business owners, sportsmen, and many others at a cookout at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. Businesses in the area have touted how the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has benefited the local economy.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks was designated as a national monument on May 21, 2014. Establishing the national monument is the culmination of a decade of involvement from the local community. The national monument protects nearly 500,000 acres stretching across the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo, Robledo and Uvas mountains, encompasses Broad Canyon, Sleeping Lady Hills, Rough and Ready Hills, Picacho Peak, Mount Riley, Peña Blanca and Bishop’s Cap, and contains more than 5,000 archeologically and culturally significant sites.

Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall released the following statement celebrating the 1-year anniversary of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Proclamation that was signed by President Barack Obama.

“Nearly one year ago today, I stood with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, my fellow Senator Martin Heinrich, former Senator Jeff Bingaman, and many community leaders from across southern New Mexico to celebrate the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. That important day was the result of nearly a decade of coordinated work by grassroots groups, individuals and community leaders who came together to protect and preserve over 500,000 acres of some of the most beautiful, historic, and culturally rich public land in the nation, and I’m proud to have been part of that movement.

“Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is here to stay, and southern New Mexico is already beginning to feel the economic benefits — it’s strengthening our outdoor recreation economy, creating jobs and attracting tourists to southern New Mexico. We’ve put a star on the map for Doña Ana County and are ensuring the iconic backdrop for Las Cruces will be safeguarded for future generations.

“We have a lot to celebrate this week, but we also have more work ahead of us. I’ll keep fighting alongside the community to establish wilderness areas within the monument and release some portions of wilderness to support the Border Patrol and border security. The story of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is just beginning.”

DPNM State Chairwoman Haaland Expresses Disappointment as Governor Martinez Chooses Politics Over Capital Outlay

Democratic Party Chairwoman Deb Haaland weighed in Thursday evening on Governor Martinez’s apparent decision not to call a special session in order to pass a much needed capital outlay funding bill.

“Governor Martinez and New Mexico Republicans know this bill would help the working families all across our state,” said Haaland from a Young Democrats event in Grants. “That’s why it is absolutely shocking to me that the Republicans won’t put partisan differences aside for one day to conduct the people’s business, as they were elected to do. I’m disappointed, and I’m thinking about the jobs that will be lost and the families that will suffer because of short sighted decisions.”

Haaland’s comments echo those of other Democratic leaders in the state.

“Senate Democrats continue to be ready and willing to go into special session to pass a capital outlay bill, if the Governor will call it,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez in press release Thursday afternoon. “We know that capital outlay projects create much needed jobs in our local communities. That’s why this is urgent.”

“This is the important unfinished work of the 2015 Legislature,” said Sen. John Arthur Smith, Chair of the Legislative Finance Committee. “The projects contained in this legislation are critical to create jobs that we need in communities in every part of New Mexico.”

“Governor Martinez has said in the past she would call a special session if there were a pre-negotiated agreement,” said Sanchez. “As we’ve said before, Senate Democrats will agree immediately to pass the capital outlay package of spending projects of repairs and improvements to senior centers, public libraries, our higher education facilities, and tribal communities. These projects will help stimulate the economy and create jobs in all parts of the state.”

Senate Democrats Repeat Call for Special Session To Pass Capital Outlay and Create Jobs

Statement of Senator John Arthur Smith (D-Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Sierra-35), Chair, Legislative Finance Committee:

Senate Democrats are looking forward to a special session of the Legislature to pass a needed capital outlay funding bill.  This is the important unfinished work of the 2015 Legislature.  The projects contained in this legislation are critical to create jobs that we need in communities in every part of New Mexico.

But time is running out.  The Governor must act immediately to call us into a special session if we are going to restore funding for critical construction projects at senior centers across the state, our higher education institutions and tribal communities.  Time is of the essence.

On the issue that created an impasse earlier this year, how to pay for road and highway improvements, Senate Democrats have compromised and have offered to meet Governor Martinez half way. We believe it is a legitimate solution to move these projects forward.

We have studied the Governor’s tax package, and are disappointed that it does not help ordinary New Mexicans, working men and women, and small businesses. They should be on top of the list of beneficiaries for any type of tax relief.

Statement of Senator Michael S. Sanchez, Senator Majority Leader (D-Bernalillo, Valencia-29):

Senate Democrats continue to be ready and willing to go into special session to pass a capital outlay bill, if the Governor will call it. We know that capital outlay projects create much needed jobs in our local communities.  That is why this is urgent.

Governor Martinez has said in the past she would call a special session if there were a pre-negotiated agreement.  As we’ve said before, Senate Democrats will agree immediately to pass the capital outlay package of spending projects of repairs and improvements to senior centers, public libraries, our higher education facilities, and tribal communities.  These projects will help stimulate the economy and create jobs in all parts of the state.

On the other hand, we have reviewed the Governor’s tax proposal and do not understand why she is insisting that it be included as part of a special session for capital outlay.  We do not believe it will create jobs nor will it generate economic activity for existing businesses.  We do not believe that it will help the small, mom and pop businesses that are the backbone of our economy.

We urge the business community to study the Governor’s proposed tax package to understand how these measures will work and determine whether they will realize any significant benefits for themselves, or for the people of our state.  Before claiming that its passage is a priority, we hope the business community will analyze the bill and its impact on their businesses.

Senator Tom Udall Calls for Congress to End Mass Telephone Surveillance, Reform Patriot Act

Today, during a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Tom Udall urged Congress to oppose a straight reauthorization of several expiring provisions of the Patriot Act and restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records. The Patriot Act provisions — including Section 215, which has been used to justify bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — expire at the end of the month, and Congress is currently debating reforms that would require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance.

“I strongly believe that we should not force through a reauthorization of the Patriot Act without a hard look at the long-term ramifications of the law,” Udall said. “We must look at how the law is being used, for things like the collection of all Americans’ phone records. And we must consider whether that use is necessary to keep us safe — and whether it is in line with the constitutional rights we are sworn to uphold and protect.”

Wednesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act, which ends the bulk phone records program. Udall said in his speech that he supports the goals of the bill, but he wants to make it stronger by increasing oversight of the intelligence communities to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.

“I know we must protect the nation from future attacks,” Udall continued. “But, there must also be a balance. We cannot give up our constitutional protections in the name of security.”

Udall has long pushed for reforms that would balance national security with Americans’ constitutional rights, including two bills to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts. He has also led a bipartisan push to ask for an independent investigation of these programs by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and has introduced legislation to strengthen the board’s ability to conduct robust oversight of the intelligence community.

Below are Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I rise today to express my longstanding concerns about the Patriot Act. And in particular Section 215 — which is set to expire on June 1.

A major use of this section — the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — has just been ruled illegal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If we didn’t already have enough concern about reauthorizing Section 215, this decision should raise alarm bells.

And yet the Majority Leader is asking us to act quickly to reauthorize this law — unchanged — for another five years.

Without significant reforms to the law, I cannot support an extension of any length of time. And I urge my colleagues to listen to the court. And listen to the numerous oversight groups from within the administration, and the millions of citizens who are all saying that Congress needs to rethink whether this program is violating our rights in the name of keeping us safe.

You know Ben Franklin was very fond of saying, “those who give up liberty in the name of security deserve neither.” That’s where we are today.

Congress passed the Patriot Act over a decade ago, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Our nation was devastated. Our security was at stake. But, this legislation was hasty. It was far-reaching. And it undermined the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens.

It still does. I have made my opposition clear over the years since 2001.

The major advocates of this law — primarily former President Bush and his key national security officials — used a potent combination of fear and patriotism to drive this bill through.

I was one of only 66 members to vote against the Patriot Act in the House of Representatives.

I also voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2006 — and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

In 2011, I once again opposed the extension of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act: roving wiretaps, government access to “any tangible items” such as library and business records, and the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

Back in 2001, I said on the House floor that I was “unable to support this bill because it does not strike the right balance between protecting our liberties and providing for the security of our citizens.”

I went on to say that “the saving grace here is that the sunset provision forces us to come back and to look at these issues again when heads are cooler and when we are not in the heat of battle.”

And that is exactly what we should do. To govern in a post-9/11 world, we have to strike the right balance to fight terrorism without trampling our Constitution. We can do both. The Bill of Rights was established immediately following a war.

Our founders knew the tension between freedom and security. Our nation was founded on the right of individual liberty — in stark contrast to the long tradition of total sovereign authority of most other governments.

I strongly believe that we should not force through a reauthorization of the Patriot Act without a hard look at the long-term ramifications of the law.

We must look at how the law is being used, for things like the collection of all Americans’ phone records.

And we must consider whether that use is necessary to keep us safe. And whether it is in line with the constitutional rights we are sworn to uphold and protect.

Mr. President, I urge our colleagues not to be swayed by the false argument — that this provision must be reauthorized urgently. That we will be vulnerable to attack if we let it expire.

Here is the reality. This provision is being used to sweep up the phone calls of all Americans across this country. Yet there is zero conclusive evidence that it has kept us safe from attack.

What we do have, however, is ample evidence that the Patriot Act section 215 has been used to violate the privacy of everyday Americans. I believe it has violated the Constitution.

I certainly agree with the Federal Appeals Court — which last week ruled that the bulk phone records program goes far beyond what Congress intended when the law was passed.

We have a decade of hindsight. Let’s be honest in this debate. And let’s be thorough. The entire law bears careful scrutiny.

Senators Lee and Leahy have introduced the USA Freedom Act to reform the law, while reauthorizing the expiring provisions. I commend their efforts — but I think we can go even further. The House also overwhelmingly passed its version of the Freedom Act just yesterday. It deserves Senate consideration.
Congress has a duty for robust oversight. To ensure real constitutional privacy rights are upheld. I have pushed for this from when I was in the House.

I advocated then for the creation of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

In June 2013 — after details about the NSA’s bulk collection program were made public — I led a bipartisan call for the PCLOB to conduct an independent review. Their review assessed the impact of the NSA’s spying program — on Americans’ constitutional rights and civil liberties.

The Board concluded what many Americans have feared. One, the spying program is an unconstitutional intrusion on their privacy rights.

And, two, it has had almost no impact on their safety.

The Board’s oversight role is crucial. Its independent evaluation of Section 215 demonstrates why. It has an important job — and it requires more support — so it can do its job.

That is why — yesterday — Senator Wyden and I reintroduced the “Strengthening Privacy, Oversight, and Transparency,” or SPOT, Act. Our bill — with bipartisan sponsors in the House — would strengthen the Board. This is key to real oversight and should be included as part of any reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

The SPOT Act expands the Board’s authority to play a watchdog role over surveillance conducted for purposes beyond counterterrorism. It also allows the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to issue subpoenas without having to wait for the Justice Department to issue them. And makes the Board members full-time positions.

Finally, it makes the Board an authorized recipient for whistleblower complaints for employees in the intelligence community. So they can take concerns to an independent organization — one that understands the intelligence community.

I know we must protect the nation from future attacks. But, there must also be a balance. We cannot give up our constitutional protections in the name of security. To do so does not protect our Constitution — and does not increase our security.

We need to have a serious debate about these issues and allow senators to offer amendments. This is important to the American people — to our security and to our liberties. Congress cannot just leave town — and leave this work undone.

I voted against the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act because they unduly infringed on the guaranteed rights of our citizens. I believe that time has shown that to be true. And the time has come to correct it.

We all value the work of our intelligence community. Their efforts are vital to our nation’s security. But, I believe these amendments are crucial. We can protect our citizens — and their constitutional rights.

We acted in haste before. It was a mistake then. And it would be a mistake now to approve a straight reauthorization of that law. We need to take the time — this time — to get it right.

Watch and share today’s video.

Senators Udall and Heinrich Unveil New Renewable Electricity Standard

National RES would pump nearly $300 billion into economy, create tens of thousands of jobs, help combat climate change

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced a bill to create jobs, save consumers money and reduce pollution by creating a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). The legislation, which would help the United States diversify its energy sources while establishing our leadership in clean energy production, would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The bill would create the first national threshold for utilities to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, including wind, solar, biomass and others. It would set an 8 percent requirement by 2016, followed by gradual and achievable increases thereafter to meet the 30 percent by 2030 goal. More than half of the states already have renewable generation standards with specific timelines  and target standards, and the legislation would not preempt stronger standards already implemented by states.

Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) joined Udall and Heinrich to introduce the bill.

“A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico — all while combatting climate change,” said Udall, who helped pass RES legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives and has continued to champion the issue as senator. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states — including New Mexico — have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.”

“Becoming a nation that relies more on clean sources of energy is a common sense approach to slowing the devastating effects of climate change and critical if we want to create a healthier environment for future generations,”Heinrich said. “We’ve seen how successful RES policies are across the country, especially in New Mexico with our abundant sun and wind. Creating a national standard would help unleash the full potential of America’s clean, homegrown energy while putting people to work at the same time.”

An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a “30-by-30” national RES would:

– Increase renewable energy generation 265 percent over current levels by 2030, helping to support and build upon the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the wind, solar, geothermal, and biopower industries today.

– Save consumers $25.1 billion in cumulative electricity and natural gas bills from 2015 to 2030.

– Drive $294 billion in cumulative new capital investments from 2015 to 2030 — $106 billion more than business as usual.

– Spur nearly $4.3 billion in additional annual operation and maintenance payments in 2030.

– Provide an additional $3.4 billion in new local tax revenues and wind power land lease payments to landowners through 2030, creating new economic activity in rural communities.

Leading environmental and energy organizations support a “30-by-30” national RES, including the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Wind Energy Association, and Solar Energy Industries Association.

“Our analysis shows a 30 percent by 2030 national RES is achievable and would provide substantial consumer, economic, and climate benefits,” said Jeff Deyette, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.“The Udall/Markey proposal builds on the success of existing state policies to accelerate the innovation and investments needed for the U.S. to transition to a clean energy economy.”

“The American clean energy economy is already responsible for hundreds of thousands of American jobs, billions in investment, and power for millions of homes and businesses that don’t pollute our air, water, and climate,” said John Coequyt, Director of Federal Climate Programs for the Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club is proud to support Senator Udall and Senator Markey’s leadership to build on this success with legislation that will create even more jobs while protecting the health of our families and our communities from climate disruption.”

“We strongly support Senator Udall’s introduction of the Renewable Electricity Standard Act and applaud his leadership in promoting renewable energy nationwide,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association.“The establishment of a national renewable electricity standard will lower energy costs for consumers, drive new investment and job growth, and diversify our nation’s energy resources.”

Udall has introduced and championed legislation to establish a national RES each Congress since his election to the Senate in 2008. His proposal is based on a bipartisan initiative he introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, which eventually passed the House in 2007.

Senator Udall Joins Coalition Calling for Strong Labor Standards in Trans-Pacific Partnership and Implementation of Standards in TPP Countries

In Letter to USTR, Senators Warn That Waiting to Implement Standards Until After TPP Goes Into Effect Could Diminish Enforcement of Labor Protections in TPP Counties

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman to include strong labor protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to ensure the complete implementation of these standards by all TPP counties before the agreement enters into force.

In a letter sent to Ambassador Froman, the senators expressed their concerns over workers’ rights in Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Mexico. The letter outlined their concerns over lack of protections related to organizing, collective bargaining, and the prevention of forced and child labor. The senators said that these standards must be implemented on the ground in TPP countries prior to TPP taking effect because they fear the ability to enforce such standards could diminish if not disappear after enactment of TPP. The senators also encouraged Froman to address child and forced labor in Malaysia.

Full text of the letter is below and available here:

Dear Ambassador Froman and Secretary Perez:

We write to underscore the importance of including strong labor standards in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to urge the complete implementation of those standards by all TPP countries before the trade agreement enters into force. We are particularly concerned about workers’ rights in Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico. American workers cannot compete against workers in these countries where fundamental worker rights are not protected. TPP has been presented as a unique opportunity to measurably improve the lives of workers in all TPP countries, but only holds such promise if countries are required to meet and uphold the agreement’s labor standards before the agreement is implemented. We applaud your commitment to make the agreement’s labor provisions the strongest ever, and we ask you to commit to accomplishing this objective before the agreement takes effect.

Vietnam: We know you are engaged in discussions with the Vietnamese government about improving worker rights, and we encourage you to continue these negotiations to secure tangible changes to Vietnamese law that protect workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. As you know, currently Vietnamese workers must organize under the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), which is an arm of the Vietnamese Communist Party and does not allow workers the freedom to associate or collectively bargain. An independent union registration system must be established and implemented in Vietnam to provide its workers with the most basic freedoms such as the right to form a union, bargain collectively, and to associate as they choose. If the VGCL continues to exist, we are concerned that workers may be compelled to join the VGCL even after a registration process for independent unions is set up. It is imperative that Vietnamese workers are able to organize without compulsory affiliation with the VGCL, and we urge you to make this issue a top enforcement priority with Vietnam.

TPP’s labor standards will only be as effective as they are monitored and enforced, and we urge USTR to include strong enforcement provisions in the agreement text. Specifically, we ask that the agreement include an independent panel to monitor, investigate, and enforce Vietnam’s compliance with TPP labor standards. Although we have been told that the labor chapter will be subject to TPP’s dispute settlement provisions, previous agreements have shown government-to-government enforcement of labor standards is rare and does not yield timely resolutions of violations. An independent panel with enforcement authority will efficiently and effectively settle labor compliance issues under TPP.

It is consistent with international norms and U.S. law that Vietnam meet and enforce ILO’s core labor standards before TPP is implemented. It is also critical that all components of Vietnam’s consistency plan and the associated monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are incorporated into the TPP text. If Vietnam is unable to meet the agreement’s labor standards before TPP takes effect, USTR’s ability to enact change on the ground will severely diminish if not disappear after TPP’s enactment date.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s labor laws also need to be changed before TPP is implemented. The country’s labor law contains long-standing prohibitions on strikes, federations, and leadership roles for migrant workers. We urge you to convey to Malaysia the need to reject any efforts to establish vote thresholds on strikes or restrictions on issues over which workers can strike. It is also important that the government not have any discretion to cancel or refuse to register unions. Once Malaysia has changed its law, it is critical that TPP provide for the monitoring and enforcement of workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain. We urge you to ensure that any mechanisms necessary for doing so are established and included in the text of the TPP and not part of a side agreement that has minimal effect and will not provide a level playing field for U.S. workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has found forced labor in three Malaysian industries, including electronics, garments, and palm oil. In addition, DOL found incidences of child labor in Malaysia’s palm oil sector. Eradicating child and forced labor must be a top goal of the agreement and would be consistent with ILO Convention 182, to which the U.S. and Malaysia are signatories. We understand Malaysia is taking steps to address these labor violations through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and by revising its migrant worker policies. But progress is not sufficient. We are concerned that TPP efforts to address child and forced labor are being described as longer-term plans that will not be completed before the agreement is signed. We ask for an in-depth justification of this decision and a detailed description of the plan Malaysia will need to implement before TPP is signed, before the agreement is implemented, and after it takes effect. We will not tolerate ongoing, unaddressed child and forced labor in any TPP countries, all of which need to comply with child and forced labor standards before the agreement takes effect.

Brunei: Brunei’s labor laws are similarly inadequate and must be changed before TPP takes effect. For example, it is important that Brunei pass a minimum wage law and to ensure that their labor laws guarantee freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain. Although Brunei is a city-state with the smallest workforce in TPP, their laws and regulations must meet TPP’s labor standards and be implemented accordingly.

In addition to problems with its labor laws, Brunei’s poor human rights record, including its adoption of a new penal code last year, is deeply troubling. We urge USTR and the TPP labor chapter to address inconsistencies between local laws in Brunei and international labor standards. For example, we believe that the principles of Brunei’s current legal system are antithetical to the terms of ILO Core Convention Number 111.

Mexico: Mexico’s ongoing, serious violations of worker rights must also be addressed in TPP. Mexico’s labor laws are inconsistent with ILO standards and with the TPP labor chapter. In addition, rampant corruption and impunity have corroded the institutions intended to afford workers the right to organize and collectively bargain. Mexico’s labor boards, for example, are overrun by political bias, and the process for electing worker representatives is complicated and opaque. The boards have narrowly interpreted the right to strike, often denying strikes for technical reasons. Protection contracts cover workers’ pay and conditions but are not negotiated or approved by them. These contracts and the lack of collective bargaining deny workers the right to demand better wages or working environments. And employer-run “unions” intimidate and threaten workers who try to exercise their fundamental rights.

Mexico’s 2012 labor reform did not address widespread violations of workers’ rights, and we fear the Mexican government will not bring the law and implementation into compliance with international standards on its own. The Mexican government has had three years to implement these changes, and yet little to no progress has been made. We ask USTR to convey the need for Mexico to make the necessary statutory changes to its labor law and implement the reforms before TPP takes effect. Lastly, we request that you provide us with the details of these consultations and the improvements to workers’ rights that will be required of Mexico.

Improving workers’ rights in these four countries should be a top priority of the TPP negotiations, and we appreciate your work to improve labor standards in Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico. American workers are the most productive in the world, but they cannot compete against workers who are paid pennies, denied their right to collectively bargain, or forced to work in unsafe conditions. That is why we want to stress the importance of achieving meaningful changes to labor standards in law and on the ground for workers in these countries. The U.S. has maximum leverage to accomplish these objectives during the negotiations and before the agreement takes effect. We urge you to incorporate commitments to improve labor standards in the base text of TPP and to require implementation and enforcement of those standards before its benefits begin to accrue.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter, and we look forward to working with you to advance international workers’ rights.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Senator Bob Casey
U.S. Senator Al Franken
U.S. Senator Ed Markey
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
U.S. Senator Gary Peters
U.S. Senator Tom Udall
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

Weekly Address: Honoring the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

In this week’s address, the President honored the 70th anniversary of V-E Day. On this occasion, we commemorate the Allied victory in Europe during World War II. It is a day to pay tribute to the men and women who decades ago served and sacrificed for the cause of freedom. This was the generation that, by ending the war, literally saved the world, laying a foundation for peace.

The President asked that in addition to commemorating this important anniversary, we honor the men and women in uniform who currently serve our country, and recommit ourselves to the values we share with our allies in Europe and beyond: freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world.

Watch and share President Obama’s weekly address.

New Mexico Senate Democrats Call For Special Session

Senate Democrats have released the following statement regarding a Special Session of the New Mexico Legislature:

New Mexicans from across the state have called for a Special Session on capital outlay. The Senate Democrats have heard that call, and are ready to go into Session to pass a capital outlay bill.

The Senate Democrats agreed tonight on a capital outlay proposal put forth by lead caucus negotiator Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra-35). The package restores funding to senior centers, higher education institutions, and tribal communities.  The package also contains a compromise on highway funding.

The package was developed as a result of discussions with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and after listening to the needs of local communities, businesses, and tribal groups. It will create approximately 10-15 thousand new jobs over the next three years.

Time is of the essence, and Senate Democrats are ready to begin Session subject to the call.

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