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Tanya SomanaderApril 20, 2015
02:55 PM EDT
President Obama is currently working with Congress to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most progressive trade deal in history.
The President knows that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. That’s why he is negotiating a deal that reflects American values: A free and open Internet, fully enforceable environmental standards, fully enforceable labor standards, and much more.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down with Greg Sargent from the Washington Post’s Plum Line to talk TPP and how the President’s modern trade deal will put American workers first.
Check out a few excerpts from their conversation below or read the whole interview here.
The Plum Line: There’s a tremendous amount of suspicion about trade deals. Prior trade deals didn’t raise wages or bargaining rights. What specifically will be in TPP that is somehow different from these other deals, from the point of view of the standard of living of American workers?
Secretary Perez: I share the skepticism that my friends have about NAFTA. It was woefully weak in protecting workers and on the enforcement side. The question is: Can we meaningfully build a trade regime that has as its North Star protecting American workers and American jobs through meaningful enforcement? I think we can. It’s imperative that we not default to the status quo, which would mean we don’t fix NAFTA.
We have to bake labor provisions into the core of an agreement. TPP would do that. Under NAFTA, countries had to simply promise to uphold the laws of their own nations. Now the provisions baked into TPP are: You must enact or make sure you have already in place meaningful labor protections, such as the freedom of association, health and safety, acceptable conditions of work.
The Plum Line: On baking in labor standards, we keep hearing that these rules are enforceable. But will it be at the discretion of a future president to follow up on, for example, an AFL-CIO complaint about labor conditions in Vietnam? Or is there a provision that requires President Ted Cruz to follow up on such a complaint?
Secretary Perez: Take the hate-crimes bill that passed in 2009. The notion that you wouldn’t support the hate-crimes bill because President Ted Cruz some years down the road might decide not to enforce it as vigorously strikes me as an insufficient argument.
The Plum Line: But how would the mechanism work? Is it at the discretion of a future president to pursue enforcement? Is the argument that labor shouldn’t be concerned about non-enforcement under a future labor-unfriendly president, because there will be committed prosecutors in place?
Secretary Perez: I can’t speak for what a future president will do. But I can say the structure is indistinguishable from the structure we have at the Justice Department to do enforcement in a wide array of civil and criminal contexts, where you have a dedicated cadre of career professionals. That critique — that a future president may do less — could apply to every aspect of enforcement. Trade is no different. We want to get the best laws on the books. Do we throw up our arms and say, “We’re just going to stick with the status quo?”
The Plum Line: Intellectual property: Why should an American worker think this part of the deal does anything other than help big corporations?
Secretary Perez: In terms of intellectual property, so many of the job creators I know are start-ups. In the IP setting, we can meaningfully improve on the status quo, and in so doing, we can help small businesses, large businesses, and those in between. We have increased exports by nearly 50 percent in the last six years. That has resulted in an additional 1.8 million export-related jobs. We know export-related jobs, in the aggregate, pay more. One way to raise wages is to grow more jobs that pay good wages -- export-related jobs.
Lindsay HolstApril 20, 2015
11:12 AM EDT
This morning, Senior Advisor Brian Deese sent the following message to the White House email list, highlighting the President's upcoming trip to the Everglades to draw attention to the impacts of climate change.
Brian also asked readers to get involved and share a National Park or natural space that they would fight to protect from the effects of climate change, and to share it with their friends and followers on social media.
Didn't get the message? Sign up for email updates here.
Here's where the President is traveling for the very first time this Wednesday:
That's the Everglades -- one of our country's most unique and treasured landscapes. But Wednesday's trip is about more than touring an iconic National Park on Earth Day. Here's why:
The Everglades are flat, and they border a rising ocean. As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians. That doesn't just destroy a beautiful and unique national landscape. It threatens an $82 billion state tourism economy, and drinking water for more than 7 million Americans -- more than a third of Florida's population.
This Earth Day, we're far beyond a debate about climate change's existence. We're focused on mitigating its very real effects here at home, preparing our communities where its impacts are already being felt, and leading an international effort for action. And the President has already acted in big ways. Over the last eight years, the United States has cut more carbon pollution than any other country, while creating 12.1 million private-sector jobs over 61 months; setting aside more public lands and waters than any Administration in history; and releasing a Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants -- the single-biggest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.
Tanya SomanaderApril 18, 2015
06:00 AM EDT
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. April 16, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
In this week’s address, the President spoke about his commitment to combatting the threat of climate change and to keeping ourselves and future generations safe. The effects of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored – 2014 was the planet’s warmest year recorded, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have happened this century.
Climate change poses risks to our national security, our economy, and our public health. The President has already taken historic steps to address climate change, but there’s more that the United States and the international community can do. That’s why next Wednesday, on Earth Day, in the latest part of his effort to call attention to and act on the threat of climate change, the President will visit the Florida Everglades and speak about the threat that climate change poses to our economy and to the world.
The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, April 18, 2015.
David HudsonApril 17, 2015
06:58 PM EDT
Earlier today, President Obama hosted Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House for a bilateral meeting and a working lunch.
At the press conference between the two events, President Obama praised Prime Minister Renzi's energy and vision as well as his "willingness to challenge the status quo and to look to the future," noting that these qualities have made the Prime Minister a leading voice in Europe.
Jenna BraytonApril 17, 2015
06:54 PM EDT
This spring, the President and First Lady will once again open up the White House grounds to visitors from across the country for the 2015 Spring Garden tour! The White House Garden Tours have been a tradition since 1972, when First Lady Pat Nixon decided to open up the White House gardens twice a year.
And, in keeping with President Obama’s vision to make the White House as transparent and accessible as possible, we are turning the annual Garden Tour into the next in our series of White House Socials.
Which means that this year, like the last few, we are inviting some of our social media followers to join us!
We want you to apply to come to the White House: we’re inviting visitors from near and far to apply to attend today.
April 17, 2015
12:48 PM EDT
From the size of your paychecks to the duration of your paid leave to the amount you pay in taxes, this was a week of conversation about key issues facing American families. President Obama traveled to Charlotte to hold a town hall with working women, honored leading advocates as Champions of Change at the White House, spoke about the importance of making sure a woman receives the same pay as a man for working the same job, and highlighted how his tax plan supports 44 million middle-class families.
In case you missed it, here are a couple highlights from the week.
President Obama traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday for a special conversation with working women, co-hosted with leading women's sites BlogHer and SheKnows. He took questions both from those in the audience -- as well as from people asking questions online using the hashtag #ObamaTownHall.
— Chrissie (@chrissie_beth) April 15, 2015
Adam GarberApril 17, 2015
10:57 AM EDT
This week, the President wrapped up a trip to Panama, held a historic meeting with President Raul Castro of Cuba, grooved with Gospel artists, held a town hall about working families, and kicked off a Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride. That's April 10th to April 16th or, "The Quintessential Sounds."
Valerie JarrettApril 17, 2015
10:02 AM EDT
Yesterday, I was honored to join President Obama and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez in celebrating 12 "Champions of Change" — ordinary people doing extraordinary things! Each helping more working parents and families succeed.
These Champions have helped advance policies that are good for both families and businesses — such as a higher minimum wage, equal pay, paid leave, workplace flexibility, and affordable quality child care. Our "champs" are proving that these policies are not just about doing what is right for our families — they are about doing what is smart for our businesses and our economy.
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) April 16, 2015
Jeffrey ZientsApril 17, 2015
09:52 AM EDT
Last year, the President laid out a vision for our job training system that – as he explained – “trains our workers first based on what employers are telling us they’re hiring for and helps business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.” This month, the Administration is taking two key steps to realize that vision – both by partnering with industry and by reforming our own job training system.
Ken MeyerApril 16, 2015
09:42 PM EDT
Last week, folks from a broad range of diverse backgrounds came together at the White House to discuss a common goal: improving the lives of Native youth. Over a hundred nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, tribal leaders, Native youth, and members of the President’s Cabinet joined the dialogue. We heard devastating stories and statistics from young people and research experts about the high rates of unemployment, domestic violence, and homelessness in many Native communities.
But, we also heard stories of hope. Nonprofit, philanthropic, federal agency, and tribal leaders discussed the work they are doing to create opportunities for Native young people to use their intellect and perseverance to achieve great things. Native youth shared stories about strengthening their communities through public service and community engagement. Members of the President’s Cabinet described the importance of new Federal investments in education, health, and economic development in Indian Country.
The First Lady provided remarks and talked about her visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation last June. She described her visit with the President to Cannon Ball, North Dakota -- part of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation -- and the pride, courage, determination, and maturity she witnessed there. And, with those ideals in mind, she noted both the urgency and value of investing in Native youth.
Ken MeyerApril 16, 2015
06:29 PM EDT
The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces in April 2011 to call on Americans across the country to rally around service members, veterans, and their families.
This month, Joining Forces is celebrating its fourth anniversary! We're talking about how we can inspire, educate, and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.
Want to join the conversation? We'll be focusing on specific themes throughout the month. Around each theme, the Joining Forces team will be hosting a Twitter chat to answer your questions on mental health, homelessness, employment, and education -- and hear from you.
Ask your questions and join the conversation now using the hashtags below, and we'll answer from @JoiningForces on the day of the chat!
Jeffrey ZientsApril 16, 2015
06:20 PM EDT
The Senate and House are taking up the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 — an overhaul of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would bring how we trade into the 21st century. TPA — and the quality jobs, wages, and critical environmental and labor protections that would come from it — is an important step forward for the President’s trade agenda and for leveling the playing field for American workers.
Trade authority has a long bipartisan history, dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt. In the decades since the New Deal Congress passed the first trade negotiating legislation, Congress has renewed and modernized that authority 18 different times, under both Democratic and Republican Presidents alike.
Through Trade Promotion Authority, Congress does three important things:
- It defines Congress’s specific objectives for U.S. trade negotiators to follow when crafting an agreement.
- It lays out how trade negotiators should work with Congress before and during the negotiations.
- It puts in place the congressional procedures for legislation on trade agreements.
Congress last passed TPA legislation in 2002, and an update is more than overdue.
Passing a modernized TPA is important for two reasons.
Jenna BraytonApril 16, 2015
05:01 PM EDT
Today, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald welcomed members of all five U.S. military branches to the White House for the eighth-annual Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride. The President, Vice President, and Secretary McDonald led the cheers as participants rode around the South Lawn- the first stop in their three-day, 60-mile long cycling tour.
Tanya SomanaderApril 16, 2015
11:40 AM EDT
This morning, Randy George — founder of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, Vermont — sent the following message to the White House email list. He's here today with the President, the Secretary of Labor, and others to talk about the importance of workplace policies that support working families and encourage workplace flexibility.
I'm Randy, the founder of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, Vermont.
Our 42 employees are the core of everything we do — the heart of Red Hen. That is why my wife Liza and I insist on providing paid sick days, an equal and livable wage, health coverage, and other benefits that help everyone balance the work they love with the life they lead. Through these workplace policies, we know we're making our employees more secure, our bakery more productive, and our business more profitable.
It's common sense — plain and simple. That's why I'm so excited and honored to be at the White House today as a "Champion of Change" for working families. I'll be joining President Obama, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, and other champions of workplace policies to talk about how crucial they are to building a stronger business. This is too important of an issue for anyone to sit on the sidelines. So you should join us, too.
David HudsonApril 15, 2015
07:53 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for a special town hall event, co-hosted with leading women's sites BlogHer and She Knows. During the conversation, the President talked with working women about some of the issues they care the most about -- such as paying for child care or sending their children to college.
April 15, 2015
04:10 PM EDT
The President and First Lady hosted music legends and top gospel artists at the White House yesterday for the latest installment of “In Performance at the White House.” The evening of musical performances paid tribute to the fundamental role that gospel music has played in shaping American history and culture.
“Gospel music has evolved over time, but its heart stays true," the President said. “It still has an unmatched power to strike the deepest chord in all of us.”
April 15, 2015
03:38 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the National Endowment for the Arts' blog. See the original post here.
As Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), I work with a dedicated and passionate group of people and organizations to support and fund the arts in communities across America. I believe what we do is so important, not just to celebrate and affirm the arts as a national priority critical to America's well-being and future; the power of the arts can be transformative and I've experienced firsthand how this works. My story is especially relevant today as the White House Task Force on New Americans has released its report to the President on recommended actions the federal government can take to build integrated and welcoming communities across the nation.
I was born into multiple cultures, often with seemingly opposing perspectives. Had I not been engaged with the arts, I don’t know if I would have been able to make sense of my own life.
Valerie JarrettApril 15, 2015
01:10 PM EDT
Ed. note: The following piece was originally posted on BlogHer.com. Tune in today at 2:35 p.m. ET to watch the President answer questions about working women and family issues. Want to join the conversation? Post your questions and comments in the comments section of related posts on BlogHer and SheKnows -- or on social media using the hashtag #ObamaTownHall.
As it turns out, you don't have to be a political wonk to have a policy discussion. And that's the way it should be.
Because here's the reality: When you ask your coworker whether your company offers paid sick leave, you're having a policy discussion. When you ask your boss why you don’t earn the same salary for the same work as the men in the office, you’re having a policy discussion. When you try and put money away for retirement, pay off your student loans each month, deposit your paycheck, or drop your kids off at daycare—those everyday actions are shaped by the policies on the books at your workplace.
April 15, 2015
12:21 PM EDT
Immigrants and refugees have come to our shores in search of opportunity and freedom since before the founding of our nation. The process of integrating into a new land – to achieve self-sufficiency, political and civic involvement, and social inclusion – can be difficult but the rewards can be immense. We are both children of immigrants and can attest to the success that stems from successful integration into the fabric of our nation.
Yesterday, we had the honor of submitting to President Obama a report from the Task Force on New Americans entitled Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration. This plan outlines a robust federal immigrant and refugee integration strategy that will advance our global competitiveness and identifies ways to ensure our nation's diverse people are fully contributing to their communities, and welcomed into them.
Alex WallApril 15, 2015
11:50 AM EDT
Yesterday was Equal Pay Day -- the date that marks how many days into 2015 the average woman would have to work to make what the average man did in the previous year.
The average American woman will have lost $420,000 over her lifetime because of the earnings gap. Share this video if you agree it's time to fix that.