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Autoworkers threaten to abandon Gore over China trade bill

May 23, 2000
Web posted at: 4:57 p.m. EDT (2057 GMT)

DETROIT (CNN) -- The political battle between organized labor and the Clinton/Gore Administration over granting China permanent normalized trade status escalated Tuesday when the United Auto Workers union pledged to "actively explore alternatives to the two major political parties" in this year's presidential race, including Ralph Nader.

UAW President Stephen Yokich said his members are "deeply disappointed" in the efforts of Vice President Al Gore to "have it both ways" on permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. The House votes Wednesday on granting China the PNTR status, which would drop a variety of trade barriers between China and the United States.

Yokich said that as the Democratic presidential candidate, Gore has spoken in favor of workers rights and environmental protections in trade agreements, but on the issue of PNTR, "Vice President Gore is holding hands with the profiteers of the world."

With Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. George W. Bush supporting the administration's position on that issue, Yokich said the union would consider endorsing a third party candidate such as Nader, the longtime consumer crusader who made his name by taking on General Motors who is carrying the banner for the Green Party in this year's race for the White House.

Organized labor has actively opposed establishing permanent trading status with China over concerns about the country's human rights and workers' rights politics. The administration -- backed by several Republicans and business leaders -- insists China's entry in the world market will open the country to better practices.

The UAW was one of two major industrial unions -- the other being the Teamsters --that voted against the AFL-CIO endorsement of Gore over his Democratic primary rival Bill Bradley late last year. Both unions cited Gore's support of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

UAW spokesman Paul Krell said the union decided to release Tuesday's statement because Gore has become "far more visible in his support of PNTR" in recent days. He said the union will "broaden its look to other candidates -- including Nader," but may decide not to endorse any candidate this year.

When told of the UAW's statement, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said: "Al Gore made his decision. He supports PNTR and China trade because he believes it is in the best interest of American workers. He did not make the decision based on any political calculations."


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Tuesday, May 23, 2000

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