Ambassador Katherine Tai's Remarks at Chicago Federation of Labor Roundtable

August 30, 2021

CHICAGO – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today will visit the Chicago Federation of Labor headquarters and participate in a roundtable discussion with union leaders, including CFL President Bob Reiter, Jr. and Secretary-Treasurer Don Villar. Ambassador Tai will be joined by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Congressman Danny Davis (IL-7), Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10), and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14).

The roundtable is part of Ambassador Tai’s continued effort to hear directly from workers across the country whose lives are affected by trade to help USTR develop more durable policy that empowers workers, raises wages, and expands economic opportunity. Earlier in the day, Ambassador Tai toured Block Steel Corporation in Skokie, Illinois with Congresswoman Schakowsky.

Ambassador Tai’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below. 

Good afternoon, everyone.  I want to begin by thanking Congresswoman Schakowsky for convening this conversation, and to Congressman Davis, Congressman Schneider and Congresswoman Underwood, for taking part in today’s discussion.

I also want to thank Chicago Federation of Labor and CFL President Bob Reiter for hosting us this afternoon.  

President Biden and I are committed to crafting a trade policy that is crafted with workers for workers.

Today, I am looking forward to an honest and candid conversation about your priorities and concerns so that we can develop trade policy that empowers workers, raises wages, and expands economic opportunity both at home and abroad.

I’d like to hear how trade has helped the workers you represent and Chicago’s labor community – and where past policies have fallen short.  

Developing a better understanding of these two important questions will help us craft more inclusive trade policies that fulfill President Biden’s vision of creating an economy built from the bottom up and the middle out.

These conversations have real impacts.  

Earlier this month, we announced an agreement to address allegations that workers from the Tridonex auto parts facility in Mexico were denied the rights of free association and collective bargaining.  

Labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO and SEIU, were instrumental in bringing these allegations to light. I was pleased our teams could work together to protect workers’ rights abroad.  This as part of our overall strategy to prevent a race to the bottom that undercuts jobs and workers’ rights here in the U.S.

Still, we know more work is needed.  That is why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is so important.  If passed, it would be the largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System.  This legislation modernizes and repairs our roads, invests in clean energy, and builds resilient energy grids.  There are a few other points in this bill I want to highlight:

Jobs: This bill supports good-paying, union jobs.  On top of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, this legislation will create approximately 2 million jobs annually over the next ten years.  That is in addition to the more than 4 million jobs the Biden-Harris Administration has created since taking office.  

Buy America: President Biden has said he wants the future to be made in America by all of America’s workers.  

That is why this bill features strong Buy America provisions to ensure all infrastructure projects will be built with American steel, iron, and other materials.  

There are more than 2,300 bridges and 6,200 miles of highway in Illinois in poor condition.  Making these fixes with U.S. construction material will help revitalize the sector and position it for success.

These once-in-a-generation infrastructure investments will help us maintain our competitive edge in the global economy.  I know all of the Members here today share our sense of urgency to get this legislation on President Biden’s desk so he can sign it into law.

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on how this bill can further help you and the unions you represent – and more broadly, how our trade policy can lift up American workers.  

Thank you.