(CNSNews.com) - Vice President Al Gore has reassured the nation's top labor leaders that he will be attentive to their concerns about future international trade agreements. The assertion came at a meeting the Democrat presidential contender attended in New Orleans. Gore's reassurances bolstered members of the AFL-CIO's national council after union officials expressed concern over agreements involving communist China.
Responding to labor's concerns, Gore told the gathering, as president, he would require future trade agreements with the communist country to include environmental, human rights and labor clauses in the main document, rather than in attached agreements, as favored by the Clinton Administration.
"The vice president has committed himself to being stronger on core labor standards in future trade agreements when he's the president," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told reporters after the two-hour, closed-door session.
When asked why Gore supports Clinton's approach rather than the one he articulated before the council, Sweeney responded, "That's the difference between being number one and being number two."
The question was also answered by Chris Lehane, Gore's spokesman, who told reporters, "He's the vice president. He'll work with the administration in the appropriate way. As we move down the road, we'll see what the appropriate way is."
Gore can't afford to alienate big labor, whose support is critical in upcoming primary contests in such highly industrial and populous states as California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.
Some on the labor council left no doubt they will continue to oppose the China trade legislation, at least until next year, in hopes a Gore Administration will rethink the Clinton position. "Labor intends to see that this is defeated," said United Steelworkers of America President George Becker. "We would like to give the Gore Administration the opportunity to deal with this."