California RNs Sound a Code Blue on Fast Track and TPP

California registered nurses (RNs) marched to PhRMA in Sacramento and visited district offices of several key Congress members to share their grave concerns for public health if fast-track legislation is used for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. 

We’ve established that the TPP poses a serious threat to our democracy and to working families but RNs are cautioning over yet another sinister aspect of the secretive trade deal. During their march, the RNs, represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), drew attention to numerous provisions that could pose major risks to public health inserted into the TPP by corporate lobbyists like PhRMA.

During their press event, CNA/NNU Co-President Deborah Burger emphasized:

“Nurses are patient advocates, and by extension advocates of our patients’ families and our communities, and we are sounding a Code Blue on fast track. While there are many good reasons to reject fast track, the nation’s registered nurses are particularly concerned about these trade agreements’ threats to public health and safety. We strongly urge Congress to reject Fast Track, because it is literally a matter of life or death for the public.”

According to the RNs, the TPP could negatively impact public health in the following ways:

  • Inflate life-saving medication costs. According to the leaked documents, pharmaceutical corporations would be given years longer monopoly pricing on patents for lifesaving drugs—blocking distribution of competitive, cheaper, generic medications. “That is especially critical for people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other illnesses in developing countries as well as in the United States,” said Burger.

  • Expose Americans to unsafe food, as corporations challenge food safety laws as “trade barriers.” “The TPP would require us to allow food imports if the exporting country claims that its health and safety laws are ‘equivalent’ to our own, even if they violate the key principles of our food safety laws,” noted St. Louis RN Beverley Van Buren in Washington.

  • Erode public health laws/services, allowing corporations to sue local governments to overturn healthcare laws, in order to “compete” (large tobacco firms have already used global trade rules to successfully quash labeling laws regarding the health hazards of smoking). Nurses point out that countries with national health systems—as well as the U.S. Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Administration systems—would also be threatened by legal challenges and privatization.

  • Nullify environmental protections, in the name of corporate profits. “No matter what the will of the people in any particular locale, these trade agreements can supercede statutes that protect the people’s health and safety,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN, in Washington.

  • Overturn laws and regulatory protections passed by elected representatives. A most ominous element is the emergence of Investor State Dispute Settlement corporate tribunals in trade deals that allow global corporations to effectively overturn domestic laws or be awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for damage for “unfair competition.” Such tribunals have already been used to attack public health laws on the dangers of smoking and drug patent rules.

Only a select few know what’s included in the massive 2,000+ page proposed TPP deal. Closed-door negotiations have left Americans and their elected representatives in Congress depending on leaked documents to get a glimpse of the TPP.  The leaked pages have only helped to confirm suspicions that the TPP, one of the largest trade deals in history, features a whole host of deals that are bad for working families in America.

The RNs are also planning to visit Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis in San Diego, Ami Bera in Sacramento, and Norma Torres in Ontario this week.

Learn more about what you can do to Stop Fast Track and the TPP here.

Photo credit to CNA/NNU.