Last week, over 400 labor leaders and activists mobilized and coordinated a massive gathering in Washington D.C. for a national fly-in Lobby Day on Trade. Their mission? Demand Congress to Stop Fast Track. Leaders spent the day meeting with over 120 members of congress and staff to relay the dangers of passing massive trade agreements with Fast Track legislation.
Fast Track legislation would allow the executive branch to push through trade agreements based on closed door negotiations without any public or congressional oversight. Several are on the table at the moment including a pact with eleven nations, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While a recent poll shows 75 percent of the public supports “fair trade that protects workers, the environment and jobs”, Congress would have zero chance to ensure that any mention of workers’ rights are included in the TPP. Fast Track would force members of Congress to vote yes or no on the completed deal.
During the Lobby Day press conference, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski cautioned Congress to look to our history before approving Fast Track:
Not only did NAFTA not create jobs; but hundreds of thousands of jobs were taken away, stolen and offshored. Families that lost those jobs lost those wages, permanently. Then came CAFTA with Chile, Korea, Peru. They cost a total of 5.5 million jobs. How dumb do you think we are?
Negotiations for the TPP began over five years ago and are subsequently pretty far along. From what we know about the TPP, this deal could allow corporations to use secret trade courts to skirt federal, state and local laws, including living wage laws, if the laws even threatened potential corporate profits. Even more troubling: TPP could dramatically impact millions of workers for generations to come but it is largely unheard of in most American homes. This is why labor leaders are not only working to convince Congress to vote down Fast Track, they’re also dedicated to informing folks who will be most affected by the TPP.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times featured an informative OpEd by AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka and economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Trumka and Reich emphasized:
If you haven't heard much about the TPP, that's part of the problem. It would be the largest trade deal in history — involving countries stretching from Chile to Japan, representing 792 million people and about 40% of the world economy.
Yet it's been devised in secret, with a disproportionate amount of advice coming from corporations and Wall Street. This secrecy is the norm since NAFTA. Most of the details that are known to the public have come through WikiLeaks. Instead, we'd like to see the negotiating texts made public, so there can be an honest and open debate.
A fast-tracked TPP would lock in a rigged set of economic rules, lasting potentially forever, before most Americans — let alone some members of Congress — have had a chance to understand it thoroughly. If the administration gets fast-track authority, it could hand a completed deal to Congress, which must then vote yes or no, without amendments and little debate, within 90 days.
Trumka and Reich go on to describe what we do know about the TPP through leaked documents released by WikiLeaks:
What's been leaked about its proposals reveals, for example, that the pharmaceutical industry would get stronger patent protections, delaying cheaper generic versions of drugs.
The deal also gives global corporations an international tribunal of private attorneys, outside any nation's legal system, that can order compensation for lost expected profits resulting from a nation's regulations, including our own. These extraordinary rights for corporations put governments on the defensive over legitimate public health or environmental rules.
The deal would encourage and reward American corporations for outsourcing even more jobs abroad. And it does nothing to prevent other nations from manipulating their currencies to boost their exports and undermine the competitiveness of U.S.-made products.
It is obvious that Fast Track and the TPP are bad for our economy and embarrassingly terrible for the state of our democracy. Are you interested in learning more about? We rounded up the best resources on Fast Track & the TPP on our website. Check it out here.