The “Fast Track” Bill For The Trans-Pacific Partnership Hit The Floor Of Congress Today, Labor Responds

NH Labor News

It was only a matter of time until the multi-national corporations who helped fund the campaigns of many of the politician’s in Washington pushed for another trade agreement that will make them billions of dollars, and leave millions of American workers without a job.

Today the “Senate’s Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” hit the Congressional floor. The deal was brokered by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

The New York Times spelled it out pretty well:

“It would give Congress the power to vote on the more encompassing 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which President Bill Clinton pushed through Congress despite opposition from labor and other Democratic constituencies.”

President Obama has already said he will oppose the unions — who help him win two elections — and his fellow democrats to get this trade agreement passed.

“At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs. That’s why Congress must reject Fast Track (TPA-2015) and maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.”

Trumka continued, “Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP. A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation. Working people are showing tremendous courage standing up to the low-wage, corporate agenda. It’s time for politicians to do the same.”

Labor unions and progressive advocates have been calling for more transparency in this ginormous trade agreement. The White House has been negotiating this deal in secret, while assuring everyone that this will not be another NAFTA. The problem is that every time new information about the trade agreement is leaked, it shows exactly the opposite. More gifts to Wall Street and Corporations while the American people suffer.

“The proposed Fast Track bill fails all the tests that Senator Ron Wyden said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance, transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress ‘to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course,’ as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless,” wrote the Communication Workers of America in a statement late this afternoon.

“We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around Trade Promotion Authority. We’ve had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. Trade Promotion Authority pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Leo W Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers union wrote in his weekly column about how “illegally subsidized steel” is coming into the United States and forcing more workers out on the streets. “American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama. That’s in just the past three months.”

“NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Senator Bernie Sanders on the floor of the US Senate in late February. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

It is not just the manufacturing unions who are speaking out against the Fast Track and the TPP.

The UFCW supported the last major trade agreement with Korea because of its improved labor standards and potential to create 20,000 jobs in the meat sector. But in his op-ed, Perrone makes clear that this time is different.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not the Korea free trade agreement,” he writes. “It is neither free nor fair. And the UFCW is determined to see it defeated.”

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and an outspoken progressive also spoke out against the agreement.

“At a time when we need to be focused on creating and sustaining good jobs for American workers, fast track would undermine these efforts, leading to trade deals that hurt everyday working people and stack the deck in favor of corporations. And it would do this in a secretive way, with limited public and congressional oversight and no effective enforcement,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

She continued, “Our nation’s trade policy should help put us on a path toward lifting all Americans’ quality of life—ensuring rights for workers, protections for consumers and safeguards for the environments. That’s why we need a democratic and transparent trade process that offers a fair shake for American workers. This bill is over-reaching and will fail to keep working families and our economy strong.”

“We send our elected leaders to Washington to be our voice,” said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. “Under fast track, Congress will have no say in selecting our trade partners, negotiating trade terms, or debating and amending trade agreements. This bill panders to corporate profiteers, while ignoring the voices of everyday American workers, who are fighting to oppose it.”

Now we need everyone to stand up and put an end to this monumental race to the bottom.

Uses your cell phone to text TPP to 877877 and you can be connected directly to your Congressman or Senators office to tell them to vote no on this legislation. Or call the Senate directly at 1-855-790-8815 and tell them that “Fast Track means bad trade deals that ship American jobs overseas.”

Then take part in a National Day of Action to Stop Fast Track this Saturday, April 18th. Click here to find an event near you.

The AFL-CIO has more information on the TPP and “Fast Track” legislation on their website.

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This has been reposted from NH Labor News.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

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