Organizers: Millions Contact Congress in TPP Protest; Concert Tour vs. Pact Kicks Off

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Organizers reported that some 13 million workers and their allies, marshaled by the Communications Workers, other unions and almost 90 other organizations, contacted Congress on-line and off-line on Sept. 14 in a mass protest against the anti-worker, pro-corporate jobs-losing Trans-Pacific Partnership so-called “free trade” pact.

And organizers of the anti-TPP crusade are following that crowd estimate by rocking their protest continent-wide: The “Rock Against The TPP” concert tour kicked off in Toronto on Sept. 16 and heads next for Boston on Oct. 7, with other cities to follow.

“The TPP is a corporate Trojan Horse packed with devastation for all of our goals and the policies we all care about,” the Machinists said in urging workers and their allies to bombard Congress with calls.

Unionists and their allies are protesting Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan to send legislation implementing the TPP – but not the pact itself – to Congress this month.

That would start a time clock ticking: Solons would have to vote on it, up or down, with no changes and little debate, in the post-election lame-duck session of the GOP-run Congress.

The pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, including notorious worker repressors such as Brunei and Vietnam, would open the U.S. tariff-free to all their goods, and cost U.S. jobs, due to their impossibly low pay, lax environmental rules and no labor standards.

And the TPP would establish a secret trade court, staffed by pro-corporate trade lawyers, that could throw out any federal, state or local law, or presidential decision, that might harm present or future corporate profits. Only nations could combat the corporations there, and there would be no appeals of rulings that can stick taxpayers with millions of dollars in fines.

Workers made all those points and more in their calls to lawmakers.

CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson admitted workers would rather focus on the election campaign, using the next two months to defeat GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and elect pro-worker U.S. senators and representatives. “Instead, President Obama is forcing the entire progressive community to use our resources in this critical election season to try and defeat the corporate-drafted, jobs-destroying TPP,” Larson said.

“His insistence on having a lame-duck vote only means fewer resources and members engaged in winning the elections.” Larson says Obama is “responsible for choosing the timing of this distracting fight.”

“The TPP’s backers are twisting arms and calling in favors, trying to scrounge up enough congressional support to schedule a vote on the dangerous deal in the lame-duck session of Congress,” the Machinists warned. That calls for mobilization against the pressure.

“They know their only chance to get the TPP approved is to hold a vote after the election when   representatives’ political accountability to constituents is at its absolute lowest. But we can foil that plan if we force members of Congress to take a public position before Election Day. That is because they know they cannot be for the TPP and then face the voters.”

Public Citizen’s Trade Watch Executive Director Lori Wallach criticized Obama for recent closed-door planning sessions with corporate executives for the TPP.

“While the president is cloistered with corporate chieftains planning how to use a lame-duck session to try to pass a TPP only they love, Congress’ phones are ringing off the hook with anti-TPP calls as millions of members of unions and consumer, environmental, on-line activism, and other groups unite for an day of action aimed at ensuring representatives stand with their constituents not the corporate lobby,” Wallach said.

“The sheer volume of people participating in these grassroots efforts shows how toxic TPP is across the country. This is not just about stopping a bad trade deal like the TPP – it’s about completely rewriting the rules on trade policy to make sure they benefit working people” added AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Besides the online and offline contacts, anti-TPP activists tackled their lawmakers via social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr – which combined engaged 1.6 million people to contact solons – and through anti-TPP protests at district offices and political offices of key lawmakers in swing states. AFSCME and CWA led those protests.

Targeted lawmakers included Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., who seeks an open U.S. Senate seat, and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D), all of Florida. Wasserman-Schultz’s primary foe, law professor Tim Canova, joined the protest at her office. All four supported the “fast-track” trade law Obama and the GOP pushed through Congress earlier, which lets him send the TPP bill to Capitol Hill.

Wasserman-Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, drew fire from Canova and supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders for her pro-TPP stand, as well as her anti-Sanders tilt in the presidential race. Sanders’ Our Revolution organization, set up after he lost the nomination, also joined the call-in, with his enthusiastic backing. 

The concert tour will bring the anti-TPP cause to an even wider audience. The first free performance, in Toronto, featured performers such as rock guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, hip-hop emcee Talib Kweli and writer, activist and Golden Globe actress nominee Evangeline Lilly and singer-songwriter Jolie Holland.

“Join us for a nationwide uprising and concert tour to stop the biggest corporate power grab in history!” the tour’s organizers say of “Rock Against The TPP.” Details about the concerts are at www.rockagainstthetpp.org.

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