Months of rallies, lobbying, letters and phone calls by members of organized labor and dozens of coalition partners paid off on June 12 as the House rejected a fast track trade package for the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership sent over from the Senate.

While last week’s vote is a milestone in a long struggle by fair trade advocates for agreements that put the interests of workers, farmers and the public ahead of those of multinational capital, the battle is not over, says IBEW Political/Legislative Department Director Ann Miller.

Supported by President Obama, the Republican leadership of both chambers and major big business interests, fast track trade authority would have provided for legislators to exercise only an up or down vote on the TPP, the largest trade deal ever, which is currently under negotiation.

A bipartisan group of House members, however, said secrecy about the terms of the TPP and the damage done to jobs and the U.S. economy by past trade agreements  were enough to deny the administration the go ahead on the agreement.

 “We had a big victory,” says Miller. “But fast track’s supporters will try to get another bite of the apple next week in the House. We need to keep the pressure on.” Fifty-four Republicans opposed fast track and 28 Democrats supported the measure.

Political analysts had predicted a very close vote on fast track authority.  A last-minute gimmick by the fast track supporters to divide its opponents backfired. Republican legislators had tried to soften the opposition by including in the fast track language a provision to continue a popular program called Trade Adjustment Assistance that provides for workers adversely affected by trade to be retrained for other jobs at the government’s expense.

Fast track supporters, however, had proposed to pay for the continuation of TAA with $700 million in cuts to Medicare, including reimbursements for patients undergoing dialysis. And they had rejected proposals to include public workers who lose their jobs in the retraining program.

Democrats who have been the standard bearers of TAA, a program that, despite its shortcomings, has provided for hundreds of thousands of workers to gain the skills to re-enter the labor market, rejected the TAA changes.

“All IBEW members should be proud of the role played by recently-elected U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ),  a member of Folsom Local 351 who began his remarks opposing fast track with the words, ‘I am an electrician,’” says Miller. She expects the vote to be followed by furious lobbying that leverages support for fast track against votes that could eliminate TAA. “It’s a sinister game they are playing,” she says.

“I thank all IBEW members who made phone calls and attended rallies calling attention to how bad trade deals hurt North America’s working families,” says International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “The House vote demonstrates the power of a growing coalition of citizens across our states and provinces who want to see a more level economic playing field, one where trade policy protects people who work hard and play by the rules, not the corporations who outsource jobs and rig the system for their own benefit.”

“Today the allegedly unstoppable momentum of the White House, GOP leadership and the corporate coalition pushing fast track to grease the path for adoption of the almost-completed, controversial TPP deal just hit the immovable object called transpartisan grassroots democracy,” says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a group that has helped lead the fight against the TPP and its predecessor the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Democrats who voted for fast track include:

Ashford – NE 02

Bera – CA 07

Beyer – VA 08

Blumenauer – OR 03

Bonamici – OR 01

Connolly – VA 11

Cooper – TN 5

Costa – CA 16

Cuellar – TX 28

Davis (CA) – CA 53

Delaney – MD 06

DelBene – WA 01

Farr – CA 20

Himes – CT 04

Hinojosa – TX 15

Johnson, E.B. – TX 30

Kilmer – WA 06

Kind – WI 03

Larsen (WA) – WA 02

Meeks – NY 05

O’Rourke – TX 16

Peters – CA 52

Polis – CO 02

Quigley – IL 05

Rice (NY) – NY 04

Schrader – OR 05

Sewell (AL) – AL 07

Wasserman-Schultz – FL 23