Working families and their allies will be hitting the streets and hoisting signs on April 18 in cities nationwide to send a message to Congress: Just say no to fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The AFL-CIO is organizing more than two dozen rallies to highlight the dangers of rushing to approve a massive trade deal that has been negotiated in secret by lawmakers and large corporations.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has said the TPP will result in “corporate handouts and worker sellouts,” spoke against the deal March 31 while touring a Ford plant in Cleveland.
“Manufacturing jobs are a ticket to the middle class,” Brown said. “But we must ensure our auto industry and our workers can compete in the global economy. That means saying no to trade agreements that don’t protect American workers and American companies from unfair trade practices. We can’t fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it means fast-tracking the loss of American jobs.”
The TPP would govern trade between the United States and 12 other Pacific-rim nations: Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam. Supporters, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and President Obama, say the TPP will expand trade with some of the world's most vibrant economies, representing close to 40 percent of world GDP.
But fast track, which was also authorized before NAFTA, would establish a process that allows no amendments and limited debate on the TPP when it is brought before Congress.
Legislators, unions, environmental and other citizens groups have been excluded from the talks, while hundreds of corporate lobbyists have been inside the discussions from the beginning. Details about the TPP have only come from drafts leaked by the website WikiLeaks.
The fight in the Senate is heating up, with Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) looking to advance legislation granting fast track approval, now that Congress is back from its two-week spring break.
Opponents of the measure are now anticipating the next move by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. He came out against fast track last year, and his support or disapproval for the bill this time around will influence how other lawmakers view it.
Hundreds of Portland, Ore., residents were joined by labor leaders – including IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler – April 9 at the federation’s Portland office, urging Wyden to say no to the deal.
“For more than 30 years, Congress has been giving the president a blank check when it comes to trade, and look what we got – NAFTA, CAFTA, China Free Trade,” Hill told a crowd of about 200. “Nothing but broken promises, bigger deficits and lost jobs. With TPP, we’re talking the biggest trade pact in our history. There is too much at stake to repeat the same mistake.
“This is personal for me,” Hill said. “I grew up in western Pennsylvania, only about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. When I was a kid, it was steel country. We boasted the biggest steel industry in the world. That meant good jobs and strong communities. But one bad trade deal after another sent those jobs overseas. It’s time we as a nation take a step back and put on the brakes.”
To find an AFL-CIO-sponsored event in your area this Saturday, click here.
And sign the online petition to say no to fast track.