Activists Turn From Election to Stopping TPP; State Union Leaders Sign Unanimous Letter to Congress Against It

Even while mourning, or in shell-shock, about Donald Trump’s win and right wing gains in the November 8 election, activists from unions, progressive groups, community groups and their allies turned quickly to stopping the next elitist cause, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

The mobilization actually kicked off with phone banking at the Institute for Policy Studies on Nov. 9-10, urging people to head for Washington for rallies, or to flood Congress with calls, the week of November 14. And it comes after all 51 state union federation presidents signed a letter to lawmakers demanding they dump the trade pact.

“We are teachers and miners, firefighters and farm workers, bakers and engineers, pilots and public employees, doctors and nurses, actors, painters and plumbers, and more, including 3.2 million people who do not have a union at work,” they wrote.

“We urgently request that you reject any attempt to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement during the lame-duck session of Congress,” that begins November 14.

“The American people have spoken by voting for candidates who pledged to change the rules that let big corporations maximize profits while leaving working people with scraps. The last thing the unaccountable lame-duck Congress should do is push through a job-killing trade deal written behind closed doors by corporate CEOs.”

The object of all this campaigning: To stop Democratic President Barack Obama, big business and its GOP allies from considering and passing legislation to implement the TPP, a trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, in the “lame duck.” That’s the special interests’ only chance to pass the pact, as lawmakers who are leaving Congress can now disregard their constituents, and GOP president-elect Trump opposes such trade pacts.

“In the wake of a national election that demonstrates the ever-greater urgency of grassroots mobilization, a major amalgamation of labor, environmental, healthcare, consumer and other advocacy groups will rally on November 17 to demand the lame-duck Congress reject the fatally flawed TPP,” National Nurses United, a lead organizer of the event, said.

The nurses and other unionists then plan to lobby more than 50 lawmakers to urge them to dump the TPP and deep-six the legislation to implement it.

“The TPP will increase the power of multinational corporations to overturn rules and laws that protect workers and the public, undermine environmental and food safety laws, hurt access to medicines, and outsource many more jobs,” NNU noted.

The Steelworkers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Teamsters, the Fire Fighters, the Teachers, the Communications Workers, AFSCME, the Postal Workers, the Auto Workers, Unite Here and the United Electrical Workers will also join the rally and lobbying. So will Black Lives Matter, which says past trade pacts led to factory closings that disproportionately threw African-American workers out on the streets.

But the rally isn’t the only anti-TPP event. The Coalition for a Prosperous America, a progressive group whose leaders include the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Unions Council and the Teamsters, staged a mass phone-in “to make Congress’ phones ring off the hook” on “National Trans-Pacific Partnership Call-in Day” on November 14.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and Obama “want to slip the TPP through after the election. We don’t need any more ‘free’ trade agreements that ship our jobs overseas, hurt U.S. companies, offshore our sovereignty and worsen our already enormous trade deficit,” the coalition said.

The state union leaders added other anti-TPP points. One is that it still ignores worker rights. Another is that it could let governments permanently outsource public services.

“There are extensive, well-documented labor problems in at least four TPP countries — Mexico, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia — but the administration has not committed to requiring all countries to be in full compliance with international labor standards before they get benefits under the agreement,” the state union leaders said. “Given that no administration has ever self-initiated labor enforcement under a free trade agreement, any promise to ‘strongly enforce’ the TPP should be met with skepticism.”

“Public services such as sanitation, transit and utilities should be carved out of trade deals — but the TPP puts them at risk,” the union leaders warn. “The TPP does not ensure governments can pull out of wasteful and failing public service privatization efforts without shelling out taxpayer dollars or otherwise compensating foreign firms or trading partners. “

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, runner-up to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries, is scheduled to speak at the November 17 rally. His organization, Our Revolution, is part of the mass rally and lobbying, too, says its board chairman, former CWA President Larry Cohen.

“The only way it (the TPP) is going to get stopped is if we stop it in the House,” says Cohen. The House passed fast-track — the law that lets Obama push the TPP without amendments and with little debate — by only 10 votes. The lobbying is to get enough solons to switch sides. Cohen warns that Obama and his allies are “banking on Americans’ election fatigue and the defeated congressmen no longer accountable to their constituents, who could flip their votes on the agreement under the radar.”

Activists must push “wavering Democrats who won’t say which side they’re on” but are eager to please constituents. “In any congressional district, we have somewhere around 10,000 supporters. They’re ready to do things, and — thanks to the campaign — they know what the issue is,” he adds.