Pre-May Day Rally Against Fast-Track

WASHINGTON—A pre-May Day rally at the AFL-CIO energized organized labor’s big push to deep-six controversial “fast-track” trade legislation on Capitol Hill.


A crowd of unionists and leaders, interrupted by an occasional video from workers overseas, told the jam-packed crowd in the federation’s lobby that unionists and their allies must convince lawmakers to defeat fast-track.  The speakers also predicted victory.


Fast-track would let the president – any president – jam through Congress so-called free trade agreements without worker rights and with a huge corporate tilt.


The rally comes as reports circulate the Senate will debate fast-track in the first full week of May.  The Senate is expected to pass fast-track, but the House is a toss-up.  Debates there have not been scheduled yet.  President Barack Obama (D), business and GOP congressional leaders are pulling out all their stops to pass fast-track, even trotting out the Japanese prime minister to promote it (see separate story).


“We’re here to tell the world to respect workers and reject fast-track,” declared AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler.  “It’s a sure track to destroying jobs.”  Fast-track and the trade pacts it has spawned for the last 20 years particularly hurt women and minorities, not just in the U.S. but abroad, Shuler and other speakers added.


Shuler quoted a young Postal Worker from Baltimore, Cordy Jenkins, as saying lack of jobs for minorities is one big reason for recent violence there.  Baltimore is two-thirds African-American. “He pointed to the loss of Bethlehem Steel,” Shuler said.  When its Sparrows Point plant closed, it took well-paying jobs away from workers who badly need them, Jenkins said.


“International trade affects women and families,” she added after one video, showing workers in the 11 nations now in talks with the U.S. over the most-controversial of the trade pacts, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), opposing it and fast-track.  Fast-track would allow three pacts.  The other two cover trade with Europe and in services.


Communications Workers President Larry Cohen, an outspoken foe of the TPP, noted the wide coalition against fast-track goes far beyond workers and unions.  It includes religious  groups, environmental groups, community groups and civil rights groups, he said.  Unionists at the rally came from AFSCME, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers, the Postal Workers and the Office and Professional Employees.


Source: PAI