Unionists Rally Against Fast-Track

WASHINGTON —More than 1,200 unionists stormed Capitol Hill on April 15 to campaign against job-losing so-called “free trade” pacts and the fast-track legislation that would grease the skids for them.


Steelworkers, in D.C. for their Legislative/Rapid Response conference, led the lobbying, but members of the Teamsters, Utility Workers, Communications Workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, the Letter Carriers, the Bricklayers, the Laborers and AFL-CIO staffers represented by The Newspaper Guild joined them.


At a rally on the Capitol grounds, all the speakers told the crowd to inform lawmakers that fast-track, would let the president negotiate and sign trade deals in secret. The deals can’t be changed, there’s little debate and only one up-or-down vote on each such pact in each house of Congress.


Every past trade pact for 20 years has, net, cost U.S. jobs, especially well-paying factory jobs, speakers said.


“Remember this fact: There hasn’t been a trade deal yet that resulted in net job gains for American workers,” said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, whose union organized the rally and the worker lobbying.


Fast-track would also let trade deals through without worker rights or environmental protections. And it would give corporations huge rights in secret trade courts to overturn federal, state and local laws that could supposedly threaten profits.  Under threat, speakers said: Worker rights, safe food, job safety, the environment and even the minimum wage.


But most under threat: U.S. workers jobs.


Repeated speakers challenged the crowd to ask lawmakers how they could approve a fast-track law that would open the way for Vietnam – a nation with an average wage of 60 cents an hour and repression of workers – to freely export products to the U.S.  Ditto Brunei, said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a member of the Painters.


In a political coalition of normal enemies, Congress’ Republican leaders, corporate interests and President Barack Obama (D) are lobbying daily for fast-track and the three trade deals it would permit: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 other Pacific Rim nations, a pact with Europe and a pact in public and government services.  The TPP includes Vietnam and Brunei and is the worst of the three, but all are dangerous to workers, speakers said.


The lobbying is apparently having a positive effect.  AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel expects “no more than a dozen” House Democrats to vote against fast-track.  That’s not enough, others said, to offset Republican defections from the GOP pro-fast-track line.   Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said “north of 100” House Democrats oppose fast-track.


Source: PAI