By Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
Originally published in Huffington Post
An unholy coalition of President Obama, Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are working together to pass Fast Track authorization for the largest trade giveaway ever, the Trans Pacific Partnership, in the next 100 days.
The president will focus on Fast Track, now known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), in his State of the Union address. McConnell will continue to announce that he will work with the White House. And make no mistake about it, the version of Fast Track or TPA that will pass the House will be Boehner Trade, acceptable to the Republican majority and its Speaker.
Overwhelmingly, House Democrats will fight back. More than three-quarters of the House Democrats have written to the president opposing Fast Track and the TPP for a multitude of reasons:
1. Vietnam is the leading partner, with 90 million people, an average wage of 75 cents an hour, no worker rights or environmental or consumer protections and a command economy where the government and its allied organizations control virtually everything.
2. Like NAFTA, TPP has much more to do with protecting the investment of multinational corporations, particularly those based in the US. Those investment issues dwarf lowering trade barriers. These are the very corporations that have moved millions of jobs out of the US because every trade deal since NAFTA has allowed them to sue nations that adopt legislation that limits future profits, not simply safeguards their initial investment. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) virtually unchanged is in the TPP, and the WH defends it and brags about it to corporate audiences. Currently, multinationals have 500 pending secret arbitration lawsuits against governments regarding environmental protection, workers’ rights, health and consumer issues, to name a few.
3. Brunei, with strict Islamic law, is another of the 12 nations in TPP. Republican conservatives are horrified by the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities there. Most of us would include homophobia, misogyny and other gross human rights violations as reason enough to avoid a major economic partnership.
4. Currency manipulation, by central banks and controlled economies, has been a major concern of House and Senate Democrats. It is now virtually certain this will not be addressed at all in TPP.
Except for corporate management and their large shareholders, the rest of us will lose big if Fast Track is adopted, making TPP a certainty. Passing Fast Track means a guaranteed vote in the House and Senate on TPP within a short period of time and with no amendments allowed on a 2000 page Trade treaty that has been negotiated in almost total secrecy. In the Senate it means passage by a majority, not the 60 votes required on almost everything else that has blocked President Obama’s core agenda for six years, even when the House overwhelmingly supported real change from 2009-2011.
There is no point in speculating further on why the WH is collaborating with Boehner and others who have ruined the Hope and Change that the President ran on in 2008. Candidate Obama clearly stated his rejection of the Clinton and Bush trade deals, yet now he is promoting a TPP that is far more ruinous for our jobs and wage levels than its predecessors. Pay for tens of millions of Americans has been stagnant due to job export and direct pay comparisons with poorer nations, with no limits on the ability of GE or IBM, Microsoft or Amazon to export the tradable jobs or cut the pay of those that remain.
Time for action, not more talk!
1. Virtually all Americans oppose Fast Track but we need to be organizing, shouting and fighting back, particularly with 75 swing House Democrats and Republicans. At least 190 House Democrats and Republicans will vote “No.” These 75 are key.
2. Starting with the State of the Union address, in two weeks, we will face an avalanche from the president, Republican leaders and Big Business. We must mobilize now and like never before!
3. Our coalition includes virtually every environmental group, labor union, and consumer organization. The WH says Walmart sells cheap goods thanks to these trade deals but most consumer groups know that TPP means less labeling and less safety for imports, and that when wages fall consumers are priced out. Immigrant rights activists know how NAFTA and CAFTA have devastated their home communities in Mexico and Central America. Community organizations and faith groups realize that the loss of millions of factory jobs has devastated most of our cities.
4. But these broad coalitions, including conservatives who do not believe nations should trade their sovereignty for secret corporate tribunals, must mobilize now. We need Days of Action in the key communities in the swing districts. We need massive mobilization days in Washington. We need millions of emails reminding the president of what he said when he campaigned, versus the reality of this TPP, which is nothing different and in many ways is worse than NAFTA and other trade deals. We need to shout to the president, “Don’t roll your own caucus for Boehner Trade.”
5. Organizations like my own need to commit real time and resources to this fight and not back up out of loyalty to President Obama. We have stood with him on nearly every issue but not this one. He needs to stand with us and the Democrats in Congress.
We are under attack!
What do we do?
We Stand Up and Fight Back!
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