Maryland residents rallied outside Rep. John Delaney’s Gaithersburg office at noon on Friday to urge him to vote no on “Fast Track” legislation, a method used to rush dangerous free trade agreements through Congress with limited oversight. A wide range of groups joined together to oppose the undemocratic process, including UFCW, CWA, Teamsters, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Community members cited deep concern around Rep. Delaney’s reluctance to take a stand on the bill, which 180 representatives have already committed to voting against. Many of those Congresspeople have expressed frustration with President Obama’s lack of transparency around current trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been negotiated in secret and kept classified from the public.
“What concerns me is the utter secrecy with which the TPP negotiations are occurring,” said Geoff Kidd, a constituent of Rep. Delaney and member of the local Sierra Club. “Fast-Track Authority would allow the President to ignore input from anyone. Of course, 600 corporations are allowed access to the negotiations, but everyday citizens are not.”
Leaked texts so far have proven that the TPP threatens to:
- Accelerate the global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions
- Hurt small farmers, contribute to forced migration, and trample food sovereignty
- Enable foreign companies to evade and attack domestic, democratically-enacted environmental and consumer protections
- Increase fracked gas and other fossil fuel exports
- Threaten U.S. sovereignty through discouraging buy local laws and establishing an “investor rights” tribunal, in which multinational corporations can sue governments for public policies that interfere with their profits
- Reduce access to life-saving generic medications, increase the costs of prescriptions, and restrict Internet freedom
The rally happened as part of a North American Day of Action, during which more than 50 cities across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada marked this month’s twenty-year anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a pact that has had devastating consequences for working families, small farmers, indigenous peoples, small business and the environment in all three countries. It also coincides with a three-day conference in Mexico City on the catastrophic impacts of NAFTA and the need for a radically different trade model for the continent and beyond.
Rep. Delaney claims that his “primary focus in office” includes efforts to “raise our standard of living” and “expand the number of good jobs available to Americans,” but demonstrators say that Fast Tracking agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership will create nothing but a race to the bottom. After seeing more than 600,000 U.S. jobs lost under NAFTA, constituents were glad to hold Rep. Delaney accountable for his promise.
“Fast track is the wrong track,” said Josh Ardison, of UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO. “We are strongly opposed to the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’ and the devastating effects it will have on working families. NAFTA has not worked and neither will the TPP. We are strongly urging Congressman Delaney to say ‘NO’ to Fast Track.”
Past attempts to meet with the Congressman on this issue have been unsuccessful, though some of the demonstrators met with a staff member following the rally to urge Rep. Delaney’s office to take their concerns seriously.
“The TPP is an unfathomably greedy, permanent power grab, drafted in secret by multinational corporations to ensure that regular citizens don’t get to decide what type of laws we want to live under, and that any attempt to keep our food, energy, or our communities healthy and safe for ourselves and our children can be deemed an ‘unfair barrier to trade,’” said MD resident Julie Gouldener, of Food & Water Watch. “Fast track must be defeated.”