CWAers joined hundreds of activists from labor, environmental, consumer, human rights, public health, Internet freedom, faith and family farm groups in a week of protests outside the office of the United States Trade Representative against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal under negotiation inside.
CWA Senior Director George Kohl said the protesters are not against trade but they are against the secrecy that has cloaked the TPP negotiations from the beginning and against some of the terms that have been leaked so far. They deserve to know what deal the negotiators are trying to reach.
“We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations,” Kohl said. “In the weeks ahead, we will mobilize like never before against Fast Track authorizing legislation and the TPP, and for 21st century trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental issues and other concerns the same standing as corporate profits.”
As negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim nations hoping to join the partnership met inside the USTR office, protesters with bullhorns and other noisemakers unfurled banners and placards to denounce the deal they are busy crafting. “TPP=Polluters’ Bill of Rights,” proclaimed one sign. A person carried a sign saying “Protect Families and the Environment: No Fast Track, No Toxic Trade.” Another group had a gigantic banner that said: “Secret TPP Negotiations Here!” while another banner, equally as big, exhorted onlookers to “Stop TPP. Transparency: Release the Text.”
Among those participating were Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, The National Family Farm Coalition, the Citizens Trade Campaign, Food and Water Watch and The International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Americans have repeatedly said they will not tolerate trade deals that undercut wages and export jobs overseas. They have said they do not support “Fast Track” legislation that asks Congress to give up the right to scrutinize an eventual deal. Americans are sick of NAFTA-style deals. CWA members in the communications and manufacturing sectors – among others – know well what happened with past bad trade deals. Good-paying, family-supporting jobs vanish overseas, where pay is minimal, benefits non-existent and working conditions brutal.
Bad past trade deals were driving factors in population migration like the one earlier this year when children fled Central American cities in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, crossing the Mexico-U.S. border unaccompanied by a parent, to escape poverty and gang violence. Other undocumented immigrants are often forced to live outside basic labor law protections – without a way to regularize their immigration status.