Union, environmental, community groups call on U.S. Rep. David Price to oppose Fast-Track and TPP

2015-raleigh-fast-track-presser

For Immediate Release

Contact: Angie Wells, Communication Workers of America, awells@cwa-union.org // 713-503-9908; Renée Maas, Food & Water Watch, rmaas@fwwatch.org // 919-593-7752; Jeremy Sprinkle, NC State AFL-CIO, jeremy@aflcionc.org // 336-255-2711

Fast Track Undermines Democracy and Eliminates Critical Protections for Workers, Consumers and the Environment

Union, environmental, and community groups call on U.S. Rep. David Price to oppose fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 16, 2015) – Unions, environmental, and community groups held a press conference in Raleigh today to call upon U.S. Rep. David Price to oppose “Fast-Track” legislation as part of a national day of action highlighting the devastating impact fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would have on good jobs and communities.

Proponents of the TPP could introduce Fast-Track legislation in Congress any day now, which would give President Obama sweeping new power to negotiate the terms of international trade deals without the input of Congress and then force Congress to “take it or leave it”. Fast-Track undermines democracy by bypassing normal constitutional procedure in favor of an up-or-down vote with little debate and no possibility to amend the text of an agreement that will bind our federal, state, and local governments to the terms of the TPP forever.

The TPP is trade and investment deal between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations including Canada, Japan, Chile, and Vietnam – where workers earn a minimum wage of just 28 cents an hour. Leaders of all twelve nations and nearly 600 corporate trade advisors have negotiated the 1,200 + page treaty almost completely in secret. Reporters, unions, public interest groups, and even members of Congress have been barred from participating in the negotiations or even reading the draft text.

In fact, the only reason the public knows anything about the details of the TPP – including that it has no expiration date and no way for the United States to withdraw once ratified by Congress – is by leaked documents obtained and published online by Wikileaks. Those leaked details paint a troubling picture of a post-TPP international system where drug companies can renew patents on life-saving medicines in perpetuity and multinational corporations have new powers to sue governments – even state and local jurisdictions – in extra-judicial courts for damages paid by taxpayers over anything those corporations deem would hurt their expected future profits.

“Fast-tracking trade deals like the TPP puts business interests ahead of the public interest, allowing foreign companies to challenge our commonsense environmental, public health, and consumer protections,” said Renée Maas, Senior Southern Region Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “It opens up a race-to-the-bottom in regulatory safeguards that will erode U.S. standards to accommodate corporate-driven globalization, opening up our market to more imports of unsafe food and harmful environmental practices.”

Unions have also expressed concern about what happens when trade deals are passed without the input of the working families elected representatives in Congress.

“The TPP isn’t really a trade deal, unless you’re talking about trading more American jobs – including call center and other service sector jobs – to places like Vietnam,” said Yvonne Kinston, member of the Communication Workers of America. “The TPP would drive down the wages and benefits of working families here at home while undermining our collective bargaining power to do anything about it.”

“How exactly are American workers supposed to compete with workers in a country with a 28-cent minimum wage,” asked Ms. Kinston.

“The TPP repeats many of the same mistakes we’ve seen over the past twenty years with NAFTA,” said Ana Pardo, Campaign & Outreach Coordinator at the North Carolina Worker Rights’ Project. “Thanks in part to NAFTA and other trade agreements, North Carolina has lost more than 100,000 jobs to off-shoring, and our state has experienced disproportionate growth in low-wage jobs.

“While trade agreements can be a potent tool for developing economic prosperity, the reality is that prosperity simply hasn’t reached North Carolina’s workers,” added Ms. Pardo.

The United States is not the only nation whose workers have suffered from poorly-negotiated trade deals gone predictably awry.

“At Witness for Peace we know how these so-called ‘Free Trade’ agreements work,” said Ron Garcia-Fogarty, Regional Director for Witness for Peace Southeast, who spoke about the impacts trade deals like the TPP have had on other countries.

“We have seen it first-hand, the way bad deals like NAFTA and CAFTA have harmed Latin America and North America for the last three decades, driving up poverty and inequality, and leaving loopholes for unscrupulous corporations to disregard labor and human rights and engage in environmental destruction. The TPP would only aggravate these problems, so we are especially alarmed that a deal affecting half the world’s population could be fast-tracked to passage with scarcely any debate in Congress or in public.”

Attendees closed the press conference by calling upon Rep. David Price to vote against Fast-Track to ensure there is free and open public debate on the terms of the TPP and careful review of how the agreement critics have called “NAFTA on steroids” could impact the planet and its people.

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The North Carolina State AFL-CIO is the largest association of local unions and union councils in North Carolina, representing union members, fighting for good jobs, safe workplaces, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of ALL working families.  PO Box 10805, Raleigh, NC 27605.