Aug 22, 2013
Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis.
Below: CWA President Larry Cohen addresses the crowd.
CWA joined hundreds of labor, fair trade, environmental and community activists in an energetic march through downtown Minneapolis Tuesday to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal that could jeopardize American jobs, wages, consumer safety, health care and environmental standards.
"For all of us that are here from CWA, we're going to take this spirit back to wherever we're from. Across the Plains, across the Southwest, across to the Northwest and loud and clear we have one message: No more Fast Track. We need Fair Trade, not Fast Track," CWA President Larry Cohen told the crowd, referencing a bill in Congress that would force an up-or-down vote on the TPP without amendments.
CWA was holding its District 7 meeting in Minneapolis this week, and the CWA attendees linked up with Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition Director Josh Wise, TakeAction Minnesota Executive Director Dan McGrath, CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer and other coalition allies on the march.
The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries will meet this week in Brunei to discuss what could be the largest trade agreement in U.S. history. But the only people at the TPP negotiating table are corporate lobbyists and government officials – not the groups fighting for workers, public health, free speech, environmental regulations and consumer protections. While the draft text of the agreement has never been officially released to the public, leaked documents reveal disconcerting proposals to grant new political powers to multinational corporations, ration lifesaving medicines, extend restrictive intellectual property laws and more.
CWA District 7 Vice President Mary Taylor addresses the Minneapolis meeting.
Below: Protesters point out Verizon's hypocrisy with giant foam fingers.
On the way to the rally, protesters stopped outside of U.S. Bank and Verizon – one of the many corporate "trade advisors" involved in the trade talks – to raise awareness about their support of the TPP. Marchers chanted, "Secrets, secrets are no fun. TPP hurts everyone."
"Democracy does not function unless the people have a spot at the table," said Wise. "The big corporations want to keep this as secret as possible."
At the same time, a number of organizations, including CWA, are calling for the suspension of trade discussions until Vietnam ends its labor rights abuses, which have only worsened since the country entered into the TPP talks. A new report, released by the Worker Rights Consortium titled "Made in Vietnam," examined the manufacturing sector and discovered forced labor, child labor, pregnancy and gender-based discrimination, health and safety hazards, excessive working hours and inadequate wages. Additionally, the report says that advocating for labor rights in Vietnam is more difficult than in China because government policies restrict the establishment of independent organizations.
"We have to say to the White House loud and clear: In 2008 and 2007, when you were in Iowa you told us no more NAFTA, you told us no more bad deals, that we would have good deals. We're still waiting," said Cohen at the rally. "When do we get to have a say on these trade deals? When do we get to see these trade deals? When do the people of this country get to speak up on trade, not just the State Department?"