San Antonio — About 250 people – CWAers, environmental activists, students, and community groups – came together to figure out ways to convince their elected representatives to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the trade deal harms Texas industries and communities.
CWA members and allies across Texas also engaged in targeted social media actions last week, calling on their U.S. Representatives to stand up for good U.S. jobs and the ability of U.S. citizens to set our own laws. TPP, as currently negotiated, would allow multinational corporations to challenge U.S. laws and standards that they feel would cost them revenues.
Members of IUE-CWA Local 86023 protest fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Below: At the TPP forum in San Antonio, CWA President Larry Cohen answers questions about how TPP would hurt workers and communities. From left: Brooks Sunkett, CWA VP for Public, Healthcare and Education Workers; national commentator Jim Hightower; and Hal Suter, chair of the Lone Star Sierra Club.
"Our 20 years of experience in trade deals, starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement, has proven that we lose far more jobs than we gain, and that our pay and benefits are pushed down, with global competition as the excuse," CWA President Larry Cohen said. "That's not the future we want for ourselves or our children. We must pursue economic and trade policies that are best for American workers – not multinational corporations."
Ten of the 12 Democratic members of the Texas delegation are on record opposing fast track and the TPP. The remaining two – Reps. Joaquin Castro and Henry Cuellar – haven't yet joined their colleagues in condemning the secrecy that has surrounded the TPP negotiations and the one-sided benefits being given to multinational corporations at the expense of U.S. workers' jobs and our country's ability to determine and carry out our own laws.
"What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc., to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars? This nullification of our people's right to direct expenditures is just one of the horror stories in TPP," commentator Jim Hightower said.
Cohen, Hightower and Hal Suter, chair of the Lone Star Sierra Club, led the forum at the St. Anthony Hotel. District 6 Vice President District Claude Cummings, Jr., said the forum was a huge success, with great speakers and lively discussion by community and workers' leaders on how similar one-sided trade deals, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have harmed U.S. workers and communities. Like NAFTA did, devaluing jobs that were then shipped overseas, TPP will send more jobs offshore, push down wages, devastate communities and allow multinational corporations to challenge our food safety and public health, consumer protections, environmental standards and other laws.
If approved, the deal would cover both manufacturing jobs and service sector jobs, including call center work and other Internet-related work.
Among the countries vying for this deal is Vietnam, where the average hourly wage is 75 cents and the minimum wage is 28 cents an hour. Vietnam also uses forced labor, with tens of thousands of workers in detention centers turning out products for exports, according to Australia Human Rights Watch, and indentured child labor. Brunei, another of the negotiating countries, is adopting new laws that institute "sharia" law in that country and violates human rights.
More than 153 House Democrats have taken a stand against "fast track" or Trade Promotion Authority for TPP. The "fast track" process would require that Congress vote yes or no on the entire trade deal, with no opportunity to make any amendments. "The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that repeats the mistakes of the past, and in fact, makes them worse. We can and must do better," these U.S. representatives wrote in a letter to President Obama.