TACOMA (Feb. 23, 2015) — In a park overlooking the Port of Tacoma, port workers, environmental and community advocates rallied Feb. 17 in opposition to Fast Track legislation for a proposed international trade pact called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
It was the second stop of a “Fair Trade or BusTour” that begin in Mount Vernon that morning and continued to Olympia that afternoon. The “Blue-Green Machine” bus filled with labor and environmental advocates from the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Sierra Club and other groups continued on the following day to make stops in key Congressional districts in Oregon.
TPP would affect trade among the U.S. and more than 11 Pacific Rim countries, which combined make up almost 40% of the world’s economy. Fast Track legislation gives the President the authority to send a trade agreement to Congress for an up or down vote without the possibility of amendments to improve sections that hurt working people. An unprecedented coalition of more than 300 national and local groups that represent unions, consumers, and environmentalists has formed to stop Fast Track and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“Working families in this country have not seen pay increases in more than 20 years,” said Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, at the Tacoma event. “The Trans Pacific Partnership and Fast Track will mean lower pay, fewer jobs, and greater income inequality for U.S. workers. Fast Track and the Trans Pacific Partnership is the wrong track for America’s middle class. We need trade agreements that improve the quality of our lives, and that is why we urge Congressman Kilmer to just say no.”
President Obama has made passing Fast Track and TPP a signature legislative priority and highlighted the need for its passage during his State of the Union address. The TPP is currently under negotiation and its provisions have been kept secret from the public and members of Congress. However, multinational corporations such Boeing are active parties in talks to write agreement, which could have a direct impact on food safety provisions, regulating chemicals that enter the environment, and how many jobs are created in Washington state.
Imbalanced trade with Pacific Rim nations has already led to significant job loss in the Pacific Northwest, a trend many believe would be accelerated by fast tracking the TPP. More than 100,000 net jobs were displaced from Oregon and Washington under the first decade of a 2001 trade policy focused on China alone.
“We’d love to be loading more Washington-made goods onto ships in the Port of Tacoma,” said Dean McGrath of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23. “If that’s ever going to happen, Congress needs to stop rubber-stamping business-as-usual trade deals that create a race-to-the-bottom in labor and environmental standards. We should be pushing to improve working standards overseas, not forcing people here to compete with sweatshop wages.”
Many of the countries that are party to the TPP negotiations, such as Vietnam, have poor labor and environmental laws and regulations. Factories in Vietnam can often pay manufacturing workers as little as 56 cents an hour and use chemicals that have long been banned in the U.S. Across the Pacific Rim, TPP would lead to further exploitation of workers and risk food safety.