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WSLC urges state legislators not to attend Kerry TPP event

johnson-jeff-13(May 19, 2015) — Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, sent the following letter to state lawmakers on Monday in advance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Tuesday promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the Boeing factory in Renton:

Dear Washington State Legislators:

For the past 18 months the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and coalitional partners from the faith, social justice, and environmental communities have been holding meetings with our Congressional delegation to discuss views on trade and two pieces of legislation that the White House would like to pass — Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord.

While we individually as organizations and collectively support strong “fair trade” agreements, we are unified in our opposition to Fast Track and the TPP.

Tomorrow, Secretary of State John Kerry will be at Boeing’s Renton facility for a scheduled 9:30 am speech to extol the virtues of both pieces of legislation. On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO I am respectfully asking, if you were invited to attend the Kerry speech, that you not attend.

Why? To attend, means disrespecting a cross section of labor and community groups who will be at the Renton site protesting the jobs that have been lost from previous trade agreements and the expected job losses from Fast Track and TPP. And it means lending support to a national issue that has divided both parties. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions on Fast Track and TPP, we have pressing issues in Olympia that need our best and immediate attention.

Why do we oppose Fast Track and the TPP?

Fast Track denies Congress the ability to amend a trade agreement. They can only vote the trade agreement up or down — no reconsideration. If Congress had the ability to set trading objectives and goals before negotiations started and if Congress could measure whether these objectives and goals were met, then Fast Track would make some sense. This did not happen and so the voice of the people is not recognized in the trade agreement and our representatives only have a blunt yes or no vote.

The TPP has been negotiated over the past five years with little to no voice from labor, the environmental community, and other organizations of civil society. Even members of Congress can only see bracketed draft sections of the agreement under conditions of high security. It is extremely frustrating for Congressional members and members of the public to not be able to engage in real discussion of the text. Why? Because the TPP is huge — it will represent 40% of the world’s GNP; and because leaked sections of the TPP layout an Investor’s State Dispute Resolution mechanism that creates a non-elected, non-accountable tribunal that determines whether public policy interferes with potential future loss of corporate profits. No wonder the President doesn’t want to make the text public.

Finally, the theory that all trade is good and that more trade is always better, no longer holds even in trade-dependent Washington state. Our manufacturing sector has been hit hard by job loss and capital flight out of the country. Tax policies that incentivize the offshoring of our jobs has exacerbated economic dislocation in our state. Given the extreme income inequality that exists in Washington state and the nation and given global issues like climate change, it is time to think through much more clearly our trade goals and objectives.

We will sell more Boeing planes and apples whether Fast Track and TPP pass or not. So why not have an actual democratic discussion about whether these bills will advance broadly shared prosperity or not.


Jeffrey Johnson
President, Washington State Labor Council

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