EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – In a showing of cross-border solidarity, fair trade activists from Minnesota bolstered the ranks of local activists protesting today outside the offices of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a lead proponent of legislation that would “fast track” more bad trade deals that threaten U.S. jobs.
Fast Track, or “trade promotion authority,” passed the Senate last month, and the bill could draw a vote in the House as early as tomorrow.
That means labor and environmental activists are in full campaign mode, urging lawmakers like Kind, a Democrat from Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, to reject the measure, which would limit Congress’ ability to influence trade agreements negotiated in secret, like the 1,000-plus page Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“It covers 40 percent of the world’s GDP and 800 million people, and all we know about it has come through leaked documents,” said Bruce O’Brien of Altoona, Wis. “It’s a big deal, and it’s not just about trade. It’s about our sovereignty.”
Current proposals in the TPP would allow multinational corporations to challenge local ordinances governing food safety, setting wage and lending standards or establishing “buy-local” procurement policies – and to do so in extrajudicial trade tribunals.
“Labor standards, environmental rules – we can’t control those things in other countries,” AFSCME Local 1914 member Judy Gattin said. “American labor can’t compete with child labor.”
Don Stuttgen, a retired Communications Worker, said he’s urged Kind to “keep our businesses here in the U.S. Don’t give away all our jobs.”
But so far those concerns haven’t moved Kind out of the “yes” column on Fast Track. Today’s action, demonstrators said, is a reminder that they aren’t giving the congressman a pass.
“We’ve got to do things like this to make our voice heard, to hold him accountable,” O’Brien said.
A delegation of about 15 Minnesotans, including several members of the Communications Workers of America and activists from the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, traveled here today to support the Wisconsin action.
“I think it’s important for union members to stand in solidarity, even if it’s across state lines,” CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer said. “This is an international trade deal that will affect everybody.”
Meyer said Minnesota’s DFLers are solidly opposed to Fast Track, and activists were looking for ways to help out elsewhere.
“We’re taking a stand for all Americans, all working families,” she said. “It’s worth our last-ditch effort to see if we can help flip a yes to a no.”