WASHINGTON – Before the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Trade Promotion Authority-also known as Fast Track-the BlueGreen Alliance urged members of the House to reject the proposal because it removes critically important checks and balances.
“Approving Fast Track would be bad for our economy and our environment,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW). “The USW is not against trade, but unfortunately the history of trade agreements is clear: I don’t know anyone who can name an agreement passed under fast track that has resulted in a net gain of jobs for working Americans.”
“The Sierra Club and our 2.4 million members and supporters oppose Fast Track, and we’re in good company,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Leaders from environmental, labor, civic, and faith groups agree-Fast Track is a bad deal for our climate and our communities, and the House should reject it.”
Under Fast Track, Congress gives up its constitutional authority over trade negotiations and trades away its ability ensure that trade deals protect communities, workers, and the environment. The groups argued that Fast Track would encourage a race to the bottom and could lead to allowing companies to have expanded rights to challenge our environmental and other laws in a special trade tribunal outside the U.S. court system.
“Fast track gives little opportunity for the public or the Congress to weigh in substantively on agreements that could reshape U.S. environmental policy. We are especially concerned about the process the agreements may include to enable companies to challenge the effects of U.S. laws that protect health and the environment,” Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Future trade agreements must always prioritize what is in the best interest of hard working American families first,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Fast tracking away from regulations and protections put our workforce, our jobs, our economy and our environment in jeopardy.”
“Fast Track will offshore jobs, cut wages, close factories and threaten the well-being of our communities,” said Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley. “Time and again we’ve seen those set to gain the most from trade deals tell us that they’ll make the lives of average Americans better and time and again they’ve been wrong. Fast Track is the wrong track for America.”
The House vote comes just a few weeks after the Senate approved Fast Track. However, a strong bipartisan effort to reject the measure has gained ground in the House in recent months. A broad and growing movement of workers, environmentalists, people of faith, consumers, and community activists has been pushing to stop Fast Track.
“AFT continues to stand with a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and consumer and patient rights organizations against fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Fast Track limits transparency and rigorous debate over our trade policy. American workers deserve a voice, especially around initiatives that would have such far-reaching and lasting economic impacts,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“Fast Track would virtually guarantee the passage of trade deals that ship jobs overseas and give corporations more power over our lives,” said Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA). “Working families can’t afford more bad trade deals.”
“These trade negotiations have the potential to seriously undermine science-based public health, safety and environmental protections in the United States and for our trading partners. It is simply unacceptable that risky provisions are being negotiated in secret when the public has so much at stake,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“We need fair trade not trade deals that are hidden from the public’s view,” said Joseph Sellers, Jr., General President of the International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART). “Workers and families deserve to know what’s in these deals and our elected representatives should not abandon their duty to protect our workers and environment.”
“The House should reject Fast Track to ensure we have fair trade agreements that don’t engage us in a race to the bottom,” said James Boland, President of the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers (BAC).
“This is a critical vote. Trade agreements should be fair, uphold labor standards that protect workers and their jobs, preserve environmental protections, and ensure consumer safeguards aren’t weakened,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Fast Track would deny the ability of Congress to amend deals to achieve those things. Our message to House members is simple: Don’t let Fast Track put America on the wrong track; vote no.”
Photo: Activists with the Sierra Club demonstrate in solidarity with workers against Fast Track. | Robin Everett/Sierra Club