This October, All Hands On Deck to Stop the TPP

It’s critical that workers and unions demand that waffling members of Congress state their opposition to the TPP this October, before the election—while we still have some leverage. Photo: APWU

The White House is hell-bent on forcing the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress during the lame-duck session immediately after the election, when political accountability to constituents is at its lowest.

That’s why it’s critical that workers and unions demand that waffling members of Congress state their opposition to the TPP this October, before the election—while we still have some leverage.

TPP is like a giant version of NAFTA, covering 12 countries around the Pacific. This multinational treaty poses an urgent threat to our democracy, jobs, health, environment, drug prices, and the Internet.

Communications Workers (CWA) Local 3611 member Grant Welch hadn’t even heard of the TPP until he attended a union training in June. Now he’s helping his local to phonebank, asking every member to call their Congressperson. CWA held a national call-in day September 14.

“People are eager and willing to learn,” says Welch, a telecom worker in Raleigh, North Carolina. “We have a group of very passionate young workers who have visited every work center and every yard to tell workers about the TPP.” He and fellow activists have also passed out flyers at Moral Monday rallies, and they’re spreading the word to family and friends.

EASY WAYS TO TAKE ACTION

To start taking action, you don’t need to become an expert. It’s enough to know the basics in this article. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.”

I wear my large “NO TPP” button every day, at work and everywhere else. Many people like it, and it starts a conversation. Some ask, “What is TPP?” Others ask where they can get a button. I carry some extras in my pocket to give out.

Doing something, even for just a few minutes a week, is much better than doing nothing. Here are a few ways to get started:

Join Local Efforts. There are community groups already working against the TPP. Your union can work with them, and with other unions and labor councils, to pressure key members of Congress.

Find Buddies. Even if your local won’t take action, you can work with co-workers, friends, neighbors, or on your own. There may be members willing to become the local experts and activists on TPP. Find and encourage them.

Add Your Voice. Visits and emails to your member of Congress matter. Letters to the editor of your local newspaper matter. Meet Congressmembers at public events as they campaign for reelection. To find out where your representative stands on TPP, email Elizabeth Swager of the Citizens Trade Campaign, elizabeth[at]citizenstrade[dot]org.

Hold a Sign. One easy tactic is to stand along a busy street with a homemade sign such as “No TPP” or “Rep. Smith, Take a Stand: No TPP” or “TPP Is Betrayal.” This raises public awareness—exactly what the billionaires don’t want.

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Find Others to Help. Have personal conversations with co-workers and stewards. When people are asked directly to help in a specific way, they will often agree. If they cannot do that thing, there may be something else they can do.

Get Personal. Commit to telling at least one friend or family member about the dangers of TPP.

Smile. Keep a tone of hope and optimism. Nobody wants to listen to Chicken Little. Be patient.

Spread the Word. Use social media, your union newsletter and website, and bulletin boards. Conduct trainings for union members. Leaflet at the worksite gate.

TPP In a Nutshell

The TPP is a corporate power grab, a 5,544-page document that was negotiated in secret by big corporations while Congress, the public, and unions were locked out.

Multinationals like Google, Exxon, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, UPS, FedEx, Apple, and Walmart are lobbying hard for it. Virtually every union in the U.S. opposes it. So do major environmental, senior, health, and consumer organizations.

The TPP will mean fewer jobs and lower wages, higher prices for prescription drugs, the loss of regulations that protect our drinking water and food supply, and the loss of Internet freedom. It encourages privatization, undermines democracy, and will forbid many of the policies we need to combat climate change.

The worst part is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision, which allows a multinational corporation to sue to override any U.S. law, policy, or practice that it claims could limit its future profits. Secret panels of corporate lawyers and corporate lobbyists will decide these cases. Their judgments cannot be appealed, not even to the Supreme Court.

Though the Obama administration touts the pact’s labor and environmental protections, the official Labor Advisory Committee on the TPP strongly opposes it, arguing that these protections are largely unenforceable window dressing.

To learn more, check out the Citizens Trade Campaign, citizenstrade.org, and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, tradewatch.org. For labor-specific resources, try CWA, stopthetpp.org, and the AFL-CIO, aflcio.org/Issues/Trade.

Steve Brown is a postal worker in Colorado.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #451, October 2016. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.