Friday, May 8, 2015

Fast track flunkies go all out to try to force vote in Senate

Earlier this week, the Senate's top Democrat Harry Reid put his foot down on the fast track trade bill, saying he would not allow supporters to quickly jam the measure through the chamber. Well, not surprisingly, corporations and their lawmaker cronies didn't like that. So they are pushing back hard.

Protesters took a stand against fast track on Capitol Hill in April.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is forcing the issue by calling for a procedural vote known as cloture as soon as next week. If he can get 60 votes, the Senate can end debate on the matter and take a final vote on fast track. But whether he can get those 60 votes is the big question.

It could take a bipartisan effort to stop cloture. A handful of Democrats have decided to side with big business already on fast track, which means any vote will be very close. For U.S. workers and those who support fair trade, there is no margin for error.

Just in case anyone needed a reminder on why stopping fast track is essential, he is a primer: it would allow quick votes to be taken on bad trade deals like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with no chance to amend the deals. That is particularly insidious when details of trade agreements are shielded from public view.

Yet supporters are doing everything they can to push for fast track and the TPP. Today, President Obama is in Oregon to visit Nike Headquarters, and the company is doing all it can to shill for the trade deals. The company says it could create 10,000 new U.S.-based jobs at Nike if the Pacific Rim trade pact is approved. This is the shoe manufacturer, mind you, that is the poster boy for sweatshops worldwide.

Well the Teamsters aren't buy it, and the American public shouldn't either. As Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said today:

The promise of job creation as a result of these unbalanced trade agreements is a just a broken record replaying the same corporate lies. We’ve heard it all before – and the middle class is tired of bearing the brunt of these unfair trade agreements.
Before NAFTA was passed, General Electric promised more than 10,000 new jobs would be created. Instead, GE eliminated 11,675 jobs directly due to increased competition from imports and offshoring under NAFTA. Chrysler promised 4,000 new jobs and it eliminated nearly 18,000 jobs. And just last month, Caterpillar announced it will move two production lines from Joliet, Illinois to Mexico, costing the community 230 jobs.
With a track record like this, you can understand why working men and women are skeptical of trade agreements. Global corporations like Nike take advantage of the rules outlined in trade deals like NAFTA and TPP. The system is rigged to benefit companies that move operations to countries where they can take advantage of low wages and weak labor protections. Nike alone employs 990,000 workers in low-wage countries.

We must not repeat the mistakes of the past by passing TPP and watching more manufacturing jobs leave our country while the middle class suffers.

It's time to take a stand against these big business bullies. If workers want to protect American jobs and their wages there is only one answer -- say no to fast track. Make sure to let the Senate know they should be doing the same.