Braving thunder and rain, hundreds of protesters rallied outside of the Capitol building in Washington DC on Wednesday to declare to the government that "the entire progressive movement is united" in the call to reject unjust trade deals and embrace an economy for all.
"They say 'Fast Track!' We Say 'Fight Back!'" the group chanted, referring to recent efforts by President Obama to push through legislation to cement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP, without congressional deliberation. Thus far, the details of the deal have been negotiated behind closed doors, with the only information made available to the public via leaks.
Under the banner "Fair Trade is Not Free," a diverse coalition of environmental organizations, good government groups, farm groups, and over a dozen unions took part in the protest, carrying umbrellas and placards, which read: "Stop Secret Trade Deals."
"Let's show Congress that the entire progressive movement is united in the fight for a 21st century global economy that works for everyone," declared the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which organized the rally.
The TPP has been blasted by critics for undermining labor and environmental standards, as well as the open Internet. "The TPP is a horrific thing," said Kian Frederick, national field director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "There's something for everyone to hate."
Frederick, who attended the action, told Common Dreams that she believed the aspect of the deal with the most potential harm is the Investor State Dispute Resolution, which grants global corporations state status, much like NAFTA, allowing them to sue a country for supposed loss or damages if they amend their laws. However, according to Frederick, the TPP goes a step further by allowing a corporation to sue for the loss of future expected profits.
"It's an absolute race to the bottom," Frederick declared, citing the myriad ways a government will be handcuffed to old legislation: food safety standards, environmental standards, labor laws. "If we go through with it, taxpayer money will all be recouped by the corporations."
Public Citizen is hoping the rally draws attention to an upcoming congressional vote on whether to eschew legislative authority and "Fast Track" the trade deal without deliberation or input. The vote will likely occur after the midterm elections.
Speaking before the crowd, Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of AFL-CIO America, declared: "This is what solidarity looks like!" Gebre was joined by other speakers including Reps. Rosa deLauro (D-Conn.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Mike Michaud (D-Me.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).