The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Don Nielsen, 559-647-7732 or Charles Idelson, 510-273-2246

RNs Warn Fast Track, Trade Deals Threat to Public Health

Nurses to Carry Protest to Drug Company Lobby Offices

Sacramento, CA

Warning of a significant threat to public health, delegations of California registered nurses will hold a press conference in Sacramento Tuesday morning, and visit district offices of several key Congress members, to emphasize their opposition to "fast track" authority for the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

What: Press Conference with Registered Nurses

When: Tuesday, March 10, 11 a.m.

Where: Office of PhRMA, 1215 K Street, Suite 970, Sacramento

In addition to the press event outside the Sacramento offices of PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry which is a principal beneficiary of the TPP at the expense of patients, nurses will also be visiting several district offices of California Congress members around the state on this week. RN delegations will call on Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis in San Diego, Ami Bera in Sacramento, and Norma Torres in Ontario.

While the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to leaked documents, appears to pose a variety of threats to democracy, working families and the planet, the RNs--represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United--are particularly concerned about the major risks it poses to public health as a result of numerous provisions written by corporate lobbyists.

"Nurses are patient advocates, and by extension advocates of our patients' families and our communities, and we are sounding a Code Blue on fast track," said CNA/NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN, at a Washington press conference last week.

The CNA/NNU registered nurses will be speaking Tuesday on the importance of not authorizing "fast track" authority for a trade deal that could:

  • Inflate life-saving medication costs. According to the leaked documents, pharmaceutical corporations would be given years longer monopoly pricing on patents for lifesaving drugs--blocking distribution of competitive, cheaper, generic medications. "That is especially critical for people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other illnesses in developing countries as well as in the United States," said Burger.
  • Expose Americans to unsafe food, as corporations challenge food safety laws as "trade barriers." "The TPP would require us to allow food imports if the exporting country claims that its health and safety laws are 'equivalent' to our own, even if they violate the key principles of our food safety laws," noted St. Louis RN Beverley Van Buren in Washington.
  • Erode public health laws/services, allowing corporations to sue local governments to overturn healthcare laws, in order to "compete" (large tobacco firms have already used global trade rules to successfully quash labeling laws regarding the health hazards of smoking). Nurses point out that countries with national health systems--as well as the U.S. Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Administration systems--would also be threatened by legal challenges and privatization.
  • Nullify environmental protections, in the name of corporate profits. "No matter what the will of the people in any particular locale, these trade agreements can supercede statutes that protect the people's health and safety," said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN, in Washington.
  • Overturn laws and regulatory protections passed by elected representatives. A most ominous element is the emergence of Investor State Dispute Settlement corporate tribunals in trade deals that allow global corporations to effectively overturn domestic laws or be awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for damage for "unfair competition." Such tribunals have already been used to attack public health laws on the dangers of smoking and drug patent rules.

"While there are many good reasons to reject fast track, the nation's registered nurses are particularly concerned about these trade agreements' threats to public health and safety," says Burger. "We strongly urge Congress to reject Fast Track, because it is literally a matter of life or death for the public."

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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