Pacific trade pact protested in 25 U.S. cities

By Dante Strobino and Martha Grevatt

Worker and community organizations in more than 25 U.S. cities held a day of action on Feb. 4 to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership signed by the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Like the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, the TPP is expected to increase the profits of big businesses and banks while eliminating workers’ jobs all over the country and the world, driving smaller businesses and small farmers into bankruptcy. Many call the TPP “NAFTA on steroids.”

Most of the TPP language is not trade-specific, but it creates a supra-legal structure that allows corporations to sue countries if national laws interfere with corporate profit making. If the TPP becomes law in all 12 countries, there could be a loss of jobs, a drop in workers’ incomes, and threats to laws protecting the rights of labor, the environment, food and drug safety, and other areas.

For example, since NAFTA was passed North Carolina has lost more than 138,000 jobs because of “free trade” deals, including many textile and other manufacturing jobs. This new proposed trade deal will result in equal or more job loss.  

All 12 countries signed the pact in New Zealand on Feb. 3, but it must still be ratified by each country’s legislative or parliamentary bodies. This could take months in the U.S.; opponents of the TPP are trying to build public pressure to “flush the TPP.”

Photo: Aiden Graham

Photo: Aiden Graham

In Durham, N.C., on Feb. 3, a broad coalition of labor unions, environmental and community groups, including Food & Water Watch, the Communication Workers union, North Carolina AFL-CIO, Black Workers for Justice, A. Philip Randolph Institute and United Electrical Local 150, the N.C. Public Service Workers Union, held a press conference outside Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s office opposing the TPP and highlighting how prior trade deals have harmed the people of North Carolina.

In 2012, the UE filed a complaint, under NAFTA’s supposed labor protections, about the ban on public sector collective bargaining rights in North Carolina. The National Administrative Office of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation found the public employees’ basic human and labor rights were violated. Yet the state legislature, the Obama administration and the Department of Labor refused to act on these findings.

In Detroit, demonstrators from Autoworker Caravan, Moratorium Now! Coalition, Detroit Light Brigade and other groups demonstrated downtown.

In Chicago, TPP protesters joined forces with Chicago Teachers Union members gearing up for a strike. In other cities people demonstrated outside congressional representatives’ offices.

Besides the protests in the U.S., demonstrations of thousands took place in New Zealand, Peru and Chile.