Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Everyone gets that past "free" trade deals rigged the rules against working people. Now across the country a strong populist movement has gained momentum to stop more trade deals from making things worse.
This is just one part of the populist movement that has grown up since Occupy Wall Street in response to terrible inequality. Now across the country citizens and organizations are mobilizing in opposition to the way our country's rules have been rigged to the benefit of the 1 percent and against the interests of 99 percent of us.
Many of the key leaders and activists in that movement will converge in Washington for the "Populism2015: Building a Movement for People and the Planet" conference on April 18-20. Campaign for America's Future is a co-sponsor of that conference, with National People's Action, USAction and Alliance for a Fair Society. (Register for the conference at the Populism2015 website.)
The conference organizers have adopted a 12-point platform for a progressive populist agenda that will drive independent political organizing over the next two years. One of the key planks in that platform is forging "a global strategy that works for working people."
"Our global trade and tax policies are rigged by multinational companies to drive down pay and worker protections while harming the environment. We need more but balanced trade, global standards that protect the rights of workers, consumers and the environment. That requires a crackdown on tax havens, currency manipulation, and deals that allow corporation to trample basic labor rights here and abroad."
Trade Deals Rigged The Rules
Free trade agreements allowed companies to move factories and jobs out of the U.S., escaping our wage and safety standards and environmental regulations. These companies could bring the same goods back to sell in the same stores with no penalty. Of course, the country lost millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories and entire industries.
Since the "free trade" ideology kicked in during the late 1970s and especially the early 1980s, factory after factory has closed, job after job has left the country and community after community has been devastated. Unions were broken. Productivity increases have detached from wage increases, with all the gains going to an already-wealthy few. Our trade deficit -- the metric that measures lost factories, jobs and living standards -- has grown to enormous, huge levels.
People have come to realize how "free trade" agreements have rigged the rules in favor of the wealthy and undermined America's working people. Those of us in the 99 percent either have experienced or know someone who has experienced being told, or the fear of being told, their job is being moved out of the country. With rising numbers of jobless lining up for any available job, people became afraid to ask for raises, better hours or even improvements in working conditions.
Everyone knows the result of "NAFTA-style" trade agreements has been terrible for 99 percent of us. Say the word "NAFTA" in the "rust belt" and stand back as people express their anger over what has happened to them, to their friends and families and to their communities. They move your job out of the country, a few people pocket the wage difference and you end up with a $10 job as a greeter at Walmart, paid so little that you qualify for food assistance.
People are fed up and finally are ready to do something about it.
Populist Revolt On Trade
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest trade agreement in history. It covers countries that are responsible for 40 percent of the world's economy. President Obama sells it by saying that it rewrites the rules for doing business in the 21st century. Yet there is little to no coverage of this trade agreement in the national media. (Media Matters reported, "A Media Matters transcript search of the CBS Evening News, ABC's World News Tonight, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through January 31, 2015, found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.")
Even though there is a virtual media blackout on information about TPP, people around the country are finding out anyway. There is a remarkable level of unity and opposition to the fast track process that will be used to pass TPP -- among people who have heard of it. Fast track and TPP are quickly becoming a political "third rail." If politicians go against the public on this one, they find themselves in trouble.
On a press call Wednesday talking about the level of opposition to TPP among the membership of various organizations, Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, explained, "The grassroots forces against fast track are the local clergy, small business owners, union and environmental group members, activist retirees and students that members of Congress face whenever they go home."