By Joe Nigro, SMART General President – Recent news reports have been bleak when it comes to the status of working families in the United States. While much of the news focuses on unemployment, and rightly so, there’s a relatively unknown, legal way that corporations are going to impact the job market and the wealth of manufacturing workers throughout the United States.
On the wealth side, the stock market has never been any higher; however, the wealth gap between the wealthiest one percent and everyone else has reached levels not seen since the 1920s and 95 percent of the new income generated in the past decade has gone to the top one percent. In fact, only 2.3 percent of the financial wealth generated by all Americans belongs to the bottom 60 percent. In addition, the median middle class income of American families has fallen by $5,000 since 1999.
Forty years ago, President Ronald Reagan promised the nation that throwing money at the rich would result in their prosperity trickling down to the rest of us. For 40 years, Americans have waited and have only seen their fortunes slide backwards.
On top of that promise, we were told that so-called free trade agreements like NAFTA would open new markets for our products made here at home. What we got instead were more of our good-paying jobs disappearing overseas.
Unfortunately, there are politicians in Washington and CEOs on Wall Street looking to double down on these failed policies that only benefited the top one percent. Rather than fix badly constructed agreements like NAFTA, they’re looking to give us a heavier dose of the same.
Fast Track authority for a new trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership is their newest proposal. What Fast Track does is give the White House the power to present Congress with trade agreements that lawmakers cannot amend once they are brought to a vote. For six years, this Trans-Pacific Partnership has been shrouded in secrecy and now its backers want to rush it through Congress.
Journalists and public interest groups, along with the majority of Congress, have been denied access to the text of this agreement. At the same time, 600 corporate advisors and lobbyists – including Wall Street bankers and companies like Wal-Mart – have been given access to it and are actually allowed to be involved in negotiations. The actual text will not be released until four years after the talks have been concluded or a deal has been reached. Every step involved in the process of crafting this treaty has been hidden from the public.
Even with all the secrecy, there have been some leaks of what is inside the agreement. As many feared, the treaty has been geared towards reducing labor costs here and abroad, while undercutting workers’ rights. Labor, environmental, health and banking regulations that could impact corporate profits are rendered ineffective by a process that allows foreign companies to challenge American laws that negatively impact their profits. American and Canadian courts would be superseded by international unelected tribunals when disputes arise under the treaty. The goal of this treaty is not to raise the standard of living for the citizens of its participating countries, but to instead maximize corporate profits at all costs.
This treaty directly threatens every working family in the United States and Canada, along with the other 11 nations involved in its formulation. The Founding Fathers gave Congress the power over trade, but Fast Track eliminates the ability of your elected representatives in Congress to set trade policy and surrenders the sovereignty of our nation to unelected international tribunals.
Right now, there is a broad-based coalition of groups working together to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty. Not only are union, environmental and civil rights groups involved on the left, but we are being joined by groups on the right concerned about this treaty’s effect on our nation’s sovereignty. Join the SMART Action Team at www.smartaction.org if you have not already and sign up for action alerts that we will be sending periodically. You can also find updates on this fight at our website at smart-union.org/stop-the-tpp.
This is a threat we can fight off, but only if we stand together. Do this for the good of SMART members and for the future world in which our children and grandchildren will live.