Congress passes destructive “fast-track” authority

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Two local Democrats vote in favor of anti-worker measure opposed by Labor

Despite a nationwide effort by organized Labor, Congress recently passed so-called “fast-track” trade promotion authority, which allows presidents in office through 2021 to push through trade pacts in Congress with simple yes or no votes – effectively taking away legislators’ ability to protect workers rights.

“In essence, it takes away Congressional authority to oversee trade agreements like Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and others and gives that to the administration,” said Robert Longer of CWA, who helped lead the local effort against fast track. “It takes the legislative branch out of the equation.”

The passage of the bill included votes by about 10 Senate Democrats and 28 House Democrats who voted against Labor.

Locally, Congressman Ami Bera and Senator Dianne Feinstein voted in favor of fast track, despite massive outreach from the anti-TPP Coalition to ask that they stand with working Americans by voting ‘no.’

For months, the No on TPP Coalition, which includes CWA, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, SEIU 1000 and others, protested outside Bera’s office and met with the Congressman and his staff – but Bera stood firm in his decision to vote against working families.

However, other local legislators including Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Congressman John Garamendi voted against fast track. In June, the Sacramento Central Labor Council sent hundreds of postcards from members thanking those two Representatives for their unwavering support of working people.

Despite the setback, the No on TPP Coalition plans on continuing education and outreach around the TPP – a controversial and secretive trade pact for Pacific Rim nations that is expected to go before Congress this year for approval. That pact involves 12 nations and 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

While the Obama administration has released few details on what it will contain, information that has leaked out is troubling to many. Those provisions include language that would enable big pharma to indefinitely extend patents on drugs, effectively limiting access to low-cost generic drugs worldwide, and other provisions that propose a global court for business issues that could trump U.S. law.

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