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Is America’s Biggest Federation of Unions Caving on the TPP?

Written by on July 13, 2015 in Corruption, Government, Politics with 0 Comments

By Robert O'Leary, J.D., BARA


I received an Email on July 6, 2015 about the Trans-Pacific Partnership from the largest federation of unions in the U.S., the AFL-CIO. I have received previous Emails from them regarding this subject and have been happy to see that they have been a vocal opponent of the TPP for years. Here is the Email in its entirety. Please note how the Email's tone signals a shift in this organization's stated objectives around the TPP:



All I can say is: wow. I’ve been working on stopping Fast Track for years now and I can tell you that—even though Congress pulled some last-minute political maneuvering to get Fast Track passed last month—we beat all the odds and changed the game. And we did it together.

One year ago, if you had told me that Congress would vote against this awful legislation, I wouldn’t have believed you. But despite the arm-twisting from corporations and the 1%, we nearly got Congress to defeat Fast Track because of the pressure you and millions of others put on your legislators.

And now the real debate has begun. In the coming months, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the biggest trade deal in the history of U.S. trade deals—is going to be finalized, and Congress will have to vote on it. We need to make sure the TPP doesn’t sell out working people here and abroad, give foreign corporations special privileges to sue U.S. taxpayers to recover lost profits or undermine efforts to stop climate change.

Sign our petition now to tell U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and President Barack Obama to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership work for working people, not corporate CEOs.

When this Fast Track fight began, corporate CEOs and high-powered Washington lobbyists thought it was going to be a walk in the park. But because we put enough pressure on legislators by sending emails, making calls, taking action on social media and turning out for events, we slowed down and almost thwarted their plan to rubber stamp more bad trade deals that ship jobs overseas, lower wages and give more power to big corporations. This should send a strong signal to our elected leaders and the 1% that we’re not going to tolerate corporate CEOs and billionaires undermining our democracy.

We need to carry this momentum forward and tell our lawmakers to focus on policies to raise wages, so millions of working families don’t have to worry about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads. And one way to do that is to ensure that the final TPP is as good for working people as President Obama has said it is.

Leaked documents from the TPP negotiations (remember, the actual text is secret) show that some of the same problematic things included in past disastrous trade deals are being considered for the final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Things like the investor-state dispute settlement system, which allows corporations to sue governments if they feel a law or regulation cost them profits.

So this is only the beginning of our fight to demand better trade rules that benefit our families and communities.

Tell U.S. Trade Representative Froman and President Obama to ensure the TPP and future trade deals don’t sell out working people.

And thank you again for all the actions you took to stop Fast Track. We’re strongest when we stand together.

In Solidarity,

Celeste Drake
Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, AFLCIO

I interpret this letter to indicate that the AFL- CIO has fundamentally altered its approach to this issue. As this is easily one of the largest organizations speaking on this issue and as it represents many millions of workers, this signifies an arguable sea change that may sweep other activist organizations in the same direction. At a minimum, it means that far fewer people will be calling for outright defeat of the TPP.

One may reasonably call this a major surrender to mega corporations, lobbyists, and certain legislators who have received funds from some of those same mega corporations in the past.

Why would the AFL-CIO shift its goal from seeking the defeat of this bill to asking the president for revisions that will be good for labor? And how likely are they to get substantial concessions from the same president who never followed through on a campaign promise to walk with unions and who has seemed to take their support for granted? It is true that the president signed legislation, along with the Fast Track Bill, that would provide workers displaced by the TPP to have help in getting training for another job.

Yet this decision only came afer tremendous opposition, from both sides of the aisle, that threatened to derail the Fast Track Bill, itself. As Fast Track was deemed a prerequisite to the TPP being finalized (at least according to the Japanese Prime Minister) and as Obama really wants the TPP passed, he arguably would have agreed to anything to gain approval of  Fast Track.

You may already know that many individuals and groups have stated that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is an awful trade bill. I have characterized it, in a previous article as “trash”, and attempted to make the point that no matter how you try to dress it up or make it seem more palatable, trash is still trash. See Robert O'Leary, “Fast Track and TPP Are Trash-Let’s Throw Them Out”, June 16, 2015,

What we know of the TPP is only what we have had revealed to us through whistleblower leaks of certain chapters. So, we know how bad this bill is only from pieces of it. Just how bad might the TPP actually be when we have only seen mere portions of it – the proverbial tip of this iceberg? Wikileaks have recently offered a sizeable sum of money for anyone willing to release the full text of the TPP. Jon Rappaport in a recent article queried as to why no representatives or senators have been willing to reveal parts of the bill, notwithstanding the rules laid down by the parties to the trade agreement. See Jon Rappaport, “Challenge: what US federal legislator will dare to get arrested over the TPP?”, June 26, 2015,

So, the veil of secrecy is still holding and the TPP trade bill, while reportedly still under discussion and negotiation, has little promise of becoming a less trashy bill. I feel confident in stating this because there are no consumer, labor, small (or medium) business, or activist voices taking part in these discussions. This means that there is no counterpoint to the agenda of the respective businesses, trade representatives or lobbyist groups taking part.

Some of you might suggest that at least some of these businesses will have their consumers and society generally in mind while engaging in these negotiations. While some business leaders may have such a notion in mind, we must remember that a primary obligation of any corporation is to make profits for its shareholders. This means that they must minimize costs of production (including the costs of safety standards and equipment) and raise prices as much as legally and fiscally possible. What keeps them from making dangerous and unhealthy products is the market and governmental standards.

Let's talk for a moment about safety standards. Our safety standards have been developed over time thanks to a lot of work by citizens, civic organizations, businesses, mayors, legislators, and governors. Experts have been called upon to provide scientific and health data in order to determine which chemicals and biochemical are toxic and which are non-toxic. They have also determined in what quantities they are safe. The above letter mentions that the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS) will be in this agreement, too.

The ISDS, as found in other trade bills, have already cost Canada and Mexico millions of dollars – paid to corporations that had been told “no” to bringing products, deemed unsafe under each of those country's legislative and administrative processes. See Scott Sinclair, “NAFTA investor-state claims against Canada are ‘out of control': study”, January 15, 2015, “”

Prior to the ISDS systems found in these trade agreements, each of these foreign corporations has had to come to the state courts and present their grievance(s) to the tribunals – containing judges who had been either elected or appointed by your fellow state citizens. These judges would not only know your state laws and know your states' safety standards, they and their families would also be subject to those laws and standards. If they were to allow a toxic substance or product into your state, they and their kids would suffer alongside you and your kids.

Instead of this great constitutionally-based system, the ISDS gives us 3 nameless, faceless, and unimpeachable attorneys (rotating within the roles of judge, prosecutor and defense counsel) in some other country. Nor will they use our state law standards. They reportedly have no rules set up yet. Nor do we know who will make these laws. I would be willing to bet money that whoever does come up with these rules will not consult each of the states or provinces in the 12 countries who may sign on to the TPP. Yet the AFL-CIO seems to think that the president will somehow make the ISDS go away or make it better somehow. It would be fair to ask them how they think that is likely, especially given that the president has made no mention of having any problem with the ISDS system.

Those in the labor movement are aware of the struggles of Detroit, Michigan over the last several years or so. We can  certainly talk about how the NAFTA and GATT treaties cost America millions of jobs when it promised hundreds of thousands of jobs. We could talk about how that would have contributed to the unemployment in places like Detroit where workers have been treated like the citizens of Greece-told that they would have to lose some of their pensions and “tighten their belts” in other ways.

Just as in Greece, banks and corporations ensure that they come out ahead in any economic crisis and any loans given to them are essentially the banks paying themselves back and requiring the receiving party to go even further into debt due to the high interest rates always imposed on these loans. Now Detroit and other cities in America are already suffering enough simply because of the job losses under NAFTA and GATT. None of our states or cities has yet to suffer a loss in the ISDS tribunal; only Canada and Mexico have suffered that fate. Yet there is no guarantee that our cities and states will be so spared in the future.

Imagine how hard it would be for any of our cities faced with the choice of telling a manufacturer of a product banned in their state that they cannot bring their product in. They would run the risk of having to pay that corporation million of dollars in lost profits, for something a corporation probably would not have dared to in the past. If the TPP passes with the ISDS in it, each of our cities and states will need to choose between the health and safety of their citizens and potential bankruptcy. If any of you have been concerned about what is happening in Detroit, it's safe to say that “you ain't seen nothin' yet” if the TPP, previously called “NAFTA on Steroids” becomes the law of the land.

Given the stakes of this fight,  I would urge each of us to make a clarion call on behalf of our fellow workers and citizens to urge the AFL-CIO not to cave on this issue and that a promise to help to find displaced workers another job is insufficient to compensate for what the TPP may do – think about it – what's the benefit of having a job in a ghost town. Below are ways of reaching the AFL-CIO to express your opinion:


815 16th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006;


4.; or

5.  Search for an AFL-CIO local chapter on the internet.

Robert O'Leary 150x150Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website, He can also be reached at romayasoundhealth

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