Keystone XL company seeks $15 billion from US after gov’t rejects its pipeline

TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, has asked an international arbitration panel to award it $15 billion because President Obama rejected the company’s plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline, an 1179 mile pipeline for transporting oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to US Gulf Coast refineries.

The arbitration procedures that TransCanada is using were established by the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed in 1994.

Because of NAFTA, companies like TransCanada may be owed lost earnings and damages if a foreign country takes action to protect its environment, its workforce, or its consumers that infringe on a company’s future profits.

Similar language is in the final version of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement pending approval in the US Congress.

“The idea that after all those many, many, many millions of Americans and Canadians participated in this fight (to stop the Keystone XL pipeline), it could somehow be negated by three guys sitting in a room that nobody’s ever heard of and nobody ever voted for, is all the proof that anyone would ever need as to why these kinds of arrangements like NAFTA are something we should be wary of to a huge degree,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an environmental group urging action to stop climate change.

A posting on the United Steelworkers (USW) Oil Workers Facebook page had a similar message: “This is what happens when you negotiate these bad trade deals,” said the posting.

Back in 2009, USW warned what might happen if Keystone XL were allowed to proceed.

At the time, TransCanada was seeking a permit from the US Transportation Department to operate its proposed pipeline at a higher pressure than US safety regulations permitted.

USW pointed out that TransCanada was proposing to use thin steel pipe in its pipeline, which would transport highly corrosive sand tar bitumen. Doing so would increase the risk of “leaks, ruptures, and spills,” stated the letter.

USW also pointed out that TransCanada in other pipeline projects purchased pipe from abroad and would likely do so for the Keystone XL project.

Purchasing pipe abroad, wrote USW, “might reduce cost somewhat but would also reduce the ability of the company to control quality.”

USW subsequently said that it could support the Keystone XL pipeline if there could be assurances that the pipe used was manufactured in the US.

The AFL-CIO endorsed the pipeline, but several unions notably the Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, SEIU, the Transport Workers Union, and the Amalgamated Transit Union joined with environmental activists to create a grassroots movement to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

The participation of the many eventually triumphed over the private interests of the few when President Obama rejected the pipeline because of its threat to the environment and safety.

Recently a leak at another pipeline owned by TransCanada showed that these concerns were warranted.

US News reported in April that 17,000 gallons of oil had leaked from a segment of TransCanada pipeline in South Dakota. The pipeline carried sand tar oil and was similar to the Keystone XL pipeline that was rejected.

The company failed to detect the leak, which was discovered by a passerby.

After the leaked was discovered, TransCanada reported that only 187 gallons has leaked, but that proved to be untrue.

Since 2010 when this pipeline began operating, it has recorded 35 leaks, including a leak of 21,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota.

Despite the risk that Keystone XL and similar pipelines present to the environment, TransCanada thinks that its own interest and those of its shareholders should come first.

And it’s quite possible that the arbitration panel where its complaint will be heard could agree.

According to Bloomberg, TransCanada “has a legitimate argument” because Obama’s decision was based on political considerations rather than the business merits of the project.

“I’m betting for TransCanada on this one and certainly hoping they win the case,” said Rob Merrifield a former Canadian member of parliament to Bloomberg.

Opponents of the pipeline had another take on the arbitration case.

“This outrageous lawsuit by a money-hungry transnational corporation displays not only the depravity of the NAFTA provision that allows it, but also the depravity of imposing deadly tar sands oil upon the people of North America and the rest of the world,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“TransCanada filed this lawsuit as a bullying tactic,” said Jill Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance. “Now TransCanada is trying to bully the American taxpayers and President Obama and any future president that they should not dare to mess with big oil.”

If TransCanada wins and TPP is ratified, then its fair to expect that many more corporations will looking to overturn actions by the government that they don’t like.

 

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Fight against fast track returns to the Senate

The US House of Representatives on June 18 revived fast track authority for trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and sent it back to the Senate for further consideration.

The Senate will vote on Tuesday on the bill that passed out of the House.

The vote came less than a week after the House voted down a version of fast authority that the Senate had sent to the House.

Fast track authority will make it more difficult for Congress to carefully review trade deals such as TPP, a trade pact being negotiated by the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.

Opponents of fast track argue that past trade deals have resulted in the loss of good-paying jobs shipped overseas and lower wages for jobs that remained in the US. They also are concerned that TPP and other trade deals will make it more difficult to protect the environment, ensure food safety, and protect consumers.

Opponents of fast track criticized the House for not addressing the shortcomings of the original bill and vowed to continue fighting fast track authority when it reaches the Senate floor.

“Instead of addressing the massive failures of past trade agreements, the House and the President have doubled down on a disastrous strategy that will cost jobs, lower wages and worsen already record levels of income inequality,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, one of the unions whose members have been actively opposing fast track. “Going forward, we will shift our focus to the Senate where multiple Senators have already expressed doubt about this latest and most frantic attempt to pass fast track.”

The website Stop Fast Track has posted an online petition addressed to eight Democratic senators who have not committed on how they will vote on Tuesday.

The petition reads simply, “If you vote yes on fast track, we pledge to vote against you next election.”

The eight senators are Michael Bennet (Colorado), Tom Carper (Delaware), Chris Coons (Delaware), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), Ron Wyden (Oregon), and Mark Warren (Virginia).

In order to keep fast track alive, the House leadership attached fast track authority to a non-controversial bill dealing with pensions for federal firefighters and other first responders.

The House fast track bill does not include some of the concessions that Senate Democrats won in the Senate version. For example, it does not contain any protections against human trafficking or currency manipulation. And the House version doesn’t include any assistance for workers whose jobs are shipped abroad.

That assistance is provided by a federal program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), set to expire in September.

The original Senate version of fast track tethered fast track authorization to the reauthorization of TAA. The Republican Senate leadership did so to win the support of Democratic senators wavering on authorizing fast track.

Excluding TAA from the fast track bill will make it harder for Democrats to support the current House version, which must be passed in the exact form that it passed in the House before it can be sent to President Obama for his signature.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have promised Democrats that if they vote for fast track, they will get a chance to vote on TAA reauthorization at a later date.

But fast track opponents, which include labor, environmental, consumer protection, civil rights, and public interest groups warned Senators about taking such a promise in good faith.

“Any Democrat in Congress who trusts John Boehner or Mitch McConnell to pass trade adjustment assistance that will actually help working families deserves to lose their job,” said Jim Dean, chair Democracy for America to USA Today.

Fast track falters in the House, but it’s not dead yet

The day after fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) faltered in the US House of Representatives, opponents of the corporate-friendly trade deal celebrated the victory but tempered their joy with a warning.

“The House of Representatives has done the right thing,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “But the fight is not over.”

The House on June 12 voted 302 to 126 to oppose the reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a measure that was added to the Senate fast track bill in order to win support from wavering Democrats.

TAA reauthorization was the second piece of a two-bill package that the House needed to pass in order to send the Senate version of fast track authority for TPP to President Obama for his signature.

Supporters of fast track authority were disappointed in the June 12 vote but said that they would continue to seek fast track authority for TPP, a massive trade deal between the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries that will further encourage the offshoring of US jobs and make it more difficult for countries that are part of the deal to regulate their environment, protect consumers, and guard the public interest.

House Speaker John Boehner said that another vote on  TAA reauthorization could be taken early this week.

Trumka said that he was proud of the grassroots effort organized by a broad coalition of labor, environmental, civil rights, consumer rights, faith, and social justice groups that made the June 12 vote possible and contrasted that effort to the usual way that business gets done in Washington.

“The debate over fast track so far has been a marvelous contrast to the corporate money and disillusionment that normally mark American politics today,” said Trumka. “This was truly democracy in action – millions of people exercising their free rights to inform their elected representatives.  We should all draw from this experience to help replenish our democracy at every level on every issue.”

The work toward building the coalition began in 2013 when diverse groups that saw the looming trade deal as threat to jobs, wages, the environment, consumer rights, civil rights, and the public interest decided that they couldn’t defeat the deal by working alone.

Since then, the coalition which includes hundreds of groups with millions of members, began educating and mobilizing their members.

When it became clear that President Obama would seek a vote on fast track this year, their mobilizing kicked into high gear.

Town hall meetings with lawmakers attended by thousands of activists were held; tens of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers were made; demonstrations took place at the Capitol, on Wall Street, and on Main Street.

That effort led to a narrower than expected vote in favor of fast track in the Senate.

In order to win that vote, the Senate Republican leadership had to agree to reauthorize TAA, which provides re-training and other support for workers whose jobs have been shipped abroad because of trade deals.

Democrats have been traditional supporters of TAA, which expires in September. Fast track supporters thought that including TAA reauthorization in the fast track package would help them win enough votes from House Democrats to pass fast track.

But the Senate TAA reauthorization bill was flawed.

Many if not most workers whose jobs are shipped abroad because of TPP won’t get any help because TAA funding is inadequate.

The bill also diverted  $700 million in Medicare funding to pay for TAA, which Medicare supporters feared could snowball and put the popular health care program in jeopardy.

“Using Medicare to fund unrelated programs is a relatively new yet growing trend in Congress that simply must stop,” said Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “Medicare isn’t Washington’s ATM.”

The TAA reauthorization bill also excluded public sector workers, a large sector of the workforce that may need help if TPP passes because it will encourage the privatization and possible offshoring of more public services.

In 2009, public sector employees were made eligible for TAA benefits after a study by the Congressional Research Service found that 12 percent of public sector jobs in the US are offshorable.

These weaknesses made it easier for opponents to convince enough Democrats to vote down the measure.

The defeat of TAA reauthorization, however, doesn’t mean that fast track is dead.

Fast track supporters may try for another vote in the House, or they may try to work out a compromise in a House-Senate conference committee that revives fast track.

Opponents of fast track are urging those who been active in the fight against fast track to be ready to respond in large numbers to whatever tactic supporters choose to take.

“I don’t think it’s over yet,” said Tim Waters, political director of the United Steelworkers to the Guardian. “They’re  trying to do everything they can to get this back on track.”

“We must fully defeat fast track, so that Congress can work for trade deals that give working families at least as much standing as corporations,” said Chris Shelton, the newly elected president of CWA. “Our broad coalition of Americans — representing millions of union members, environmental activists, immigrant rights advocates, people of faith, students, public health and consumer advocates, community leaders and so many more — will keep up the fight until fast track is defeated.”

All out to stop fast track for TPP in the House

On Wednesday, June 3, opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will stage a massive call-in to members of the US House of Representatives. Callers will tell their member of Congress to vote no on fast track authority for TPP, a massive trade deal between the US and eleven Pacific Rim countries.

Fast track authority for the trade deal would limit debate on the deal, prevent representatives from offering amendments that could make the deal more palatable, and prevent Congress and congressional staff from thoroughly vetting the complex deal.

In addition to the call-in, the coalition of groups opposing TPP will hold demonstrations and other events during the week of June 1-7 to convince undecided lawmakers to vote no.

“We’re throwing everything we have at the fast track vote in the House because everything is on the line,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

Those opposed to TPP include union members concerned that TPP will result in more jobs being shipped abroad and lower wages for the jobs that remain in the US; environmentalists concerned that TPP will make it more difficult to pass laws protecting the environment; consumer advocates concerned that TPP will protect corporate interests at the expense of consumers, and social justice advocates concerned that TPP will make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer.

The week of action during the first week in June comes after the Senate voted 62 to 38 to approve fast track authority.

Cohen told CWA members during a union hall teleconference that he was encouraged that so many Senators voted to oppose fast track authority.

We knew that fast track would pass in the Senate, said Cohen. But we were surprised that so many senators vote no. So were the fast track supporters.

Cohen attributed the stiff resistance in the Senate to a well-organized grassroots mobilizing effort.

That grassroots mobilizing work is intensifying as fast track for TPP moves to the House.

In San Antonio, Texas, opponents are trying to convince the undecided Rep, Joaquin Castro to vote no.

A coalition of Texas groups opposing fast track has called a town hall meeting to have a conversation on trade deals. They’ve invited Rep. Castro and hope that a strong showing at the event will convince him to vote no.

The conversation will take place from 11:00 A.M. until 1 P.M. at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 922 San Pedro Ave. Groups sponsoring  the conversation include the San Antonio AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America, Teamsters, Sierra Club, Presente.org, Fuerza Unida, Fair Trade Coalition, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Texas Organizing Project, and Move San Antonio.

In California, two undecided representatives from San Diego, Rep. Susan Davis and Rep. Scott Peters. will be hearing from constituents urging the two to vote no on fast track.

Since early May, voters in San Diego have been hearing a radio and online ad sponsored by the Sierra Club explaining what is at stake when Congress votes on TPP fast track authority.

The ad criticizes the TPP for being negotiated in secret.

“Why the secrecy?” asks the ad’s narrator. “Because TPP would grant enormous new rights to multinational corporations and make it harder for our nation to safeguard our food, our jobs, and our air, water, and climate.”

A report by CWA also explains the devastating effect that TPP could have jobs in the San Diego area.

According to the report, “The Impact of Trade Agreements on the San Diego Service Sector,” as many as 325,000 service jobs could be at risk of being offshored.

For the most part, the jobs that could be shipped abroad are decent paying jobs.

“The San Diego service sector jobs at risk of being offshored include 19,040 customer service representatives who earn an average annual salary of $37,850; 3,500 computer programmers who average $83,810 a year; 2,530 financial analysts who average $89,770; 14,300 Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks who average $41,590 a year; and 285,340 additional workers spread across another 156 occupations,” reads the report.

In the state of Washington, where several representatives have not committed on how they will vote, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 is phone banking to mobilize members to take action against TPP.

“What little we have seen about this secret agreement points toward the TPP being another pro-corporate trade deal with low standards,” said Nathe Lawver, Local 367’s communications director. “Anyone who likes to eat safe food, have a roof over their head, and work for fair pay needs to be actively fighting against the TPP.”

Round one victory for coalition opposing fast track for TPP

A grassroots coalition of labor, environment, consumer rights, and other progressive groups won round one of the fight over fast track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal when a cloture motion that would have limited debate on the Hatch-Wyden-Ryan Fast Track bill failed to pass in the US Senate.

Fast track authority would prevent Congress from thoroughly reviewing the final draft of the trade deal or offering amendments to it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had scheduled the cloture vote on May 12. It needed 60 votes to pass, but Sen. McConnell could muster only 52 votes. Forty-five senators voted to oppose his motion.

President Obama, who supports fast track authority, began meeting with senators who voted no in an attempt to salvage the legislation, and there is still the possibility that fast track in some form could be resurrected and brought before the Senate again for a vote.

But opponents of TPP, who had been written off by Washington DC pundits, were buoyed by the outcome of the vote.

“Just a few weeks ago, all of the pundits believed that fast track and the TPP were a lock to pass: they were wrong,” said Marc Perrone, international president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “Our 1.3 million members, the entire labor movement, progressive Democrats, and conservative Republicans have all stood up and spoke out against this disastrous trade deal. More importantly, this is what is possible when we all stand together and fight for what is right for our families, our jobs, and our nation.”

“The failure of the Senate to advance fast track legislation is not only a stinging defeat for supporters of the Trans Pacific Partnership; it makes clear that the American people will not be fooled into supporting another bad trade deal,” said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers (USW).

Labor unions played an important role in organizing grassroots opposition to fast track authority for TPP by educating their members about how similar trade deals had cost workers’ jobs and lowered their wages and by mobilizing members to demonstrate widespread opposition to TPP.

The work of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) is illustrative of the organizing and mobilizing work done by UCFW, USW, Teamsters, and several other labor unions that made the May 12 vote possible.

In November, CWA President Larry Cohen announced that defeating fast track authority for TPP would be CWA’s number one priority.

“Starting today (the day after the November elections ended), CWA activists are turning their attention to stopping the Trans Pacific Partnership, a dangerous trade deal that threatens our jobs, communities and the environment. It could potentially give big business new powers to undermine important laws and regulations created to protect us from them,” said Cohen in a message to members.

CWA subsequently mobilized its local leaders to educate and mobilize local members.

As a result, thousands of CWA members participated in efforts to oppose TPP fast track including attending town hall meetings with lawmakers, making constituent visits to lawmakers, making phone calls to lawmakers, and writing them letters and e-mails.

To make the public aware of the dangers that TPP posed for the working class, the environment, and consumer protection, CWA members hit the streets to leaflet, demonstrate, and rally against fast track for TPP.

Recognizing that labor unions alone couldn’t win the fight to stop TPP, CWA sought out alliances with environmentalists, consumer rights activists, immigrant support groups, and other progressive groups concerned about the damage that TPP could in their particular area of interest.

“Our broad coalition–workers, environmental activists, immigrant rights activists, students, public health and consumer groups and so many others–remains strongly opposed to fast track and the TPP that would be a disaster for US jobs, workers and communities,” said Cohen in a statement issued after the cloture motion failed.

The coalition opposing TPP was even broader than the one that Cohen talked about.

More than 2,000 groups signed an April 27 letter drafted by the Citizens Trade Campaign, a public interest group that has been leading the fight against TPP, urging lawmakers to reject fast track authority for TPP.

The letter concluded with these two paragraphs:

After decades of massive trade deficits, devastating job loss, downward pressure on Americans’ wages, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy. To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures that Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements.

Fast track is an abrogation of not only Congress’ constitutional authority, but of its responsibility to the American people. We oppose this bill, and urge you to do so as well.

Unions fight to save jobs as vote on TPP fast track authority draws near

On March 4, about 10 days after Congress returned from a week-long recess, more than 400 union members participated in a grassroots lobbying effort to convince their Senators and Representatives to oppose fast track authority for ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new trade deal being negotiated in secret.

While lawmakers were in recess, they also were visited by union members and other concerned citizens who urged them to say no to fast track authority for TPP.

Union members are opposing TPP, said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO because it will “mean fewer jobs, lower wages, and a declining middle class.”

The US and eleven trading partners in the Pacific Rim have been negotiating the TPP for about five years.

Supporters refer to TPP as a trade deal, but, according to Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA),  TPP is less about setting the parameters for free trade and more about “protecting the interests of big business at the expense of workers, and those who care about the environment, global health care, human rights, consumer safety, and balanced trade and manufacturing revival.”

While most of the details about TPP have been kept secret, the few details that have been leaked have been a source of concern.

In a February 25 opinion piece appearing in the Washington Post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was particularly critical of one of the terms of the treaty that has been made public.

TPP like other trade deals contains a section that establishes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) procedures, which allow corporations to sue a nation, if that nation’s laws or regulations might lessen future profits.

“Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations,” writes Sen. Warren. “Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

Warren said that ISDS clauses in other trade treaties have resulted in challenges to other countries’ laws that established a minimum wage, protected the environment from nuclear reactor meltdowns, and required tobacco companies to warn consumers about the health risks of smoking.

While union members who participated in the March 4 grassroots lobbying effort share Sen. Warren’s concerns, their main message to lawmakers was that TPP will eliminate jobs and lower wages.

The Obama Administration has been saying that TPP will create 650,000 jobs over the next ten years, but more than 60 union leaders who signed a letter to lawmakers opposing TPP said that instead of looking at rosy predictions, the lawmakers need to look at the track record of previous trade deals.

Trade deals like NAFTA have been sold as being job creators, said the letter, “but they don’t create jobs; instead, they make it easier for firms to invest offshore.”

For example, NAFTA, the 1993 trade deal involving the US, Mexico, and Canada, cost the US 685,000 jobs between 1993 and 2010, the 2012 trade deal with Korea has cost the US 60,000 jobs.

TPP could be even worse. Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute writes that research has shown that trade deals like NAFTA have created large trade deficits for the US, that is, they have resulted in a higher ratio of imports to exports.

Higher trade deficits mean the loss of jobs in the US, and, according to Scott, TPP will increase the US’ already large trade deficit.

“New data released this month show that the US trade deficit with the countries in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership increased to an unexpectedly large $265.1 billion in 2014. . . This increase is further proof that U.S. workers don’t need another job-killing trade deal, which would undoubtedly grow the trade deficit even more.”

During the February congressional recess, CWA members met with lawmakers. At one of these meeting, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas brought along the leader of US’ TPP negotiating team, Michael Froman, who has justified TPP by saying that it will create 650,000 jobs.

At the meeting, which was attended by CWA members as well as members of Public Citizen and the Sierra Club, Claude Cummings, CWA Region 6 vice president, called out Froman for making that claim and pointed to a Washington Post Fact Check article that said that the job creating claims for TPP were the result of “fishy math.”

The March 4 grassroots lobbying effort came as the TPP negotiations appear to be wrapping up.

When the final version is complete, President Obama will ask Congress to grant itself fast track authority to ratify the bill.

If it does so, then Congress will vote on the treaty without a chance to thoroughly review the pact or make amendments to it.

With so many jobs at stake, and the fact that fewer jobs will drive down wages, unions are asking lawmakers to give themselves more time to review the treaty by denying itself fast track authority.

In their letter to lawmakers, union leaders said that fast track is undemocratic and urged lawmakers to bring the terms of the treaty “out from behind closed doors.”

“If you stand for higher wages, more jobs, and greater opportunities for America’s hard working families, you will oppose fast track,” concludes the union letter.

Union makes stopping TPP fast track its priority

Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen told members during a nationwide union hall meeting that defeating fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty is now the union’s number one priority.

Cohen also said that it will take a broad-based coalition that includes Republicans to stop TPP.

Those listening in to union hall meeting held by teleconference also heard about the work local leaders are doing to mobilize members and allies to oppose the latest so-called free trade deal.

“(TPP) is not about free trade,” said Cohen. “It’s about protecting the profits of multi-national corporations.”

Thousands of good-paying jobs are at stake because TPP will make it easier for corporations to ship US jobs abroad, continued Cohen.

Trade representatives from the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have been negotiating in secret the terms of the proposed TPP.

In addition to official government trade representatives, corporations also are involved in the negotiations.

“Six hundred corporate advisers have a seat at the table during negotiations,” said Robert Longer, executive vice-president of CWA Local 9421 during the union hall meeting.

The working class has no representatives at the table.

President Obama is urging Congress to grant itself fast track authority for ratifying TPP once the final version has been agreed upon by all parties involved in the negotiations.

If Congress votes for fast track authority, it will vote on TPP without reviewing the details of the treaty or being able to amend it.

President Obama wants Congress to vote on fast track authority for TPP early next year.

The purpose of the CWA union hall meeting was to share strategies for defeating TPP fast track authority.

Mahalia Corley, executive vice president of CWA Local 3680 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, described her local’s on-the-job work at an AT&T Mobility call center in Fayetteville.

“On the heels of our voter registration drive, we segued into educating our 400-person call center about the TPP,” said Corley. “Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for the last two weeks, CWA officers and stewards went up and down the call center aisles asking workers to talk to them about TPP during the workers’ breaks.”

We told them that if TPP passes, our jobs would become expendable because it would be cheaper for the company to outsource our jobs overseas, Corley said.

We also told them about the impact that TPP would have on our community, continued Corley. If the company lays us off, there will be less money for spending in our local stores and less tax money to support our schools, hospitals, and other public services.

As a result of Local 3680’s work, 217 call center workers signed postcards urging Congress to oppose TPP and fast track.

Corley also said that many workers said that they would talk to their friends and family about why they should oppose TPP and fast track.

In Northern California, CWA members who belong to Local 9421 in Sacramento are working with a coalition to urge Rep. Doris Matsui to oppose TPP.

Matsui, a Democrat, hasn’t taken a stand yet on TPP.

In addition to Local 9421, the coalition includes Citizens Trade Campaign, Food and Water Watch, Alliance for Democracy, Global Exchange, SEIU Local 1000, CWA District 9, and the Sacramento Central Labor Council.

The coalition held a town hall meeting and invited Rep. Matsui to attend. She didn’t attend, but and an aide did.

Those who spoke at the meeting said that TPP would endanger local water supplies, encourage corporations to send jobs abroad, and give corporations the right to sue governments in secret tribunals if a government passes laws or enact regulations that endanger future profits.

“As a result of another trade deal similar to TPP, Phillip Morris is suing the government of Australia for requiring tobacco companies to put health warnings on its cigarette packages,” said Longer.

There are 500 similar suits being pursed around the world thanks to language in trade deals like TPP, added Cohen. “Governments are being sued for passing minimum wage legislation and laws to protect the environment.”

Longer said that the Sacramento coalition will mobilize people to phone, email, and use social media to urge Rep. Matsui to meet face-to-face with coalition members and to oppose TPP.

Cohen ended the union hall meeting by saying that stopping TPP fast track will mean reaching out to Republicans.

He urged CWA members and leaders who know or have working relationships with Republican lawmakers to volunteer to contact them.

“We’re going to help our Republican leaders in CWA reach out to Republican lawmakers because we need them if we’re going to stop TPP,” said Cohen.

Cohen said that 170 Democrats have committed to opposing TPP, and 25 Republicans have done so.

“To get the number of votes needed to block fast track, we need about 25 more Republicans,” said Cohen.

By the end of the meeting, 45 CWA members and leaders had volunteered to contact Republican lawmakers and seek their support in opposing fast track for TPP.

“Building coalitions is key to stopping TPP and fast track,” said Cohen. “We’ve stopped fast track twice before and we can do it again, but we can’t do it by ourselves.”