The CWA News | Fair Trade For The 21st Century

Volume 74, Issue #3 | Fall 2014

Larry Cohen, CWA PresidentWhen we fight for fair trade we are fighting for our jobs, our standard of living and a sustainable economy. The President and most in Congress know the U.S. economy is way out of balance but the leaked contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) points mostly to more of the same.

We are not interested in better symbolism around labor, environmental and consumer standards while corporate interests are on the fast track. Twenty years since NAFTA and the same failed framework continues. Since NAFTA, our cumulative trade deficit has surpassed $10 trillion. NAFTA also marked the beginning of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Yes, a deliberate tongue twister but the root of the problem.


The investor section of the Trans-Pacific Partnership includes ISDS as has every trade deal since NAFTA. ISDS allows multinational corporations to skip national courts and sue for potential lost profits in special tribunals where corporate lawyers act as arbitrators. Yes “potential” or future lost profits. Not lost investment, lost profits. Currently there are 500 such global cases pending and the rest of the world is waking up. Germany’s parliament is rejecting this approach in discussions with Canada and the US.

Vietnam is the lead player in the TPP, population 90 million, an average wage of 75 cents an hour and virtually no environmental, labor or consumer standards. While the final TPP may put some boundaries on ISDS litigation, the current leaked chapter would mean that higher minimum wages, or improved social protections could all bring lawsuits from US or other foreign based multinationals that these improvements would cut their profits on investments in Vietnam. Again not our paranoia, but the reality of virtually every US trade deal since NAFTA!

A sample of current ISDS litigation:

1—Philip Morris suing Australia over new cigarette labeling laws since Philip Morris believes the graphic warnings will cut sales.

2—French multinational Veolia is suing Egypt for raising its minimum wage and impacting profits at the Alexandria bus company Veolia owns.

3—Vattenfall, the Swedish infrastructure firm, is suing Germany over the government’s decision to eliminate nuclear energy by 2022 reducing their profit potential.

Labor, Environmental and Consumer issues

In contrast, TPP and its predecessors force citizens and their organizations to ask their government to advocate if labor, environmental or consumer sections are violated. A turtle runs fast by comparison with government action on our behalf. We celebrated recently when the Obama government finally brought a complaint against Guatemala for gross violations of the labor portion of CAFTA after five years. There is no secret tribunal for this complaint. It will crawl along and the US should be filing many more complaints for multiple violations in Mexico, Honduras, Colombia and other bilateral US trade deals.


We are winning but time can work against us. TPP and Fast Track have not advanced in the Congress. There are now commitments that nothing will happen for the remainder of this year. The overwhelming majority of the House Democratic caucus is on record against Fast Track and major provisions of the TPP. Will President Obama follow in the tradition of President Clinton and pass TPP with primarily Republican votes? Will he essentially be supporting Boehner trade? In 2008 then Senator Obama campaigned for President promising a new trade approach. So far with Columbia, Panama and Korea, nothing is new.

The US Trade Representative, who works directly for the President, is gearing up for 2015. We need to keep mobilizing now against this failed approach to trade in our communities. We need fair trade that raises our standard of living. We must reject trade deals that are purported to be good foreign policy but in fact continue to fatten the profits of the 1% at our expense.

We will mount a massive campaign against TPP and any gimmick like Fast Track that lets it get rammed through Congress. You can join this campaign no matter where you live! We are under attack and we must Stand Up and Fight Back!


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

After much thought, I have decided not to seek re-election next June as President of our union. I informed the Executive Board at our meeting Sept. 18.

This is the tenth year I have been honored every day to serve as President of our union. I am proud of all of you and the work we have done together for decades.

Read the full message here.