Nurses Unite to Stop TransPacific Partnership Fast Track

In case you haven’t noticed, nurses unions have emerged as a particularly powerful and credible labor/lobbying group. So it’s encouraging to see them use their bully pulpit to rally voters to contact their Congresscritters and voice opposition to the upcoming vote on so-called fast track authority for the TransPacific Partnership. I’m heartened to see, in the Real News Network video below, that the nurses’ representative puts forward compact, factually sound arguments as to why this misnamed “trade deal” is a sop to major corporations at the expense of citizens.

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: On Capitol Hill, there’s growing buzz that a bill granting fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, could be up for a vote next week. The TPP involves 40 percent of the global economy. And if this bill moves forward, Congress would be allowed to pass it with a simple up or down vote, with no debate.

But that’s not going over very well with the nurses representing the union National Nurses United. They gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday with one simple message for members of Congress.

JEAN ROSS, COPRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: Well, we want Congress to not abdicate its responsibility. Right now, if you look at this, what you know of it–and we know very little, because it’s negotiated in secret, right? Corporations have input. They’re basically writing a law for the people. The corporations are writing it. So the few people from Congress that have seen it, that’s one thing. You’re not supposed to abdicate your responsibility for debating, for amending, for asking what you should be asking: how does it affect the public that I represent? That’s what we expect them to do. And fast track is a way of totally abdicating that responsibility. It just says yes or no. You might even be able to see it in front of you, the many, many, many pages of it. There’s 29 chapters, and only five of them deal with trade. So their specious argument about you shouldn’t be against free trade–we’re not against trade. Trade has to happen. But we care how it’s done and how it affects us.

DESVARIEUX: How the TPP will affect everyday people is still largely unknown, which is why some members of Congress, like Connecticut Democratic representative Rosa DeLauro, says that transparency must be demanded by the public.

ROSA DELAURO, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-CT-3): –as [incompr.] as taxpayers, as the American public have a right to have more member of Congress have input into a process that has wide-ranging effects on every aspect of our lives. That’s simply what we are asking for.

DESVARIEUX: But not all members of the Democratic Party are as vocal. Ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee Ron Wyden is joining Republicans who will be pushing for fast-track authority. Currently, lawmakers can request to see chapters of the text being negotiated but are not allowed to bring aides. Also, the text has not been released to the public. What is known about the TPP deal is through documents leaked to WikiLeaks. One of those chapters released is the health care annex, which would affect medicine prices.

DEBORAH BURGER, COPRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: –the everyday life of nurses providing health care and nursing care to our patients. I’m sure you’ve heard many people talk about the expansion of the protections for brand-name drugs from, quote, eight years up to 12 years. And who knows? It might even go up to 20. Canada already has an eight-year limit on brand names. This is going to change that.

DESVARIEUX: Higher prices for medication would hurt the already suffering middle class, says nurse Beverly VanBuren. She said her patients are already struggling to pay for medications now.

BEVERLY VANBUREN, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: A patient that had a transplant that ended up going back on dialysis because that patient cannot afford medication to keep the transplanted organ alive, survival. And now, after thousands and thousands of dollars we spent transplanting this organ, this poor person is back on dialysis.

DESVARIEUX: Another major issue with the TPP deal is how it handles legal matters. It creates extrajudicial tribunals outside of a country’s legal system. Critics say this will undermine a country’s legal system, placing corporations’ ambitions over people, something Nurse Burger says has happened with past free trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA.

BURGER: And we already know that under NAFTA, Eli Lilly did sue the Canadian government over their bulk purchase agreements, and also sued successfully the Australian government over their plain package labeling for cigarette smoking and tobacco sales. And they have won those in the under the NAFTA agreement.

If you look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, that is NAFTA on steroids. It gives a star chamber–three lawyers that have a conflict of interest in deciding whether a corporation wins or loses their lawsuit against a certain state.

But it’s not a two-way street. In laws, you can go to a court and actually appeal a decision. In this process, under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, there is a star chamber with three lawyers that get paid $700 an hour to make a decision by the courts in that group, and their decision is final and binding on all signatories to the treaty.

DESVARIEUX: The TPP is still not final, and nurses from the National Nurses United are pressuring members of Congress to reject a fast-track proposal, something they say they will remember next election cycle.

ROSS: You know, if you don’t do the will of the people, the real people, and not corporation, which is a thing, not a person, then yes, we do need to look at that, because you need to start listening to what we’re saying and how it’s affecting us.

DESVARIEUX: For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

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  1. cassiodorus

    It’s always good to remember that Obama considers the TPP his legacy, and that he’s planning to work with the Republicans against whatever little Democratic Party dissent can’t be steamrolled into supporting the TPP.

    And as for Obama’s powers of coercion, let’s also keep in mind what happened with the sequester, in which the whole of the “progressive” caucus voted for one version or another of it.

    The so-called “progressives” have been trading in the “weak Obama” myth for I don’t know how long. I’d like to know if more than half a dozen of them have woken up to reality.

    The nurses, meanwhile, supported Nader way back when and are not parties to this idiocy.

  2. Ulysses

    Thanks so much for posting this!

    As Jean Ross points out:

    “You’re not supposed to abdicate your responsibility for debating, for amending, for asking what you should be asking: how does it affect the public that I represent? That’s what we expect them to do.”

    We need to sharply cut back the power of the “donor class” to define the parameters within which Congresscritters are allowed to perform their constitutional duties. Fast-track is an anti-democratic abomination that should horrify people all across the political spectrum. It eliminates even the pretense that Congress is anything more than a rubber-stamp for the private interests who pay for their campaigns.

    There is a sense in which our system today is far less honest than the Estates General of the Old Regime. At least then, no one in the first two estates pretended to be representing the interests of the third! These wonderful nurses know full well that the Congresscritters act more like servants of the moneyed classes, and corporations, than “representatives” of the people!

  3. Eureka Springs

    Always good to see resistance but who the heck needs to know more than we already do to just be against fast track? I’m against many existing trade agreements now. Isn’t negotiating fast track just another kettling/veal pen maneuver? I’m certainly against all TP’s across either pond in every leaked form now. Don’t just kill fast track… kill the bills in their tracks completely today! Kill the very notion of secret tribunals. Kill the very notion of continued non negotiated pharmaceutical prices and so on. The duopoly will surely utilize death by a thousand paper cuts if we encourage them to slow walk it by focusing on fast track which only encourages them to keep working on it..

    I think this weeks victory cry on net neutrality is a fine example. The very definition of net neutrality was dumbed down for ten years before we got it… whatever it is since we don’t even have the text yet. All I know is I spend right at 100 bucks a month on internet (four times what it cost when net neutrality was a new term) and I can’t load/view a you tube segment on a good day.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No fast track will kill the bill. The logic for the approval is that you can’t negotiate multilateral deals and have Congress involved. Honestly you could, but this is about the Imperial Presidency and wanting to ramrod through pro-corporate provisions. No way will Obama get his gimmies to the 1% and .01% without fast track. So not to worry, killing fast track will kill this deal. Among other things, it shows the supposed partners that we can’t even deliver public support, so why should they break a sweat trying to sell it domestically?

  4. RW

    Couple of dumb basic questions:
    How can congress critters rubber stamp a secret document? Surely there must be some kind of review process however inadequate. If only congress members can review the document, how long do they have?

    What is the enforcement mechanism for the international tribunal? Who is the international sheriff that comes after the culpable municipality when the latter refuses to agree to an unfavorable settlement, e.g. payment to Exxon for damages due to extant environmental regulations?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      My understanding is they can’t review it effectively. They go to another office and have to read it there. I’m not even sure they are allowed to take notes. Plus the text is not the actual treaty language but a summary, and anyone with any familiarity with agreements knows exact language matters.

  5. ScottW

    Sen. Wyden–the man who supposedly hated the lack of NSA transparency–supports fast track. What’s up with that?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Remind me whether ANY of the last few remaining principled “representatives” accomplished anything on the order of passing legislation that slows the tsunami of corporo-fascism.
        Of course we need to chronicle and expose the orgy of perfidy around us but I’m starting to think the sword is mightier than the pen. Aux barricades Madame Defarge!

    1. TedWa

      He’s backed down from that position due to receiving hundreds, maybe thousands of calls against it, including mine. TPTB are corrupt beyond belief and not to be trusted, but your state reps know that they answer to you and it’s up to each and every one of us to educate them on what the truth of the matter is. Their lives are in a bubble of propaganda and salemen, they need to be woken up and freed from the Congress mindset to think rationally. Obama has turned the democratic party on it’s head and they don’t really don’t know what the heck is going on. They need our help to make the right decisions.

    2. Oregoncharles

      That’s Wyden for you. He’s arrogant, slimy, and more than a bit sold out. His performance on the NSA was mostly show – he never actually exposed anything.

      I need to call his office; I’ll find out when he’s up for re-election next. Might be next year – I lose track of the Senatorial terms.

      If he’s pushing Fast Track, taking him out will be a high priority for the Oregon Green Party.

  6. Lambert Strether

    Everybody should write letters to the editor (which Congress critters do read) and call the offices of their representatives, both DC and local. It doesn’t take long, and it can (not always, but can) make a difference. This post has some very quotable material.

      1. Vatch

        Here’s the text of House Resolution 73, which should be opposed (but won’t be) by all members of the House of Representatives:

        Recognizing the importance of trade to the United States economy and
        the importance of completing free trade agreements with Pacific Rim
        countries and the European Union.

        Whereas international trade is an efficient means to create private sector jobs;
        Whereas 38 million American jobs are supported by international trade;
        Whereas the United States economy exports $2.2 trillion in goods and services
        each year;
        Whereas the United States is currently negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership
        (TPP), a free trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries, including
        Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico,
        New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam;
        Whereas the United States is currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and
        Investment Partnership (T-TIP), a free trade agreement with 28 countries
        of the European Union;
        Whereas these trade agreements will have profoundly positive diplomatic impacts
        that will serve to solidify United States relations with rising regional
        economic powers; and
        Whereas the United States should continue to expand its trading relationships to
        create jobs: Now, therefore, be it
        Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that
        completing free trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries and the
        European Union will promote economic development, create jobs, and
        solidify relations with trading partners.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Note that studies of these deals find that trade already is so liberalize that any impact on jobs is close to zero. It’s important to stress that in calling Congressmen and talking this up with friends and colleagues.


  7. Lambert Strether

    Question from Desvarieux:

    Another major issue with the TPP deal is how it handles legal matters. It creates extrajudicial tribunals outside of a country’s legal system. Critics say this will undermine a country’s legal system,

    I really feel very strongly that the right frame here is “the surrender of national sovereignty.” Not only does this have the great merit of being true, nobody outside the Acela catchment zone wants it. Not left, not right, not the middle. For the right, it’s like that Agenda 21 nonsense, except with real teeth and real claws. For the left… If you think the 1% ruling your lives at one level of indirection through the state is bad, wait ’til they can run your lives directly. Because, to me, the right to sue for “lost future profits” destroys the state’s ability to regulate corporations. Do we really want that?

    1. craazyboy

      Do we really want that?

      I’ll ask my legal dept.

      hahahaha. not really.

      But I do recall back in my early days* in the capital equipment biz customers always tried to stick us with “loss of profit” along with all other external costs associated with “non-performance” as part of the “vendor liability” clause in the contract.

      Our corporate legal dept. always reviewed large dollar value contracts(say, more than $100k) , and always booted that clause and offered our standard warranty clause and other “best effort” wording on late delivery remedies. (we had strikes sometimes)

      So I’d say for a $16 Trillion economy and a reserve currency printing press we’d want some good lawyers to have an input. Also, “future” lost profits would go forever, I guess. In the cap equipment biz we(and our customers) were mainly concerned with late shipment impacting a construction schedule – or causing additional downtime in an existing plant. Or if there was some level of defect in the product which may require on site repair or removal and return to the factory causing again lost output and associated replacement and transportation costs. At least for clarity’s sake, the customer’s lawyers did list all the “external and associated costs” that they expected us to pay for in the liability clause .

      Then if something did go wrong and you got sued anyway, your corporate lawyers did get invited to a court somewhere and get to argue it out.

      So…future profits…that would be bottom line and you need to add up ALL external and associated costs before you can add your profit percentage and come up with a figure to bill… forever. Then just send it to some mysterious multi-nation arbitration council for approval? Plus a nations laws are made subordinate to your business development plans???

      Load up on an S&P 500 ETF while you still can. I smell 10 bagger!

      *Late 70s, early 80s

    2. Winston Smith

      I asked this question, but didn’t ask specifics in another post about the TPP (Toilet Paper Partnership)

      Let’s Say Brunei Company is dumping something noxious in a river near Madison Wisconsin making everyone sick. Madison Wisconsin enacts a law or forces Brunei Company to shutdown until it cleans up it’s mess and stops polluting.

      So BC takes Madison, Wisconsin to some “tribunal” and “tribunal” awards Brunei company damages and expected missing profits from Madison.

      How is this even enforceable? I mean is the “tribunal” going to send an army in or some crack swat team to the city hall of Madison Wisconsin to demand they pay up? Is the tribunal going to sick some legal entity against it? Why can’t the city of Madison Wisconsin then tell Brunei Company, the tribunal to frack off and take a piss and ignore it. Would the US Goverment force Madison, WI to pay up?

      1. Lambert Strether

        “Would the US Goverment force Madison, WI to pay up?” I believe it would (as signatories to the treaty, they would have to). Other such settlements have been enforced, though I have to admit I don’t know the mechanics of it.

    1. John Zelnicker

      See Paul Singer’s attempts to impound an Argentinian freighter in Africa because Argentina refused to knuckle under to the US Court’s faulty decision against them over the payment of interest on Singer’s Argentine government bonds.

      Other countries, particularly other signatories, could help the winning company seize any government assets located outside the country. Banks, perhaps, could seize financial assets.

  8. Integer Owl

    Interesting to read that the Australian plain cigarette packaging lawsuit has been won by big-tobacco. Very hard to find any info on this, however from a quick web search the case was due to finish about now. Certainly hasn’t been anything in the news over here, as far as I know.
    I had a read through one of the leaked chapters of the TPP. Very hard to parse for a non-lawyer and I expect many terms of art are used. One would need many definitions in front of them to get a good idea of exactly what it entails. Doesn’t really matter though, because only a small amount of good sense is needed to know the TPP is not in anyone’s best interests, except for the corporations.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        They lost at the Australian Supreme Court level, just the highest court in the “nation”. No problem, though, Big Cough just treaty-shopped a new jurisdiction (Hong Kong) from which to launch the next assault on Australian sovereignty. Hey why bother with all of that blather called “politics” and “representation” and “legislation” when we can all just submit to the Global Corporate Jackboot. Reminds me that in AJN/USA (Alpha Jackboot Nation) resisting arrest is now a crime…even if there was no crime to begin with.

        1. Integer Owl

          Appreciate the info. Thanks.

          Also big thanks to everyone here who is making an effort to stop TPP being fast tracked.

  9. Tony

    Has anyone commented on the attorneys working on the TPP. Seems to me that if one is helping draft a treaty that circumvents one’s nation’s court system, that would constitute a violation of one’s professional oaths as an officer of that court.

    1. different clue

      Perhaps attorneys who are doing that could be found out and named, and relevant citizens’ groups could petition the relevant legal system authorities to have them disbarred and de-licensed from practicing law.

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