April 28, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Last week the House Ways and Means Committee passed a trade promotion authority measure that gives President Barack Obama the ability to reach multilateral trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership with numerous countries in Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific. But organized labor, environmental groups and elected officials rallied on Monday morning at City Hall to say New York City should remain a “TPP-Free Zone.”
After speaking at the rally, Councilmember Helen Rosenthal of District 6 walked over to 250 Broadway to introduce Proposed Resolution 576-A that would declare the city a “TPP-Free Zone.” She acknowledged that it was just a symbolic gesture, but important enough to introduce because she believes that the TPP could potentially rollback recently enacted laws that protect working people and the environment such as the Paid Sick Leave Law and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Smoke-Free Air Act.
Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr. of District 31, who chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection, said that the TPP would be bad for his constituents in Southeast Queens and criticized his congressman, Congressman Gregory Meeks, for supporting the deal.
“Anything you hear that says fast track you automatically know there’s something wrong with it. When we look at this deal this is about corporate welfare at its greatest; this is doing a disservice to the American people. As a representative of Southeast Queens I’m very disheartened that my congressman has been leading the way on this issue. Anytime you’re standing on the side of Paul Ryan you know you’re on the wrong side of history,” said Richards Jr.
In a recent interview with the Observer, Congressman Meeks defended his position, telling Observer reporter Will Bredderman that the TPP is necessary because the U.S. has to compete against Japan’s and China’s trade deals and that New York State depends upon international trade.
But speakers at the rally said that TPP would be no better, if not worse, than previous trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. A residential service employee, Steve Ellwood, from the Bronx and a member with 32BJ SEIU, the property services union, said that the TPP would “ devastate workers’ rights, encourage more outsourcing of already scarce jobs, compromise food safety, imperil environmental standards and give multinational corporations the right to sue the government if they do not like the city’s laws and regulations. That’s why 32BJ is uniting with other unions, environmental groups and immigrant rights groups and others to say 'No to the TPP.' We want NYC to be a 'TPP-Free Zone',” said Ellwood.