Press Releases
April 17, 2015

Workers across Chicago call on Congressman Bobby Rush to stand with them and oppose Fast Track legislation

Fast Track gives the executive branch the ability to negotiate trade agreements out of the public eye.

Workers across Chicago call on Congressman Bobby Rush to stand with them and oppose Fast Track legislation

Today, officials and member of various unions and community groups delivered over 500 hundred signed petitions, postcards and letters to Congressman Bobby Rush, urging him to oppose fast track legislation that would push through trade deals, like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, without open debate.

Fast Track is a policy that gives the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate—out of public view—as many trade agreements as it can during a given time period and send them to Congress, which may then only vote yes or no on the agreement. Congressman Bobby Rush (D-1), who represents parts of Chicago, south Cook suburbs and parts of northern Will County, has expressed he is undecided on stopping fast track.

“Fast Track is an unaccountable process that limits citizen participation in or knowledge of the details of trade negotiations,” said Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor and a vice president of the national American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). “Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] was enacted under ‘Fast Track’ procedures, workers across North America—including in Mexico and Canada—have experienced downward pressure on wages and greater threats to our ability to organize and collectively bargain. We need Congressman Rush to stand with working families and oppose Fast Track legislation.”

“Bad U.S. trade deals like the Korea FTA have resulted in an unbalanced system in which corporate profits soar even as workers take home a diminishing share of our national income,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “Fast Track does not require Congress or any independent body to evaluate a trade deal before finalization of the deal to ensure that it will have a positive impact on the U.S. trade balance, create good, family-wage jobs or ensure that state and local governments can continue to legislate and regulate in the public interest. Congressman Rush was elected to office by the members of his district. If he is going to truly represent their views on Fast Track and TPP, the discussion in Washington needs to take place in the open, not behind closed doors.”

Kevin Pape, regional director for Working America, added, "Today, Working America submitted over 300 petition signatures to Congressman Rush, urging him not to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership. We've talked to thousands of voters over the past week, and what we are hearing time and time again is voters want transparency in our legislative process. "  

The TPP Free Trade Agreement is an agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. While the language in the TPP has been largely kept a secret, the little evidence that is publically available it does not appear to be different from previous trade deals and would lower labor, agricultural and environmental standards.

This forced “equivalence” of foreign food safety systems can expose consumers to imported foodborne hazards. This is how the U.S. imported 2.5 million pounds of E. coli tainted ground beef from a Canadian plant that replaced most of its government safety inspectors with its own employees.

“The fine print in Fast Track contains an all-out attack on America’s consumer protection and food safety laws.” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

"Representative Bobby Rush has been a long-time champion for working families and organized labor" said John Gaudette of Citizen Action/Illinois.  "Whether NAFTA, CAFTA or any other threat to the protections of workers, he has defended working families.  We are confident that he will continue this leadership and vote against fast track."