Robertson, Union Workers Protest Trade Agreement

BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM-TV) – A local union and congressional candidate Martha Robertson braved the frigid temperatures Wednesday morning to protest a pending trade bill. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is an agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and a number of Pacific Rim countries.

Critics have compared the TPP to the North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids. Members of the Communications Workers of America Local 1111 and Robertson say they are protesting the TPP and the “fast track” it is on in Congress.

“We feel because of the pending issues, it's probably going to be an unfair deal, and result in the loss of a few hundred thousand jobs,” said Sean McAvoy, President of CWA Local 1111.

Those at the protest worry that the TPP will undercut U.S. labor laws and consumer protection laws. “And maybe most shocking, give foreign corporations the right to take United States laws to court,” said Robertson. She says the deal is being negotiated in private, behind closed doors, where Congress and the public are not able to look at what the provisions are.

There is a letter circulating on Capitol Hill that has been signed by more than 150 members of Congress, calling for the President to not support a fast track process. “I would love to see Congressman Reed sign on to the DeLauro-Miller letter,” said Robertson. “I think it's the right thing to do for American families, for our kids, for our grandkids, for the future of this country. We can't afford to lose even more manufacturing jobs, and that's what TPP would do.”

But Congressman Reed’s campaign says Robertson’s statements are distorting the facts. "Tom has worked hard to keep jobs in our community, while Martha Robertson has overseen a 76 percent increase in unemployment during her tenure in Tompkins County,” said Katherine Pudwill, Communications Director for Tom Reed for Congress. “It's unfortunate that Martha Robertson is manipulating the situation and the local workers in Sikorsky for political gain. Tom remains dedicated to protecting American jobs and working tirelessly to create new career opportunities here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.”

Congressman Reed’s campaign says because of his position on the Ways and Means Committee, he has access to trade negotiations that rank-and-file members don’t. He says the passage of a Trade Promotion Authority agreement, or TPA, which is what the protestors are calling a “fast track”, would stop the Obama Administration’s closed door meetings and achieve the same transparency results that the DeLauro-Miller letter calls for.

According to Congressman Reed’s campaign, every president since Franklin Roosevelt has had trade negotiating authority under a TPA. TPA legislation was last renewed in 2002 and expired in 2007. If this TPA agreement was passed, it would last for five years, and extend beyond the Obama administration.

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