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February 05, 2014

From Coast To coast, Sierra Club Activists Protest Fast Track

Washington fast track rally
Photo by Robin Everett

Across the country, Sierra Club activists have been raising their voices about a “free trade” scheme that would do more environmental harm than help if it’s pushed through the finish line as-is.

From rallies and demonstrations to emails and phone calls to their representatives in Congress, these activists are calling for responsible trade, and opposing fast track--an outdated ploy to speed up passage of massive trade deals that have less to do with tariffs and quotas and more to do with our labor, environmental, and consumer safeguards.

If passed, the fast track bill introduced in the House and Senate last month would strip Congress of its right to improve trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal and a Transatlantic deal with the European Union. From what we know about these trade deals -- which isn’t much, since we’re relying on leaked texts and are otherwise locked out of negotiations -- they will feed to the whims of the deals’ corporate advisers and will do little to protect the interest and safety of the public.

There are tons of reasons to oppose fast track, and Sierra Club activists aren’t the only ones joining this national “10 Days to Stop Fast Track.” They’re joined by members of labor unions, proponents of open internet, other environmentalists, and concerned citizens that have a stake in America’s role in international trade. According to the Wall Street Journal, this effort has engaged nearly 600,000 supporters through online petitions and garnered more than 40,000 phone calls to Congress.

Here’s what some of you, the Sierra Club’s grassroots activists, have done to raise the issue and call to stop fast track.

Sierra Club activists sent over 65,000 messages to the halls of Congress to stop “fast-track” dead in its tracks. You can add your name and share with your networks.

In Seattle, 300 people including labor leaders and health professionals joined together at Westlake Center to protest the highly secretive TPP trade deal. Speakers appeared in front of a giant “We the People” replica of the Preamble of the Constitution while nearby, a satirical “We the Corporations” rewrite of the Preamble hinted at the corporate interests that are actually served by the trade deal. You can watch a video of the whole event here.

Washington fast track rally
Photo by Robin Everett

Sierra Club activists made the news in Maryland where about 25 people rallied outside Rep. John Delaney’s office in Gaithersburg last week to urge him to vote against fast track. An op-ed written by Betsy Johnson, Political Chair from the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, also ran in the Baltimore Sun just before the 10 days of action, calling on Reps. Delaney and Chris Van Hollen to speak up and reject fast track.

In Denver, activists from MoveOn.org, Food and Water Watch, Communication Workers of America and Sierra Club, along with others participated in a sign-waving event downtown. Held in Civic Center Park on a snowy afternoon, this event helped get the word out about the TPP to Rep. Jared Polis’ constituents.

Denver sign-waving event
Photo by Sam Schabacker of Food and Water Watch

Even before the organized 10 days of action, Sierra Club members across the country have been bringing the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership into daylight.

Recently, Debra Higbee-Sudyka, Vice Chair of the Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club in Oregon, spoke at town halls with Congressman DeFazio and highlighted the Sierra Club's concerns about TPP and our opposition to fast track. It made the front page of the community’s paper, the Gazette Times.

Also, with support from the Sierra Club chapter in Los Angeles, the LA City Council introduced a resolution opposing fast tracking the TPP. The chair of Sierra Club's Committee on Trade, Human Rights, and the Environment, Jesse Swanhuyser, spoke at the press conference alongside Teamsters President James Hoffa in order to announce the resolution.

The Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter in New York, led by volunteer Stephanie Low, helped organize an incredibly successful press conference on the steps of City Hall in NYC. You can see the short video from the rally against fast track here.

These days of action gave activists a chance to have their voices heard -- and momentum to do more. If we want to protect our jobs, our food, our air and water, and our climate, we need to urge Congress to reject fast track.

--Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program Director

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