‘Nobody in Congress doubts that I support everything in this bill (TRADE Act HR 3012),’ Rep McDermott explained during our meeting at his Seattle office on April 30th. Yet despite the tens of thousands of people, unions, social justice, environmental and faith based groups in his district and throughout WA State calling for him to co-sponsor the TRADE Act through hundreds of postcards, letters, phone calls and in-person meetings, Rep. McDermott still has not co-sponsored the TRADE Act. That is why members of WSLC, IAM District 715 (Machinists), SEIU Local 6, SPEEA, IBEW Local 46, Sierra Club, Seattle CISPES, Temple Beth Am and the Washington Fair Trade Coalition had come to ask Rep. McDermott to make public his support for trade reform.
Rep. McDermott agreed with everyone at the meeting that current trade policy is broken, and that trade policy and immigration reform, economic recovery and job creation are intertwined. However the 20 year veteran of the US Congress, who is not facing a difficult re-election this year, who could use his power to inspire voters throughout the state of WA, that future trade will not be on the backs of workers, farmers, human rights and the environment, Rep. McDermott is instead taking a ‘wait and see approach.’
Wait and see…while Pacific Rim sues the country of El Salvador under Chapter 10 of CAFTA, wait and see while manufacturing jobs continue to be outsourced, wait and see while thousands of workers from Mexico and Central America are forced to migrate to the US in search of work, wait and see while the people of Peru are losing their land, wait and see while the Obama Administration moves forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, embarked on by former President Bush, involving countries with little or no rights for workers, environmental protections, or respect for human rights.
During the meeting Rep. McDermott spoke more about political maneuvering than showing the way to real trade reform. He claimed to not want to be seen as too radical on this issue, even though he would be in the company of 137 of his colleagues (now 141), the majority of his party, including those on his own committee Ways and Means.
The simple message that we brought to the meeting with Rep. McDermott, was that he is elected by the people of his district to represent their interests, and at the moment he is not doing that and we do not understand why. We walked out of the meeting with this question unanswered.
After 15years of fall-out from NAFTA, on the brink of the trade negotiations between the US and almost all of the countries that make up the Pacific Rim, with a faltering economy that is pitting foreign born and US workers for a limited pool of work-Trade Reform can not wait any longer.
We will continue our efforts to ‘make’ Representative McDermott be the leader that he says that he is on trade reform by co-sponsoring the TRADE Act, to enable the promise of prosperity through trade to benefit everyone in WA State and throughout the world.