The words “Fast Track” keep appearing on my computer screen. Facebook, Twitter, news stories. I assumed at first it was a hot new fitness routine, turns out is a bill moving through Congress that affects everyone in this country and although obscure, highly important.
Our coalition recently signed in on opposition to the Fast Track bill because it has major implications for the things we care deeply about like protecting public health and the environment, building a manufacturing base of local safe jobs for our workers.
Here’s my take on breaking down why Fast Track is bad, why it matters and why you should get involved.
(Photo Credit: honor Photo Bar, Flickr)
What is Fast Track ?
Fast Track is a piece of legislation that was first introduced by Nixon in 1974, but was recently re-introduced by U.S. Representative Dave Camp and Senator Max Baucus as a bill that would grant President Barack Obama “Fast Track” trade promotion authority.
This is a fancy way of saying it would take away power from Congress to amend and discuss important details of secret international trade deals. Trade deals that may roll back state, national and international laws on toxic chemicals, environmental and worker protections.
(You’re probably wondering why Safer Chemicals is delving into trade issues… stay with me and you’ll see why.)
Who wants this Fast Track bill to pass?
Major corporations and over 600 business lobbyists are backing the bill, the chemical and oil industry being big supporters. Since international trade deals happen out of the public’s eye, with no public participation, treaties can be crafted in the corporations’ favor.
If Congress gives President Obama Fast Track Authority, when one of those pro-oil and chemical pacts come back to the U.S. Congress to vote on, your members of Congress wouldn’t be able to dispute or change the bad things in the bill. They would only get to vote Yes or No on the pact.
This is a huge problem as you might imagine.
It gives almost all power to behind close doors international venues, where the industry can influence the conversation.
It takes away the democratic right of your Representative and Senators to speak and act on your behalf about the things they like and don’t like about these pacts.
It gives a lot of power to the President to push through international deals without our say.
Enter secret international deal
Part of the reason it’s so urgent for us to oppose the Fast Track bill is that there are two bad international trade agreement that are in the works. They’re called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
They sound nice right?
Unfortunately these secret deals could: empower chemical and oil companies to roll back or attack our environment and health safeguards, dilute toxic chemical safeguards passed in our states or in Congress, put more American jobs overseas, and other sneaky things like raise the cost of medicine, hamper internet freedom and Wall Street reforms.
If Fast Track passed, both TPP and TTIP would go before Congress and be open for only limited debate and no amendments. Yeah… it’s just not good anyway you look at it.
Since public health, environmental and labor is all up for grabs, this is something worth actively opposing.
Overwhelming Opposition to Fast Track
There’s good new. The fight for our health, environment and democracy is winning and there is major opposition to this bill.
First there were over 50 major organizations ranging from public health, labor and environmental organizations that signed up to formally oppose Fast Track.
Support rapidly grew. On Monday of this week over 550 organizations, including our Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, signed a letter to Congress formally opposing the bill.
Then hundreds of people tweeted about it during the State of the Union. And a new national poll was released showing the majority of American’s don’t support it.
With a large bloc of House Democrats and Republicans already having announced opposition to Fast Track, the prospects are limited for this bill. But we need your help to make sure it’s dead on arrival.
There is so much at stake.
With your help we can derail Fast Track and maintain Congressional authority over important public health and environmental protections.
More reading from our friends:
Laws on toxic chemicals spur innovation, By Baskut Tuncak
My quest to advance international pollution standards, By Pam Miller