Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chris Hassett Headlines “Friends and Lovers” AIDS Benefit July 20

Chris Hassett

Chris Hassett, Kenny Ard, Sue Palmer, Drew Massicot, Kay Etheridge and many more musicians will put on a night of music at First Unitarian-Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front Street (Hillcrest, across from UCSD Hospital), Friday, July 20.
Marking the 25th anniversary of a concert series that has raised money for AIDS support organizations, the “Friends and Lovers” concert will benefit the UCSD Owen Clinic and the San Ysidro Health Center.
“I was in the first concert,” Hassett told Zenger’s Newsmagazine in a forthcoming interview about his current CD, This I Promise You. “We did it through the late 1980’s and mid-1990’s, and always chose organizations bringing assistance to people with AIDS or people who needed help. We haven’t held the concert in a few years, but this is the 25th anniversary and we felt we should commemorate it. We’re going to put on a fun show.”
The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. The suggested donation is $10.
For more information contact the church office at (619) 298-9978 or e-mail The full Zenger’s interview with Chris Hassett will be posted to this site soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Opponents of Corrupt “Trade” Agreement Stage Final Event

March, Rally Culminate Week of Coordinated Actions Against Trans-Pacific Partnership


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Secrecy Undermines Democracy

March Steps Off

OSD Es 132

Greed Is Not a Family Value

Ben Burkett & NFFC Banner

Stop TPP/End Corporate Rule

March Passes U.S. Grant

First Flare

March Enters Horton Plaza

Marchers in Horton Plaza 1

Marchers in Horton Plaza 2

Marchers in Horton Plaza 3

Impromptu Sit-In

We Are Not Free

Black Bloc’ers

Black Bloc’er in Mock Riot Gear

Line of March Past Nordstrom

Women Occupy San Diego

San Diego Is Not for Sale

I Sell the City

Love Is Our Weapon

Ben Burkett & Matthew McKinnon on the march

People Over Profits/Planet Before Profits

March Approaches the Waterfront

March Nears the Hilton

“Free Trade” Sells Every Job

Jane Kelsey

Ben Burkett

Matthew McKinnon

Occupella Singers

About 200 progressives, socialists, anarchists and other opponents of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a giant so-called “free trade” agreement between the U.S. and various countries along the Asian-Pacific rim – gathered in San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza downtown Saturday, July 7 for a so-called “Pots and Pans” march to the Bayfront Hilton Hotel. TPP negotiators had been scheduled to meet at the Hilton from July 1-10 for the latest rounds of talks to work out the treaty’s terms, but faced with progressive opposition they decided to start early and get most of their work done well before the official July 10 closure of the talks.
The marchers, many of whom had taken part in the six-month-long occupation of the plaza by Occupy San Diego, gleefully proclaimed that at least for one night they had taken the plaza back from the police who drove them out of it in the first place. The march was supposed to step off at 11 a.m. but didn’t actually start until 11:30, partly because organizers wanted to wait for contingents from Los Angeles and Orange County to arrive and partly because a leaflet had given the start time as 11 a.m. and some prospective marchers may have been confused.
Instead of going in a relatively straight line to the Hilton, the marchers took a circuitous route through downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter, aiming for maximum visibility and also trying to avoid getting steered by the police into one route. In an unprecedented move, they took the march right through the Horton Plaza shopping mall, property the city of San Diego leased to a private corporation, and risked arrest to challenge the values of consumerism in a temple built to honor and facilitate it. They also took brief control of several intersections, routing the march in a circle to cut off traffic in all directions. At one intersection a few marchers staged a brief, impromptu sit-in.
Though the original plan had been to have the march led by a group carrying a banner targeting the pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti-consumer values behind the TPP, with all the doubling back and circling, anarchists quickly took control of the march and led it for most of its route. They dressed either in “Black Bloc” outfits or in grey hoodies, which must have been uncomfortable on a typically hot San Diego July day. Along the route marchers occasionally set off green flares, which produced billows of green smoke and a scent of gunpowder. One of the signs carried in the march read, “San Diego Is Not for Sale,” and ironically the person carrying that sign passed a sandwich board advertising a realty company whose Web address is “”
Organized labor, which had dominated the first major anti-TPP event in San Diego July 2, was less in evidence this time around, though a few unionists showed up with their professionally printed T-shirts and signs and Matthew McKinnon of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), who had spoken on July 2 as well, spoke at the rally. But the lead-off speakers were two people who had also appeared at the nightly meetings the TPP’s opponents staged in San Diego July 2-6 to discuss the many ways the TPP will harm both the world’s economy and its environment: New Zealand (or “Aotearoa,” the indigenous name for her country she prefers to use) attorney and activist Jane Kelsey and Mississippi family farmer Ben Burkett.
“When they talk about this agreement and they try to justify it,” Kelsey said, “they say it’s an agreement for the 21st century, not only for the nine countries that are in there but for the whole Asian Pacific. They have this grand plan for a ‘free trade area for the Asian Pacific.’ It is an agreement of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent and for the 1 percent, and we say to them about that, shame, shame, shame! … We know that under neoliberal policies, since the 1980’s, inequality has increased most dramatically in our rich countries. Poverty has remained endemic in poor countries, but the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer in our countries as well. We know that job insecurity is a daily reality for too many people in our countries. We know that child poverty means that children’s futures are crippled from the day that they are born. We know that the corporations that were responsible for the global financial crisis are still creaming the corporate welfare, which the governments then say raises too much debt, so they have to cut education and health and support for the poor.”
Burkett said little at the July 7 rally, but he had already given extensive presentations at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park July 5 on how so-called “trade” treaties like the 18-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed TPP directly affect his life as a family farmer. Though Burkett’s official biography on the announcement of the July 5 meeting emphasized his research and activist credentials — it described him as “president of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) in the U.S., and a cooperative-marketing-specialist member of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund; current director of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, the local arm of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives; [and representative of] NFFC on the Via Campesina Food Sovereignty Commission and is a board member of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)” — he described himself as a typical small farmer trying to make a living off the land in the face of corporate monopoly power over land and seeds.
“I have a few traditional old seeds that can be traced back for generations,” Burkett said. “But all that diversity is being lost because the corporations we deal with won’t buy anything grown from any seeds other than specific varieties of corporate seeds. Some growers in Mississippi grow a small watermelon for Walmart that’s the proprietary property of Walmart. It’s up to us to create seed banks. In the South, the sweet potatoes grown are all of one variety, Beauregard” — he chuckled at the irony that the name came from a Confederate Civil War general — “and it’s rather hard to find the old-time varieties. … In my community there were 50 small farmers. Now there are only eight. I don’t want to have to go back to doing things by hand or working with mules or oxen, but if we can go back to being able to make a living on farms of 260 acres, it would make a big difference in biodiversity.”
The July 5 events at the World Beat Center — one on local economies and sustainability, the other on biodiversity and climate change — were part of a week-long series of presentations on the economic ills unbridled neoliberal capitalism has wreaked upon the world and how the proposed TPP would only make matters worse. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, who has been fighting against so-called “free trade” agreements since well before the “Battle in Seattle” in November 1999, which disrupted a round of global trade talks by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and brought the issue to mass public consciousness, spoke at the World Beat Center July 5 and gave a summary of the reasons to fight the TPP.
“The TPP is a negotiation between nine countries [United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam], with Mexico and Canada about to join,” Wallach explained. “It’s been branded a ‘trade agreement,’ but it’s really a new bill of rights for corporations. It has 29 chapters, only two of which have anything to do with trade. The rest is a series of limitations on governments and new rights for corporations, and it’s enforceable. Governments can sue other governments, and corporations can sue governments, in corporate tribunals made up of three private-sector attorneys who rotate between being judges and being corporate attorneys. It is literally a form of permanent corporate governance. Corporations see this as the last negotiation, and any country that wants a trade agreement with the U.S. would have to sign on.”
According to Wallach, the TPP would make it virtually impossible for any government of a signatory nation to pass a law that might cost a corporation money. Corporations could sue — in fact, they already have under similar provisions in NAFTA — to have government regulations overturned that might cost them future profits even if the corporations haven’t lost money from those regulations yet. “It includes limits on procurement policies, financial regulations, and food labeling, and it gives pharmaceutical corporations new rights to extend drug patents” — a provision that could literally kill people in the Third World by making medically necessary drugs too costly for their people and health care systems to afford. According to other speakers at the events, the TPP would also extend copyrights on books, music and movies, and would put controls on the Internet similar to those in the so-called Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), which the U.S. Congress withdrew in the face of opposition from grass-roots activists and major Internet companies.
To its opponents, the secrecy with which the TPP is being negotiated is even more appalling than the contents of the TPP. Most of the decision-making is being conducted behind closed doors. The lead negotiator for the U.S., trade representative Ron Kirk, invited representatives of 600 corporations to sit in on the sessions as “advisors,” but the drafts of the proposed agreement were kept so secret that even U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), chair of the Senate subcommittee in charge of global trade, wasn’t allowed to see them. And when Global Trade Watch obtained a leaked copy of the “Investment” chapter of the TPP and posted it to their Web site (accessible through the “press releases” section of their site via the June 13 release, “Controversial Trade Pact Text Leaked, Shows U.S. Trade Officials Have Agreed to Terms That Undermine Obama Domestic Agenda,” at, the actual text turned out to be as dire as their group had been saying it was all along.
Article 12.7 of the leaked draft, “Performance Requirements,” states that no country which signs the TPP may “impose or enforce any commitment or undertaking … to achieve a given level or percentage of domestic content; [or] to purchase, use or accord a preference to goods produced in its territory, or to purchase goods from persons in its territory.” In other words, while President Obama included “Buy American” requirements in the economic stimulus bill in 2009 and has touted such laws as key to reviving U.S. manufacturing, his administration is simultaneously negotiating a “trade” treaty that would prevent his and future U.S. governments from doing that. The draft article also contains the rules for so-called “investor-state dispute settlement” that would, if implemented the way similar clauses in NAFTA already have been, mean either that governments of TPP-member countries wouldn’t be able to regulate corporations’ labor or environmental policies, or they’d have to pay heavy fines to the corporations they presumed to regulate.
Perhaps the most chilling part of the leaked TPP draft is the repetition of the words, “For greater certainty,” throughout the document. According to the TPP’s opponents, the “greater certainty” that is being sought is the ability of corporations literally to do whatever they like — trash the environment, drive labor costs down, offshore jobs to countries with ultra-low wages and few or no worker protections, engage in financial scams and enforce copyrights and patents forever. A press release issued by Global Trade Watch on July 10, the last day of the official TPP negotiations in San Diego, quoted Lori Wallach as saying, “U.S. negotiators have tried to keep TPP negotiations totally below the radar, but even so opposition to the current ‘NAFTA-on-steroids-with-Asia’ approach is escalating, which is good news for the public but a serious complication for the Obama campaign’s attack on [presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney as a U.S. job offshorer.”
“When we look at the future they want for us, we have to ask not only how to stop it but what is our alternative,” Jane Kelsey said at the World Beat Center July 5. “Some of it may seem remote. Our population is only four million people. We have a history of 1,000 years before colonization. The Maori had a system of spiritual, physical and environmental beliefs that still sustains them, and the future we want is decolonization. … When I get home on Thursday [July 12] we will have a hearing before a government commission over the violations of Maori sovereignty over their spiritual, physical and legal resources. My evidence will be the way these agreements [like TPP] lock the door on the ‘rights’ of foreign corporations over those resources and exclude the Maori from sovereignty. It’s a bit like the resistances in Mexico, where the people know the future depends on their struggle.”
“Sisters and brothers, 50,000 factories in the United States have closed in the last 10 years,” Matthew McKinnon of the Machinists’ Union said at the July 7 rally. “Five million American manufacturing workers have lost their jobs since NAFTA took effect [in 1994]. And what it’s spread is substandard working conditions globally. And if we think that that doesn’t come home to roost in the United States, we’re kidding ourselves. In Virginia a few months ago the Machinists’ Union organized a factory where workers were wearing adult diapers because they couldn’t take a break from the machines. When I went to work in a factory not very far from here, 35 percent of American workers had a retirement at the end of their work life. Today, eight percent are looking forward to a retirement. The chickens come home to roost here when we move the jobs offshore and allow anything short of workers being able to organize freely and better their way of life.”

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Queer Democrats Host Love-Fest for Endorsed Candidates


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Toni Atkins

Ben Hueso

Marti Emerald

Dave Roberts

Marne Foster

Robert Amador

The predominantly Queer San Diego Democrats for Equality’s June 28 meeting turned into a love-fest for its endorsed candidates — at least those who survived the June 5 primary and made it into the November 6 general election. “This is my home Democratic club,” said Assemblymember Toni Atkins as she kicked off the celebration. She asked the club to endorse fellow Democrat Dr. Shirley Weber for another Assembly seat and spoke briefly about the budget she and the other Democrats in the legislature had just passed. “It’s not without pain,” she admitted, “but we worked hard over 75 budget meetings.” She thanked the club for supporting the 2010 initiative that allows state budgets to be passed with simple majorities in both houses of the legislature instead of two-thirds.
“Toni and I make a great team,” said fellow Assemblymember Ben Hueso. “I’m lucky to work with her and have the benefit of all her years of experience. We’re going into one of the most important elections. We can’t take anything for granted with Obama.” Hueso called the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health insurance reform legislation passed by a Democratic Congress in 2010 and derisively referred to by Republicans as “Obamacare,” “one of the most ground-breaking pieces” of legislation ever passed, and like many club members he showed his relief that that morning the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional.
Next up was City Councilmember Marti Emerald, who first won in 2008 in District 7 and this year was re-elected with an outright majority in the primary of the new District 9. She thanked the club for supplying volunteer power for both her Council campaigns and, like Hueso, referred to the court victory for the Affordable Care Act. “We’re building a great future, but the war is just beginning,” she said. “We need to do the work of re-electing a great President, getting a Mayor who really cares about all of San Diego, and keeping a Democratic majority on the City Council.”
Dave Roberts, openly Queer Democratic candidate for retiring county supervisor Pam Slater-Price’s seat, mentioned his own history with the Affordable Care Act. “I’m an Obama appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services who has been working for 2 ½ years on implementation,” he said. He thanked the club for their endorsement of him, saying that “it was six months before the election and people were saying the endorsements were already taken. But we got 125 endorsements, including the Republican incumbent.” After reviewing the communities in the district where he did well and where he needs work, Roberts said, “When my husband and I look at our five children, and people see us, no one believes we’ll have an openly Gay man on the Board of Supervisors with Bill Horn and Ron Roberts.”
“I’m really pleased with getting 62 percent of the vote in the primary, but now I have to start all over again running citywide,” said Marne Foster, the club’s endorsed candidate for the District E seat San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board of Trustees. (The SDUSD board candidates run in district-only primaries but the top two finishers have to compete in a citywide election — like San Diego City Council candidates still had to until district-only elections, a reform the club supported, were put in in 1988.) “I look forward to supporting the LGBT [Queer] community and having a dialogue,” Foster said. “When I get on that school board, it won’t be about me, it’ll be about the children. I have four children and I want to make sure all our children are successful.”
Another successful school board candidate, John Lee Evans, didn’t appear in person but sent a statement. “This race is going to be very important in November,” Evans said in his statement. “The current progressive majority on the board could be undone if my opponent is elected to the board … We have made a lot of progress at San Diego Unified recently with Richard Barrera, Kevin Beiser and myself on the board. I was on a recent panel at the San Diego Psychological Association with [San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center director] Dr. Delores Jacobs discussing San Diego Unified’s anti-bullying policy and the social education going on in the district.”
Lyn Neylon, who unseated a long-term incumbent in District 2 of the San Diego County Board of Education, also sent a statement. “It was a very close race,” she said — she won by a 1.5 percent margin — “and I am grateful and humbled by the support received from the San Diego Democrats for Equality, the San Diego County Democratic Party, the American Federation of Teachers, and all the volunteers who lent their help by making phone calls, placing yard signs or simply telling a friend. I also want to thank the voters of our community who responded by coming out to the polls for a local primary election. Thank you for the confidence you’ve shown in me. I will do my utmost to be worthy of our trust.”
Assemblymember Marty Block, who’s running for State Senate in the 39th District, sent a staff representative identified only as Roberto. Though Block was supported by the club throughout his Assembly career, Roberto stressed that his general-election opponent will be former Republican Assembly leader George Plescia. Roberto drew a dramatic contrast between the two candidates: “Marty was at the LGBT Awards that they gave at the Assembly last week, and he told me that Plescia had said, ‘Why do we even do this? It’s really silly and so unnecessary.’ That gives you an idea of where George’s mentality is at.” Roberto also noted that Block scored a 94 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters to Plescia’s 5 percent, and Block received 100 percent from Planned Parenthood to Plescia’s 0 percent. Block, said Roberto, also received a 100 percent rating from organized labor.
The club followed Atkins’ recommendation and endorsed Dr. Shirley Weber for the 79th Assembly District. It also gave an acceptable rating to Robert Amador, a moderate Republican running for a judgeship against Right-winger Jim Miller. And in the first test of the club’s stringent new rules against endorsing candidates who are not 100 percent for marriage equality and reproductive choice, it refused to consider an endorsement for Juan Vargas for the 51st Congressional District even though he’s the only Democrat who survived the blanket primary and made it to the general election.
“I don’t think we should endorse in this race, because it would make us look foolish,” said club secretary Lyn Gwidzak. She noted that the club had first given him an acceptable rating along with fellow Democrat Denise Moreno Ducheny, then rescinded it after Vargas cast the deciding vote in a State Senate committee against a bill allowing nurse-practitioners and midwives to perform abortions. Vargas has also never come out for marriage equality and, when he spoke to the club in February, gave a long, rambling answer that suggested he doesn’t agree with the whole idea of civil marriage and thinks the definition of marriage should be left to churches.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Community Activists Join Labor to Oppose TPP

Corporate, Government Officials Meet in San Diego to Negotiate Secret “Trade” Pact


Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Laborers’ Union members turn out against TPP

Brooke Harper

Cathy Familiathe

Michelle Chin

Irma Zavala

Holly Hellerstedt

Mayer Souta

Kristen Smith

Cathy Mendonça

Ivan and his comrades with the banner

James Bartoli

If you’ve never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that suits the people who are pushing it — the Obama administration, the governments of the other major countries involved and the corporations who stand to benefit from its far-reaching provisions against pro-labor and pro-environmental laws in the countries joining it — just fine. San Diego is currently hosting the latest round of talks between government and corporate officials to negotiate the details of the TPP, and labor and anti-neoliberal activists planned a response for the originally announced dates of the talks: July 2-10. Then the organizers of the TPP negotiations decided to jump the gun on the response by sneaking into town early — the weekend of June 30-July 1 — and getting to work right away so the TPP opponents would have nothing to respond to.
The secrecy with which the TPP is being negotiated has been a constant throughout the process. Though representatives of multinational corporations have been allowed to read the proposed TPP treaty documents and negotiate their contents, mere elected officials of the U.S. Congress — including Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee dealing with trade agreements — have been denied access to the terms of TPP. “No one has access to the documents that have such far-reaching implications,” said Brooke Harper of Global Trade Watch, a project of the Public Citizen watchdog organization that monitors trade agreements, at an organizing meeting in San Diego June 20. And when one of the treaty’s proposed sections — the one on multinational investment — was leaked to Global Trade Watch, the Obama administration responded not by pulling back on TPP but by raising the ante, inviting Mexico to join the pact.
What is the TPP? Ostensibly it’s a “free trade” agreement between the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam. But as with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and other so-called “free trade” agreements that have followed NAFTA and been patterned on it, TPP is really a huge machine to increase corporate profits by making it easier for multinational corporations to shift jobs overseas. It would forbid member countries from passing “domestic content” laws requiring that a certain portion of the parts in manufactured goods sold in their countries be produced there.
What’s more, the leaked section contains an elaborate provision for so-called “investor-to-state dispute resolution.” This idea, which first reared its head in NAFTA and was expanded in the late 1990’s in a proposed worldwide treaty called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), allows corporations to sue countries to have their labor or environmental protection laws thrown out as “restraints on trade.” MAI died as a result of the “Battle of Seattle” in November 1999, in which activists successfully disrupted a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and at least temporarily blocked expansion of pro-corporate trade agreements worldwide. But some of its more loathsome provisions are back in the proposed TPP.
What’s wrong with investor-to-state dispute resolution? To put it bluntly, it puts corporations ahead of sovereign nation-states in decision-making. In the 1990’s a Canadian company named Methanex sued the state of California, claiming it had no right to ban a Methanex-manufactured gasoline additive that contaminated drinking water. Methanex demanded $970 million in “lost” profits from the state, and it took California six years and $4 million in legal fees to defeat the claim. More recently, a Chinese company contacted the Vermont state legislature and ordered it not to pass legislation restricting electronic waste disposal and toxic chemicals in toys, or the Chinese would sue for alleged violations of U.S. trade treaties.
Asked at the June 20 meeting whether TPP could be used to supersede U.S. labor laws, Harper said that most of the cases already heard under investor-to-state dispute resolution have been “land-use or zoning laws.” But some of the most controversial challenges have been attempts by corporations to challenge laws restricting their ability to sell dangerous products, including the Family and Teen Smoking Act and the Food Labeling Law. “In Massachusetts, they had to fight to keep on the books their law against buying products from Myanmar,” Harper said. “They haven’t had challenges on labor law yet.” She also said that even without the TPP in place, Philip Morris was able to sue El Salvador to get smoking restrictions lifted under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) even though El Salvador isn’t a signatory to CAFTA, and more recently they’ve sued Australia via a subsidiary in Hong Kong.
TPP is being billed as an attempt to contain China economically, and some critics have drawn a connection between it and Obama’s Pacific Rim defense strategy aimed at boosting the U.S. military presence in the Pacific to control China militarily. At the same time, though, feelers have been sent out to invite China to join TPP.

San Diegans Speak Out Against TPP

San Diego’s response to the latest round of TPP negotiations began on July 2 with a spirited rally outside the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, next to the San Diego Convention Center. With the TPP negotiators housed inside the Bayfront and holding their meetings there, members of labor unions and community organizations challenged the pact in a small but spirited rally outside the building. The rally was MC’d by San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council chair Lorena Gonzalez, and among the speakers was Cathy Familiathe, president of the Southern California District Council of the historically progressive International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU).
“Those of our members fortunate enough to move cargo still work,” Familiathe said. “But the mission of our union is to look out for everyone, including our warehouse, nursery and cannery workers whose jobs are being outsourced. ILWU has historically been against these trade agreements.” She said she had got a good look at how dire the impact of so-called “free trade” could be when a delegation from her union toured a maquiladora factory in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico in 1992, a year before NAFTA went into effect. Though the inside of the factory was state-of-the-art, she said, “the workers still went home at night to houses built of pallets.” Their employers, she said, “went from paying $8 per hour in the U.S. Midwest to paying $8 per day.”
Familiathe called for an open debate on the merits of TPP and other so-called “free trade” agreements. “If members of Congress believe agreements like TPP are good for the nation, let them bring such agreements to us, and facilitate pro-and-con debates in their districts where opponents are given equal time.” This might be easier said than done; according to Brooke Harper, members of Congress won’t even see the TPP until its final draft is agreed on and submitted to them — and then they’ll have to vote on it under “fast-track” authority, which means they’ll have to decide yes or no without being able to offer amendments.
Michelle Chin of Friends of the Earth said she also experienced the direct results of so-called “free trade” up close and personal in the early 1990’s. “I went to high school 10 miles from here, at a Catholic school run by some pretty radical nuns, and they took us to a maquiladora,” she recalled. “We were teenage girls and we saw other teenage girls, not going to school but working. Later we learned about women being sexually harassed in the maquiladoras, labor organizers threatened, and just a few weeks ago a labor activist was kidnapped and a gun held to his head as he was driven and dumped out of town.”
According to Chin, U.S. law requires that U.S. companies that relocate manufacturing jobs involving toxic chemicals to Mexico must send the toxic waste from their operations back to the U.S. for safe disposal — but only about one-sixth of them actually do so. “The rest just dump their waste in Mexico,” she said. “As a result of NAFTA, all the rivers around Tijuana have been decimated by pollution.”
Irma Zavala, representing the hotel and restaurant workers’ union UNITE HERE, had a particular gripe against Brunei, one of the original participants in TPP. “I came here 31 years ago to flee the civil war in El Salvador,” she said. “I worked at the Hotel Bel Air for 20 years so we could save up to buy a house and send our daughter to college. But when the government of Brunei bought the Bel Air chain, they closed the hotel for ‘remodeling’ and when they reopened it, they hired almost none of the original workers. In Brunei women don’t have equal rights and being Gay is illegal. They supported Iran in its nuclear program and in repressing its protesters. You can see their history of human rights violations. Please protect job security and human rights in America.”
Other speakers at the event pointed to the myriad ways TPP’s provisions would help make corporations and the 1 percent richer at the expense of everyone else. Holly Hellerstedt of the Queer-rights group Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) discussed the way TPP would extend the length of drug patents — thereby ensuring that the cost of standard anti-HIV treatments would remain at $8,000 per year instead of the $400 per year they would cost without patents. Mayer Souta of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) said that the TPP would add 120 years to existing copyrights in member countries, thereby choking off innovation and creativity. It would also, she said, stifle the free use of the Internet in some of the same ways as the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), dropped by the U.S. Congress after overwhelming public opposition.
Kristen Smith of Women’s Occupy pointed to the smoking regulations that have already been targeted by tobacco companies under existing trade agreements and would be even harder to defend under TPP — leading to millions of preventable early deaths. Cathy Mendonça of Affirm San Diego pointed to the disproportionate harm done to women in Mexico under NAFTA — including the virtual destruction of Mexico’s agricultural sector as well as the murders of over 400 women, most of them maquiladora workers, in Ciudad Juárez. She also said that female maquiladora workers not only have to deal with sexual harassment from their bosses, they are forced to use birth control and take regular pregnancy tests because they can be fired if they become pregnant.
One of the most dramatic appearances came from a young man named Ivan, a Filipino-American activist from the Bayan U.S.A. group. His organization brought a long anti-TPP banner they used in an action in the Philippines and unfurled it next to the podium as Ivan spoke. Ivan drew the connection between the TPP and the U.S.’s increasing military presence in the Philippines, and said the U.S. is trying to regain the bases in the Philippines they were forced to give up in the 1990’s. “The U.S. economy is dependent on Asia and the Pacific,” Ivan said. “The U.S. needs to exploit more people. The TPP is an example of the desperation of the 1 percent. They don’t want you to hear that in the Philippines there is a movement for national liberation.”
“The TPP is not a free trade agreement; it is a corporate bill of rights,” said James Bartoli of Occupy San Diego — who played against the usual image of Occupy by appearing in a suit and tie. “This is for the global 1 percent to expand their supply areas and outsource jobs both to low-wage areas within the U.S. and to repressive governments around the world. When Occupy started, our slogan was ‘People Over Profits.’ We can see that capitalism is broken, and expanding empire through direct foreign investments is their only way forward.”
San Diego’s anti-TPP opponents are planning a wide variety of actions against the proposal during the remaining week its negotiators will be in town, culminating in a pots-and-pans march Saturday, July 7, 10:30 a.m., from Civic Center Plaza to the Hilton site. For more information, visit