Category Archives: Labor and Worker Justice

Acton Institute contributor Says Child Labor a Wonderful Idea

Kathryn Talbert

While we’d rather keep the focus local to state politics, the national action right now is hard to ignore, what with Trump tramping all over every decent element of democracy, much less progressive values and all.

And Facebook churns endlessly the articles that people pick up and thrown amongst each other, many like hot potatoes because they are so absolutely abhorrent in thought and character that no one can hold onto to them for very long as they gasp in horror.

Thus so it was for me when I came across the exclamation “‘Mining Would Be Exciting For Kids’: Trump’s Secretary Of Education Wants Legal Child Labor”

Which was excerpted from an article that rationalized kids being thrown into the workforce written by one Jeffrey Tucker who so impressed Mr. Joseph Sunde (of the pro-charter anti-public school group the Acton Institute) that he, Mr. Sunde then decide to burp up a smelly piece all by himself to salute to those fine standards and values such as work. Intellectualism he says, is highly over-rated! Well, we can easily understand why Mr. Sunde would feel that way, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to try to teach the rest of our children.

Anyway, here’s my thoughts banged out quickly on the old keyboard. Enjoy and please, feel free to stop in over at Mr. Sunde’s site and give him a howdie and a schooling, because he desperately needs some of that intellectualizing!

See his article here, “Work is a gift our kids can handle”

What a bunch of absolute drivel! While kids have shown to statistically be entering the workforce less, by and large the ability to make that choice is a luxury still only afforded to kids in the upper and middle class. Working class kids still often have to work as soon as 14 years old (yes there are states like the one I live in that allow kids to work limited hours at 14), not necessarily to supplement the family income but to have anything for themselves. I know my three children had to and my interactions at work with many younger people bears that out; children in lower income families are usually told pretty early on that they will have to start providing for the extras of their needs outside of food and shelter, which the parents still provide. Many have to work to buy their first car, buy school clothes or have any money for extras for social activities.

Other than that, middle class kids chose not to work because most are engaged in activities in school or outside school to prepare them for college; sports, clubs and other activities.

Much of this silly article centers around the even sillier commentary from Jeffrey Tucker, whoever he is, who seems to have slept through history class on the days when they talked about the brutality of labor in the 19th century. He apparently also, it appears never worked a low-wage retail or laboring job his entire life because not one single person who does feels that it uplifts their soul, raises them to new heights or whatever fantasies he applies.

21. Yüzyılda Acı Tablo: 'Dünyada Modern Köle Sayısı 45 Milyon'

Obviously this young worker is having a grand time whilst planning her great future in industrial ownership and entrepreneurial undertakings!

Its damned job.  A job, a soul-sucking, mind-numbing job where instead of typing your thoughts on a computer and somebody thinking your words mean enough to put in a column, you are told to shut up, do the job or get the hell out for the next one. And at the end of the week, when you receive your paycheck, unless you are a kid with someone else paying your way, you will again feel that soul-sucking sensation when you look at the meager pay you received for your 150% effort. Now you can decide, do you pay the light bill or rent?

Now getting back to the mind-numbing, soul-sucking part. We have a democracy. In a democracy we need our citizenry to be able to make basic decisions about their future and that of the country when they choose who to vote for. Hopefully they will make a good and sound decision after considering all the elements at hand.

Image result for US child labor

Children in Pennsylvania coal mine. No doubt the adult oversee has the best intentions in mind with that cane in his hand and taught valuable lessons in business skills and capital acquisition. Why have we never heard from all these child laborers of days gone by? Where are their memoirs? Their riches and fine houses? Their stories of winning the golden ring?

Lo! But that requires an education! And I’m not talking about just knowing the basic three R’s like arithmetic and reading and writing, I’m talking about critical thinking, history, civics and the rest. Already we have a Christian-based right-wing nutbag organization in Texas that does the final decision making on high school text books and you know what we have? We have a population that is about one third ignorant, sexist bigots and then another portion of privileged jerks who write columns saying that it isn’t important for certain peoples in our fine democracy to have a clue what is going on in their country. I suppose your resolution for that Mr. Sunde would be to just take away that problem by removing them from the voting roles! Hey, after all, as it is we have a problem with people getting to the polls because employers won’t let them go.

Children need the nurture that comes from a healthy family and community throughout their childhood and that childhood is also during their teens. Girls and boys need to be engaged in activities that are safe and regulated by adults that care about their development. They don’t need to be thrown to the wolves to be exploited by corporate monsters out for every buck they can squeeze from anyone, even children. Children died working in mines and mills, they were horribly disfigured, disabled and often were malnourished and diseased.

They most often did not attend school, were largely illiterate or semi-literate and never had the pleasure of enjoying the chance to reach their own potential as unique individuals. Many died before they reached the twenties from disability and occupational disease. But what’s most important is that almost all of them suffered from the deprivation of guidance, love and security that children need in order to grow into productive and emotionally healthy adults and contributory citizens.

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Newsboys in St. Louis, 1910, picture by Lewis Hines. Here we see how children at work learn all sorts of fine habits from the adult environment they are exposed to.

As it is already children who start working early often lose interest in academics unless their parents hold a hard line on them. Employers will pressure them to work later than they should and their exposure to adults as a large part of their social upbringing is not always a positive thing; its the type of adults and the types of activities and values that children are exposed to that can make a positive or a very negative difference in their lives. In addition, neither middle school aged nor high school age kids have the ability to determine for themselves when they are being exploited by adults or not.

This is absolutely the dumbest piece of commentary I’ve read in a long time and it represents a frightening trend in our society. It reflects the idea that many have adopted that the lower sector of society, from children to adults, is disposable fodder to feed the endless greed of corporate machinery.

I don’t know who paid you or your colleague Mr. Tucker to write such garbage, or how much, but for selling out your soul intellectually the way you are apparently willing, your God will have judgment waiting for you.

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Latest AFP Propaganda Spotted in New Hampshire

Americans for Prosperity, the large corporate funded right-wing PAC, founded by billionaire David Koch has been spotted in New Hampshire handing out leaflets telling lies about Obamacare and also lies about unions in order to garner support for Right to Work.

Koch Industries business site explains the mission of Americans for Prosperity and the sister organization, Americans for Prosperity Foundation as “AFP and AFP Foundation’s overall mission of promoting sound economic thinking is one in which we firmly believe. In addition, they stand for ideals that are critical to our nation’s future and the well-being of all people: limited government as set forth in the Constitution; fiscal responsibility; removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship; and restoring fairness to our judicial system.”

Unfortunately an interest in sound economic thinking and concerns about the nation’s future is actually the last priority of Americans for Prosperity’s mission.  They also could obviously care less about the well-being of all people as they continue to push for cuts in social safety net programs that will lead this country deeper into division, violence and social collapse.

The flyers that were distributed around the state are highlighted on the AFP twitter feed and their website.  With pictures of eager young participants putting door hangers, the following lies are being spread:

1.  That Obamacare gives healthcare to “healthy adults who don’t work”.  This is an absolute lie as there exists by law no program today that funds non-working folks.  Unless the individual has a proven disability, laws for any assistance require a job search and if an individual were not working, they wouldn’t get Obamacare; they’d get either disability (as judged by application and an evaluation through a lengthy court process) or temporary assistance which requires a job search and you’d be on Medicaid.  If on disability you’d be on Medicare.  Evidence exists on federal and state websites like this:

Obamacare is not welfare.  Obamacare is a federally and state subsidized insurance program for working people who cannot afford health insurance alone through the private market and do not get health insurance from their employer.

Most Obamacare has actually become so expensive in co-pays that most working people still cannot afford to purchase healthcare, even through the assistance of Obamacare.

But the AFP would have working people believe that someone somewhere is getting a free ride and even though most people will need or could need a program like Obamacare someday, many believe they would not qualify or have enough security to not need it themselves.  Therefore, they fall for these lies and vote to have these programs cut.

Who wins? Not the country because most people need government programs and are entitled in fact to government programs because they pay taxes for them.

In fact what’s ironic is that David and Charles Koch and Koch Inc. haven’t decided to hand over the billions in subsidies they get for their fossil fuels business.  Nope, they are subsidized by you and me and enjoy a pretty good living at it, while at the same time attempting to get us to cut off our nose to spite our face — and give them a tax break!

But there’s more!  David and Charles Koch and his billionaire friends aren’t happy that they’ve got us subsidizing them to the tune of billions but they also can’t stand the idea that workers have gotten together over the years to work for better pay and better working conditions.

They want to go after your right to unionize as well.  In this bullshit meme which will probably become a door hanger as well, the Koch’s use lies and propaganda to push their anti-worker agenda as well.  Here’s a good article from the award-winning investigative magazine, Mother Jones that tells the story about Right to Work and what it means — it’s actually based on an attempt by Republicans in New Hampshire to pass Right to Work. Right to Work Laws Explained.

New Hampshire is only one state of all the states that the large corporate lobbies like AFP and others such as the business-lobbying group/club called ALEC which has paid lobbyists who propose legislation to state legislators.  They meet at least once a year and invite as many corporate businesses as they can to join and then come to their seminars where the businesses network with lobbyists and tell them what they want for laws to “help” their business activities.  Limiting or even outright destroying workers’ right to organize for better pay and working conditions has always been on the top of business’ priority list.
Afterall, labor is always the most difficult unit of production to control and track.  Business has learned over the years that no matter how one tries, it’s just near impossible to turn a human being into a machine or a slave.  They will revolt, they will get tired, they will get sick, they need sleep, rest, sustenance and most importantly, their safety, health and dignity.  Take that away and people tend to get a little pissed. Hence the labor movement.

The propaganda states that only 6% of union workers voted “have actually voted for their unions”.  This non-factual statement could mean anything but only those who actually participate in a union realize how empty this statement is.  Union participation in day-to-day voting and events does not pass onto members, as all members realize — they have work to do everyday as well and leave the hired professionals to handle the daily business of negotiating contracts, making employers follow the law and their agreements, finding more work and looking for more skilled workers for the union’s future.

Most union members also know that only a small minority ever attends meetings.  What the AFP won’t tell anyone outside of a union is because this is their choice; whether right or wrong members overall don’t attend meetings and leave most of the volunteer and official work to others.  This does not represent a capitulation by union members, of the benefits and privileges afforded by being a union member.

Right to Work has nothing to do with granting any rights to workers — it has to do with taking rights away from workers who wish to work with each other to push for better living standards and a businesses compliance with the law.

Smart, labor minded and worker minded people do not get sucked into the propaganda that is spewed by anti-worker anti-democratic organizations like the AFP.  Non-union people, unable or not knowing how to form their own union feel jealous of the union member.  They know the union member has better benefits and pay and has the power to rattle some bones if things go south with their boss.  But instead of working with people who might want to better their lives to better their jobs or instead of asking a union brother or sister about how a union works, they’d rather cut their nose off to spite their face.

Corporate liars can only appeal to the most desperate the most ignorant and while ignorance can be cured with a little effort to learn, the only cure for desperation is security and peace of mind.  We will never have anything close if we are all forced to work for whatever the boss tells us and we have no right to do anything about it.

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Annie Stands up for Workers and Stands Against TPTP!

New Hampshire Second Congressional District Congresswoman Annie Kuster has announced that she will not vote for the Fast Track legislation that would give the White House the go ahead on negotiating the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership that threatens American jobs and American manufacturing.

Annie’s quote:


Every day, I’m fighting to support New Hampshire workers, small businesses, and family farms, which all deserve a strong say in our nation’s trade policies.  I believe the trade promotion authority legislation currently before Congress fails to give these groups a real seat at the table, and fails to include necessary protections for American jobs and workers, which is why I plan to vote against it.”

If you’d like to send Annie a message and let her know that you notice her commitment and support it, please feel free to send her a comment:

Twitter: @RepAnnieKuster

h/t: NH Labor News

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Texas Court Upholds Labor Boards Union Election Law

Mounted police advance on construction workers. <i>Photo: Justin McManus</i>

A union picket/blockade action in Australia, August 2012, over a ban by a company on workers wearing pro-union stickers and apparel to work. ABC Inc. and their members fight vigorously in fear of such strong union reaction to even much more egregious rights violations in the US.

But be forewarned and take the success as merely a drop of water for the rights-thirsty and fight-weary workers and unions.  Most likely the corporate supported ABC will not take this lying down and will circle their wagons, hire more lawyers and file for an appeal while also at the same time, continue their active efforts to destroy the NLRB entirely.  This could also be a set-up to enable the ABC to file an appeal and bump the proceedings up to a higher court in an effort to provide some legal precedent that will further lend to the concerted effort to destroy the NLRB and the voices of workers altogether

Just take heart that all is not lost, especially when such a rule comes down in the red-state desert of worker’s rights known as Texas. But labor cannot rest.

From The Hill:
By Tim Devaney06/01/15 04:51 PM EDT

The Obama administration should be allowed to speed up the process by which employees unionize, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas tossed out a lawsuit from business groups challenging the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) union election rule

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Texas chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) argued that speeding up union elections would not give companies enough time to prepare.

“We are deeply disappointed by the Texas court ruling and we plan to appeal the decision,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, a plaintiff in the Texas case.

The NLRB, which has maintained the rule is needed to prevent businesses from using delaying tactics to block employees from organizing, declined to comment.

The NLRB’s rule — maligned as the “ambush election” rule in business circles — could allow union elections to occur as little as two weeks after a petition is filed, critics claim.

Currently, it takes an average of 38 days to hold a union election, according to the NLRB.

Businesses say the shorter time frame would make it difficult for them to prepare and give labor groups an inherent advantage.

“The ambush election is a very badly disguised effort on the part of the federal government to rig the outcome of union elections in favor of organized labor and we don’t believe it’s legal,” Harned said.

Pitman disagreed.

“[The] plaintiffs point to nothing in the record which supports their conclusion that the board intended to favor organized labor,” he wrote.

The NLRB’s rule has now withstood congressional and legal attempts to overthrow it.

Congressional Republicans pushed through a measure that would have overturned the rule earlier this year, but they were unable to override President Obama’s veto.

Another lawsuit from a different set of business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Retail Federation — is still pending in federal court.

The NFIB has vowed to appeal the judge’s decision in a case that could make its way to the Supreme Court.

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Chomsky: Democracy is a Threat to Any Power System

From video description :

“To mark The Nation’s 150th anniversary, John Nichols was joined in conversation by the eminent radical intellectual Noam Chomsky at the Tucson Festival of Books in Arizona on March 15. Discussing issues ranging from media accountability and voter participation, to money in politics and income inequality.”

Thanks to The Nation magazine

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Senator Warren Says Independent Contractors “Might” be a Problem

A report from The Hill shows Elizabeth Warren being cautious and careful after answering a question about the proliferation of independent contractors, otherwise known as “1099 employees” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) across the country.   As The Hill reports:

The topic came up during an on stage appearance at a conference produced by news organization Re/Code, when a BuzzFeed News reporter asked whether “1099” workers, named after the tax form they fill out as contractors, should instead be seen as more traditional workers for the many startups that rely on their labor.

Warren didn’t answer, but she did express concern about the way companies in general are using their contractors.

“I think there is evidence that increasingly employers use independent contractors not in ways that were originally intended but in ways that permit them to treat employment laws differently than they otherwise would be responsible for, and I think that’s a real problem,” she said. “And I think the Department of Labor is looking into this and I think they’re right to do that.”

It was not clear what Department of Labor investigation she was referring to, though the agency does run investigations into whether employers are misclassifying their employees as contractors.

The facts show though that Warren should have no hesitation to call out what has become a major economic problem across the country.  While Republicans claim that the social security system might fall short in the future what they fail to explain is the only way in which that could happen; through lack of current pay-ins to the system because workers and employers across the country have failed to pay into the system.

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Picture of a NH UBC banner line conducted last year in Seabrook shaming a large tri-state drywall firm for their labor practices. See more at: Carpenters Get Hot on Cheating Contractors

Social security, workers compensation and payroll taxes all fall under protections given to the workers that employees and employers jointly pay into.  All of these programs act as insurance against lost time due to work injuries, lay off periods and a savings program to offer some means of subsistence when either one suffers disabling injury or is too old to work.  While the last two social security programs fall under different lines of qualification and management, the fact remains that their intention was to protect workers and the disabled from abject poverty.

Under federal labor law certain criteria exist to judge a worker as an independent contractor or as an employee. Unfortunately many workers do not know their rights and believe what unscrupulous employers tell them.  This isn’t anymore prevalent than in the construction trades where according to a study done by the National Employment Law Project, estimates place misclassification as high as 30% across the board in all employment.

In New Hampshire the issue is particularly contentious as labor leaders such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenter’s Joe Donahue struggles with the issue in the construction field as profiled in this 2014 report by New Hampshire Business Review.  In the report Donahue and others point to the confusion about employee classification due to conflicting and confusing regulations on the federal and state level.  Unfortunately the September 2014 summary of the New Hampshire Join Agency Task Force on Employee Misclassification Enforcement isn’t naming any significant increases in enforcement over years past.

In addition to construction other industries seem rife for misclassfication issues as well including hotel workers, IT workers, landscape and others that typically operate out of the public eye and under the supervision of smaller, employers that have sub-contractor relationships with larger, more public companies.

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Paterson Silk Strike, May 19 1913

h/t: Jeffrey Perry

102 years ago, on May 19, 1913, Hubert Harrison spoke at a major rally for the Paterson Silk Strikers at the Botto House in Haledon, NJ. Other speakers that day included “Big Bill” Haywood, Patrick Quinlan, Frederick Sumner Boyd, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Also for more on the strike see Spartucus Educational: The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913

The Botto House later became the “American Labor Museum,” in part because of the large and important meetings held there during the strike.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn speaking to strikers during the Paterson Silk Strike

The Paterson “Evening News” described Harrison as “very bitter in his denunciations of the New York newspaper writers” and reported that he “commenced a tirade upon one of the writers in particular, and called him a — dirty dog.”

The anti-strike “Evening News” added that “his comparisons were very blasphemous and not fit for . . . the papers to re-print”

Co-agitator Flynn, however, defended him saying that “he tells plain facts and the bosses don’t like them.”

(Drawn from Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press)

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see…

For comments from scholars and activists on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) see and see…

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see

Children working looms in mills in Paterson, NJ. From OutStory: The Paterson Silk Strike

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5 Leading Scholars Speak Out Against the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TTP)

By Judith Resnik, Cruz Reynoso, Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, Joseph E.
Stiglitz and Laurence H. Tribe, Reader Supported News

09 May 15

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, and
Minority Leader Pelosi:

We write out of grave concern about a document we have not been able to
see. Although it has not been made available publicly, we understand that
the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement currently being
negotiated includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.
ISDS allows foreign investors—and only foreign investors—to avoid the
courts and instead to argue to a special, private tribunal that they
believe certain government actions diminish the value of their investments.

Courts are central institutions in the rule of law. Americans have much to
be proud of in the evolution of our court system, which has evolved over
the centuries and now provides equal access for all persons. Courts enable
the public to observe the processes of development of law and to watch
impartial and accountable decision-makers render judgments.

We write because of our concern that what we know about ISDS does not match
what courts can provide. Those advocating using this alternative in lieu of
our court system bear the burden of demonstrating why such an exit is
necessary, and how the alternate system will safeguard the ideals enshrined
in our courts. Thus far, the proponents of ISDS have failed to meet that
burden. Therefore, before any ISDS provisions are included in the TPP or
any future agreements, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), their content should be disclosed and their purposes
vetted in public so that debate can be had about whether and if such
provisions should be part of proposed treaties. Below, we detail the ways
in which ISDS departs from the justice opportunities that U.S. courts

Our legal system rests on the conviction that every individual, regardless
of wealth or power, has an equal right to bring a case to court. To protect
and uphold the rule of law, our ideals of fairness and justice must apply
in all situations and equally to everyone. ISDS, in contrast, is a system
built on differential access. ISDS provides a separate legal system
available only to certain investors who are authorized to exit the American
legal system. Only foreign investors may bring claims under ISDS
provisions. This option is not offered to nations, domestic investors, or
civil society groups alleging violations of treaty obligations. Under ISDS
regimes, foreign investors alone are granted legal rights unavailable to
others – freed from the rulings and procedures of domestic courts.

ISDS also risks undermining democratic norms because laws and regulations
enacted by democratically-elected officials are put at risk in a process
insulated from democratic input.

Equal application of the law is another critically important hallmark of
our legal system—one that is secured through the orderly development of
law. Court decisions are subject to appeal, ensuring that conflicting lower
court decisions are resolved by a higher authority. Judges also must follow
legal precedent. The goal is uniform application of the law regardless of
which judge or court hears a case. This law development allows people,
entities, and nations alike to order their behavior according to
well-established legal principles.

In contrast, ISDS does not build in the development of the law. An ISDS
arbitral panel’s decision cannot be appealed to a court. The ISDS
provisions of which we are aware provide only limited— private—review
through a process called annulment that does not permit decisions to be set
aside based even on a “manifest error of law.”1 Moreover, ISDS
arbitrators, like other arbitrators, do not make law because their
decisions have no precedential value, and ISDS arbitrators in turn are not
obliged to follow precedent in reaching their own decisions.

None of the hallmarks of our court system would be possible without a fair
and independent judiciary. Federal judges take an oath to uphold the
Constitution and are nominated and confirmed by our democratically elected
representatives. State judges likewise commit themselves to upholding the
constitutional order. In contrast, ISDS arbitrators are not public servants
but private arbitrators. In many cases, there is a revolving door between
serving on ISDS arbitration panels and representing corporations bringing
ISDS claims. Yet, although such a situation would seem to call for
more—not less—oversight and accountability, ISDS arbitrators’ decisions
are functionally unreviewable.

As noted at the outset, we have not been able to read the terms of the
proposed ISDS chapters for the upcoming TPP and TTIP treaties. But what we
know from the past gives us many grounds for concern. During the past few
years, foreign investors have used ISDS to challenge a broad range of
policies aimed at protecting the environment, improving public health and
safety, and regulating industry. These challenges have been around the
world, including under trade agreements to which the United States is a
party. The publicly available information about these challenges raises
serious questions as to whether the United States should be entering into
more ISDS agreements with a broad array of nations.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s pending ISDS proceedings against Canada
provide an example of how corporations have used ISDS to challenge a
nation’s laws outside the courtroom. After a Canadian court invalidated one
of Lilly’s patents, the company initiated ISDS proceedings against Canada
under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).2 In
seeking $500 million (Canadian), Lilly has challenged as violative of NAFTA
the standard the nation uses for granting patents.

Although ISDS tribunals are not empowered to order injunctive relief, the
threat and expense of ISDS proceedings have forced nations to abandon
important public policies. In the third ISDS proceeding brought under
NAFTA, Ethyl Corporation brought an ISDS proceeding against Canada for $251
million for implementing a ban on a toxic gasoline additive. The proceeding
took place not in a court, but before an arbitration panel of the
International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
After the arbitration panel rejected Canada’s argument that Ethyl lacked
standing to bring the challenge, Canada settled the suit for $13 million.
Moreover, Canada lifted the ban on the toxic additive as part of the

It is particularly noteworthy that the three NAFTA countries are each in
the top 11 most-challenged countries under the ISDS system. This high rate
of challenge in our view has little to do with a rule of law deficit in the
U.S. and Canada. Instead, it represents investors taking advantage of easy
access to a special legal right available only to them in an alternate
legal system.

ISDS weakens the rule of law by removing the procedural protections of the
legal system and using a system of adjudication with limited accountability
and review. It is antithetical to the fair, public, and effective legal
system that all Americans expect and deserve.

Proponents of ISDS have failed to explain why our legal system is
inadequate to the task. For the reasons cited above, we urge you to uphold
the best ideals of our legal system and ensure ISDS is excluded from
upcoming trade agreements.


Judith Resnik Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Cruz Reynoso Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis
School of Law Former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court

Honorable H. Lee Sarokin Former United States Circuit Judge of the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Joseph E. Stiglitz University Professor, Columbia University

Laurence H. Tribe Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School

cc: Ambassador Froman and Chairs & Ranking Members of Finance & Ways &
Means Committees

Please note: Organizational affiliation for all signatories is included for
identification purposes only; individuals represent only themselves, not
the institutions where they are teaching or other organizations in which
they are active.

h/t Mark Fernald

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New Democrats Expect Growing Support for Fast-Track

New Democrats? Didn’t they die out after George W. rode in on the wave of “New Democrat” fervor that elected Clinton who then shoved the country further right?  Wasn’t “New Democrat” a fad of the 90’s wherein the late Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and others came together figuring that the old liberal Democratic party had to go and make way for a newer, shinier, more conservative version.  A version that wouldn’t let such matters as labor and social policy stand in the way of getting elected? Remember them? NAFTA? Welfare Reform? the Telecommunications Act which while historically did destroy Ma Bell’s monopoly on phone service, opened up a brave new world on technology law that still confounds many.

Yes the New Democrats have apparently risen their ugly heads again and it seems that we can with confidence, this time around call them what they have always been: Republican Lite.  Content to enjoy the traditional support of middle Americans, shameless in their promotion of corporate power and hawkish in their support of imperialist intervention worldwide, the New Democrat comprises a creature that at the very least deserves healthy skepticism and a watchful eye.

Case in point: their coming out in support of the Fast Track process to pass the TPP without debate; in short, without democratic process.  For more look no further than Politico to proudly that some Democrats have pulled that old mothballed sweater out of the closet and are wearing it with pride, despite the holes we can all see clearly from here:

| Getty

The bill would allow Obama to submit trade deals to Congress for straight up-or-down votes without any amendments. | Getty
New Democrats expect growing support for fast-track

By Doug Palmer

4/30/15 9:03 PM EDT

A small group of House Democrats who back President Barack Obama’s effort to win “fast-track” trade legislation said Thursday they expect more party members to step forward in favor of the bill, but indicated Republicans would still have to provide the bulk of the votes to win its approval.

“I think members realize it’s coming closer [to the time] to ultimately to make a decision, and that’s what they’re trying to do,” Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, told reporters after more than a 90-minute meeting with Obama. “I think to the credit of the majority of the New Dems in the coalition, they’ve kept their powder dry to give the administration and the president the chance to make the case.”

Obama invited all 46 members of the moderate, business-friendly group to the White House to urge their support for the bill, which many Democrats have already made up their mind to oppose. About 27 piled into a bus for the trip, including some who have already endorsed the bill and many others who are undecided.

Just 13 House Democrats — most of them from the New Democrat Coalition — are on record in support of the legislation, which would allow Obama to submit trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact to Congress for straight up-or-down votes without any amendments.

Read more:Politico: New Democrats Expect….

Fast-Track: An Undemocratic Path to Unfair “Trade”

As promised we bring you some more opinion and analysis on the Fast-Track push by Obama for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  From the blog of the group Public Citizen:


Fast Track

An Undemocratic Path to Unfair “Trade”

President Obama is asking Congress to delegate to him extreme Fast Track authority to railroad into place job-killing trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

ALERT! A Fast Track bill has recently been introduced. Click here for the full analysis.

Fast Track was an extreme and rarely-used procedure initially created by President Richard Nixon to get around public debate and congressional oversight. Fast Track is how we got into the job-killing, wage-flattening North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Thanks to Fast Track, NAFTA and the WTO included terms that promote the offshoring of U.S. jobs to low-wage countries.

Fast Track also empowered executive branch officials advised by large corporations to skirt Congress and the public and use secretive “trade” agreements to roll back a wide range of non-trade policies on which our families rely for safe food, a clean environment, affordable medicines, financial stability and more.

Fast Track set up a system of more than 500 official corporate U.S. trade advisors who have access to secret trade agreement texts and who have set the “U.S.” trade agenda whether we have Democratic or Republican presidents.

Fast Track is such an extreme power grab that in the past 21 years Congress has only allowed it to go into effect for five years total. Why? Because under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is supposed to write the laws and set trade policy. For 200 years, these key checks and balances helped ensure that no one branch of government had too much power. But, starting with Nixon, presidents have tried to seize those congressional powers using the Fast Track mechanism. hide

Fast Track has only been used 16 times in the history of our nation, often to enact the most controversial of “trade” pacts, such as the NAFTA and the establishment of the WTO. Meanwhile, hundreds of less controversial U.S. trade agreements have been implemented without resort to Fast Track, showing that the extraordinary procedure is not needed to approve trade agreements.

Fast Track allowed the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for “trade” pacts, decide the agreements’ contents, and then negotiate and sign the agreements – all before Congress had a vote on the matter! Normal congressional committee processes were forbidden, meaning that the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy legislation on its own with no review or amendments. These executive-authored bills altered wide swaths of U.S. law unrelated to trade – food safety, immigration visas, energy policy, medicine patents and more – to conform our domestic policies to each agreement’s requirements. And, remarkably, Fast Track let the executive branch control Congress’ voting schedule. Unlike any other legislation, both the House and Senate were required to vote on a Fast Tracked trade agreement within 90 days of the White House submitting it. No floor amendments were allowed and debate was limited.

Because Fast Track’s dramatic shift in the balance of powers between branches of the U.S. government occurred via an arcane procedural mechanism, it obtained little scrutiny – until recently. Its use by Democratic and Republican presidents alike to seize Congress’ constitutional prerogatives, “diplomatically legislate” non-trade policy, and preempt state policy, has made it increasingly controversial.

A president cannot obtain Fast Track empowerment without a vote of Congress. President Clinton, renowned for trade expansion, only had Fast Track authority for two of his eight years in office due to congressional opposition. Indeed, in 1998 Clinton’s effort to get Fast Track authority was rejected by 171 House Democrats and 71 House GOP members.

The last time Congress authorized Fast Track was in 2002, with a 3:30 am vote before a congressional recess in which the antiquated mechanism was approved by just three votes. Since 2007, Congress has refused to authorize this extreme procedure, even after its proponents tried to escape Fast Track’s bad reputation by renaming it “Trade Promotion Authority.” The bill currently before Congress would replicate the widely-opposed Fast Track bill from 2002.

As a candidate, President Obama said he would replace this anti-democratic process. But now he is asking Congress to grant him Fast Track’s extraordinary authority – in part to try to overcome growing public and congressional opposition to his controversial TPP and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) deals. To prevent an expansion of this unfair “trade” model, Congress must not allow the executive branch to once again gain Fast Track’s undemocratic powers.