Slowing the “Fast Track”


The Raging Grannies listen to Elizabeth Swager of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (not pictured). Photo: Oregon Fair Trade Campaign 2014.

Portlanders braved the chilly winter weather on Friday, November 14th, to bring a message to Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden: Oppose Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.

‘Fast Track’ is an expired, Nixon-era policy-making process that allows legislation to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures.

Friday’s event, which was organized by the Director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, Elizabeth Swager, stuck to a simple agenda: bring our voices and faces directly to the offices of our political representatives to express our disapproval of both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track.


Ted Gleichman, of the Sierra Club

“So often these trade agreements hit hardest the people who have nothing,” said Ted Gleichman, of the Sierra Club, drawing on allegories of negative impacts to Haitian markets as a result of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Corporations have already used the investment provisions within the North American FTA (NAFTA) to challenge Quebec’s fracking moratorium and to threaten action if the Obama administration fails to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Carol Urner (pictured below, seated right), a long-time member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), talked with the aides at Rep. Blumenauer’s office for ten minutes after the crowd delivered its message. She connected Blumenauer’s decisions to the potential impacts on lives both near and far from Portland. Carol shared a deep concern for her friends in Pacific island nations which face the destructive force of imminent sea-level rise.

Organizers stand outside the building of Congressman Blumenauer while speakers give updates on the trade negotiations. Photo: Oregon Fair Trade Campaign 2014.

Organizers stand outside the building of Congressman Blumenauer while speakers give updates on the trade negotiations. Photo: Oregon Fair Trade Campaign 2014.

We find resistance to the TPP in many places around the world including Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Malaysia, where public outcry is much stronger than in the USA. Thousands of people attend the largest rallies hosted in these locations.

The TPP, if adopted, will encompass more than 40% of the world’s GDP, says WikiLeaks. Despite the far reaches of this potential international deal, you aren’t alone if you still haven’t heard of it yet. Negotiations between the 12 member nations transpired for more than 4 years without public knowledge.

Representatives from 700 international corporations were the only non-federal agents who had access to the text before WikiLeaks acquired a few of the 26 chapters about a year ago. We can currently read the proposed policy changes to intellectual property rights, investments, and the environment, though much is still obscured from public view.


I spoke with Jim Plunkett, a retired Portlander, 350PDX and Greenpeace activist, while outside Senator Wyden’s building.

What motivates you to show up to rallies like the one today?

Really, I’m here for the giant tribe of pissed off and unhappy people.

Do you think the TPP, because it covers so many seemingly disparate issues (environmental protection, union rights, generic medicine, farm owners, etc), is bringing these movements together?

Not really. Not yet. We have all these singular issues and are still largely divided. When we do win, it’ll be when we all come together.

How do you think showing up in person differs from submitting online comments or calling your representatives?

Both have their place. There’s almost an equal time-commitment for me, as I’ll spend half the time writing comments to submit online, and the same amount of time participating in an event like this. At events, I myself don’t come to speak. I come to support everyone who puts them together in order to increase the visibility of the event and this important cause.

By Maya Jarrad

“Local Environmentalists Say Proposed Trade Deal Would Undermine Climate Action.” Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. Press Release. Nov. 13, 2014.
Oregon Fair Trade Campaign.