“Music and political activism have always been really tightly bound together throughout global history,” said Ryan Harvey, the co-owner of Firebrand Records with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman) during the Rock Against the TPP Tour press call. This Saturday, July 23 at the Summit Music Hall in Denver, is the first stop on the nationwide free-to-attend tour. The Rock Against the TPP Tour’s main goal is to educate the American public on WHAT the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) really is and WHY they need to pressure their local House Representatives NOW to put TPP to pasture for good, preventing it from being voted upon this fall.
In addition to Harvey and Morello, other entertainment personalities are involved in the tour, including Anti-Flag, Golden Globe nominated actress Evangeline Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit, Ant-Man), Denver-based hip-hop outfit Flobots, bi-lingual rockers Downtown Boys, Talib Kweli, and Jolie Holland.
“It’s not just a fun concert. We’re also going to be giving people tools to take action,” said Evan Greer from Fight for the Future, the digital rights and internet freedom advocacy group that’s leading the activism roadshow. “Each of these events will require people sign the petition in order to gain entrance to the event,” he explained, in addition to using their mobile phones to take action. The education plans go even deeper. “We’re inviting them to participate in a follow up ‘Teach-In’ that Evangeline Lilly will be hosting with several experts as well as local speakers, giving people an education and ways to get involved in their local area to stop the TPP.”
Brass tacks: What impact will the TPP have on the American public and industry?
First, the TPP originated back in 2008 during the end of the Bush Administration and covers 40% of the global economy, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and Vietnam. This makes it the largest international trade deal in global history, and yet…
“It was negotiated in secret with hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public, and to a large part, Congress, was locked out,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizens Global Trade, during the call. “That is a matter that catches bipartisan attention.”
So why the secrecy?
“A key provision in TTP grants new rights to thousands of multi-national corporations to sue the U.S. government before panels of corporate lawyers,” explained Wallach.
Why would they sue?
If our country’s regulations that protect our environment, our citizen’s health, or worker’s rights, for example, impacted a corporation negatively, they can sue and American taxpayers would be footing the bill for those lawsuits, which would have little chance of being won, due to the provisions within TPP.
Corporate lawyers, not representatives from the government, would be able to award the corporations unlimited sums, “Including for loss of expected future profits,” said Wallach. “These corporations only need to convince these three corporate lawyers that a U.S. law or government decision violates the corporation’s new TTP rights. These decisions are not subject to appeal and there is no limit to what those tribunals can award.”
As a Canadian married to an American, Lilly has seen a version of this already taking place between her native country and her adopted one: the $15 billion dollar lawsuit between TransCanada and the American people after President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. “I fought on the picket lines for the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the actress and activist explained, “I was devastated when I found out that even though we won that battle, that the war continued on because now, America was potentially on the hook for $15 billion dollars because of that choice that they made in their sovereignty. The president of the country who made that was being challenged by a corporation from Canada.”
The lawsuit was possible through Investor–State Dispute Settlement Provision (ISDS), a key element within the TPP.
Intellectual property rights and freedom of speech are also being threatend. Pointing to the continual removal of a legitimate political speech being taken down from the internet, incuding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech from YouTube, Greer stated, “TPP contains extreme provisions that essentially export the worst parts of U.S. copyright policy to other countries without expanding or requiring protections for fair use or freedom of speech. The TPP essentially locks that system into place, not only for the U.S. but for the other countries involved and poses a threat to our ability to really share, express, and gain knowledge on the internet. In addition, it would harshen penalties for whistleblowers and journalists that are exposing the wrong doings of corporations through a section on ‘Trade Secrets.'”
Because TPP also has negative impacts on access to medicine, food safety, and jobs being exported outside of the U.S., it’s no surprise that the list of organizations opposing the TPP is lengthy.
The Time for ‘Power to the People’ is NOW
The tour is sponsored by a large group of organizations, including the Sierra Club, Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, EFF, DemandProgress, Steel Workers Union, Friends of the Earth, CREDO, and SumofUs. Local chapters of these organiations will be involved in local ground work and local grass roots coalitions. The goal during the tour is to give all participating organizations a boost in the form of new volunteers, new supporters, and new levels of awareness opportunities that could result in donations to help the education and advocacy continue.
Citizen’s Trade Campaign, a coalition of local activist groups, is another main partner of the tour to connect with grass roots groups. The Denver event is also sponsored by the Colorado Farmers Union, along with a cybersecurity business that’s concerned with how the TPP will affect startups and technology innovation.
The finalized proposal for TPP was signed this past February in Auckland, New Zealand, and is coming up for a potential vote in the House and Senate this fall. Americans across the country have the power to pressuer their representatitves in their local districts to vote NO on the TPP.
“What will determine whether there is a vote is if they can come up with the votes,” explained Wallach. “They need 218 votes in the House of Representatives. Even with all of the huffing and puffing with [Mitch] McConnell and [Orrin] Hatch, in the end, I would suspect they could get the votes in the Senate.” She continued on the emphasis of pressuring the House, where, “They have work to do. They certainly have not lost their hope. But they do not yet have their 218 votes, which is half of the House. They need to get simple majority of both and they’ll have Fast Track procedures to railroad this through.”
FIND YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATITIVE
Stan Greenberg is a New York Times best-selling author and polling adviser (past clients include the Clinton administration and Nelson Mandela) who has interviewed and polled American citizens on TPP while informing them of the facts. “It’s kind of a ‘wow’ moment when voters hear the description of what happens with this agreement. They get angry, they get engaged, and they want to know what to do. The answer to that question is to press members of Congress and press others to say ‘No to TPP,’ and now is when it’s most important for that to be achieved.”
The TPP has also become a divisive topic during the presidential campaign, which is in full swing. (Addition after today’s announcement from the Clinton campaign that she’s chosen her VP running mate), Clinton has reversed her position on TPP as has her running mate, Tim Kaine, who originally voted for it back in February. According to Clinton’s PBS Newshour interview last October, “”I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and I still believe that’s the high bar we have to meet,” Clinton said. “I don’t believe [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] is going to meet the high bar I have set.”
Read the Rollcall for the Senators who voted for and against supporting President Obama to Fast-Track the TPP
Meanwhile, “President Obama has it as his number one top priority to pass this agreement and locking it in place after the elections when the retired and newly fired get to come back and have one last vote,” said Wallach. “So this tour is a very important way for the American public to get energized, educated, and activated given that really extraordinary context, where, if the TPP is boxed and buried, we will finally have the opportunity to create a new model for global commerce.”
Greenberg echoed, “We listened to people really closely and respected people who have thought real hard about their lives and this period of time where people want big change,” he said. “The one thing they don’t want is to have the bounds go even further on the side of corporations against people. Stopping TPP is the key to that.”
Justin Zane from Anti-Flag is adament about the timing of this grassroots movement. “It’s rare that we’re able to get involved in a campaign to right something that literally affects every single thing that we care about,” he said. “People are already sick and tired of the stranglehold of corporations and the politicians who serve them have on our democracy. As a band we always try to be on the front line supporting movements for justice and freedom, this is absolutely one of those movements. It’s that simple.”
To Jonny 5 of Flobots, being involved in the TPP awareness campaign and Rock Against the TPP tour comes full circle from his formative political experiences when protesting in 1999 in Seattle around the World Trade Organization, and eight years ago when Flobots teamed up with Rage Against the Machine during the DNC in Denver, raising awareness around ending the war in Iraq.
“This is about solidarity with people,” he stated, especially at a time when our country is so divisive and violence surrounds us. “This is a victory we can create together and celebrate. The opportunity for a victory that transcends political ideology, transcends political parties as an international victory is extremely exciting. That’s why we’re quite honored to be a part of this.”
The Rock Against the TPP Tour is FREE to attend:
July 23: Denver, CO w/ Tom Morello, Evangeline Lilly, Anti-Flag, Downtown Boys
July 30: San Diego, CA w/ Jolie Holland, Evangeline Lilly, Emma’s Revolution, Bonfire Madigan
August 19: Seattle, WA w/ Talib Kweli, Evangeline Lilly, Anti-Flag, Downtown Boys
August 20: Portland, OR w/ Anti-Flag, Evangeline Lilly, Downtown Boys + more TBA
Additional dates TBA.
RSVP to the Teach-In here.
Read more about the tour here.
Read the full version of the TPP here.