Once again we honor the tens of thousands of Communications Workers of America veterans among our active and retired members. We honor them not simply on this day, but by ensuring they have the essential health care and other services they need, whether they are working or retired.
But, as Congress begins to take up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we need to ask ourselves, "What does patriotism mean in the 21st century? What is the nature of our democracy, as we recall the sacrifices of so many?"
Vietnam is a major focus of the TPP. Vietnam has a population of 90 million and a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour. Yes, there are 11 other nations involved in the talks, but a major focus of the National Security Council, State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative is increasing U.S. influence in Vietnam.
Manufacturing jobs are already moving from China to Vietnam, as multinational corporations seek lower wages and fewer environmental regulations. Since NAFTA, Presidents Clinton, Bush and now Obama have all told us that exports would grow, yet now we see services jobs, as well as manufacturing jobs, devastated by these deals, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and multinational corporations cheer on new places to maximize profits.
Why should we expect better from the TPP and a process that includes 600 multinational corporations and no labor, environmental or elected representatives? We need economic policy, not foreign policy that pretends to be economic policy. Fair trade means workers' rights to organize and bargain, not just investment rights. It's not just about the loss of our jobs, it's about the effects on our standard of living, as we are forced to choose between cutting pay or exporting our jobs to lower wage nations.
Why have three presidents negotiated terms and conditions that Americans would overwhelmingly reject if we had a voice? Why do we see our veterans honored at an increasing number of events, but not when it comes to their jobs and standard of living?
There are real answers to these questions, and they all start with fighting back. We must say no to trade deals that don't prioritize our rights, our communities, our living standards and our environment. Investment should be based on that platform, not a belief that the sum total of policies benefitting multinational corporations and U.S. foreign policy work out for the rest of us.
Most Democrats and many Republican members of Congress have already told the president that they will oppose the TPP and that democracy means transparency, openness and the real inclusion of public interests. They have stated they will only support a process with real debate, not fast tracking another trade deal through the Congress without lawmakers' involvement or amendments.
We won't forget the irony of the Vietnamese government becoming a leading party to the TPP negotiations, 40 years after the peace agreement and the sacrifice of so many. This is not about the Vietnamese people, but a government that thinks that workers' rights and environmental and safety concerns are not issues. Let's make this Veterans Day a time to recommit to our values, as we honor those who served and those who work hard every day, whose jobs, living standards and rights are on the line.