Do you remember the old Elvis hit “Return to Sender,” and its lyrics “Return to sender, no such address, no such zone?” That’s the message that 2,000 postal workers from across the nation delivered at a rally against TPP Tuesday at Disney World’s Dolphin Hotel, outside Orlando. Postal workers and their union leaders went further, they made it clear that they want the Trans Pacific Partnership to be marked “canceled.”
The American Postal Workers Union adjourned its biennial convention early so that union delegates, joined by family members, could participate in the spirited rally, complete with signs, marching and a labor chorus that sang songs with a “no TPP” refrain. The APWU-sponsored event was solely devoted to the trade deal and was well-attended by Florida political reporters who wanted to hear Senate candidate Rep. Alan Grayson’s address to the crowd. Grayson an ardent opponent of TPP faces off in the Florida Democratic Primary next week against another Florida Congressman, Patrick Murphy, who is on record opposing the trade pact. Whoever wins the primary will challenge Sen. Marco Rubio who was for TPP until he more recently expressed lukewarm reservations against the trade deal.
Grayson compared TPP to NAFTA, he explained in layman’s terms how trade deficits worked and documented how the trade gap widened following NAFTA. He told the crowd, “What’s at stake is your jobs, all of the jobs of people you love and all of the jobs in middle class America.” The Congressman added, “It’s a road that leads to nothing but cheap labor. If it goes through, it’s curtains for the middle class: We will never be able to recover from this.”
Broadcaster Ed Schultz followed Grayson to the podium. Schultz, formerly with MSNBC and now with RT, drew comparisons with the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act. The PEAA was passed at the 11th hour in a lame duck session of Congress in 2006. The legislation has since hobbled the United States Postal Service for nearly a decade with heavy debt as a result of a burdensome requirement that USPS must prefund employee retirement healthcare benefits 75 years into the future. The postal service actually pays for retirees not yet born as a result of the legislation. USPS is the only entity, public or private, with such a requirement.
“Whatever happened to that lousy-assed law that passed in 2006 that forced you to prefund things 75 years in advance?” Schultz asked. “If I hear one more politician say they are about the middle class, I am going to throw up. Don’t tell me, show me.”
The deep wounds caused by PEAA have made U.S. postal workers and their unions wary of anything that may come up in a lame duck session of Congress when TPP would likely come up for a vote. Postal workers in the United States and other Pacific-rim nations such as Canada and Japan also have voiced suspicions after reviewing legal analysis prepared in this country and elsewhere of TPP and how it might affect public sector services currently offered and hurt the ability to launch new offerings such as postal banking.
In a story in Politico that came out the day of the Florida rally about the postal workers’ opposition to TPP, Katherine Isaac, a coordinator for the Grand Alliance to Save the Post Office, a coalition of civic, religious and labor organizations that advocate for a stronger postal service, was quoted as saying that corporate banks could force participating nations to ban financial services under TPP, including postal banking – “before they even get started.”
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative pushed back against APWU and The Grand Alliance to Save the Post Office, telling Politico, “No provision in TPP prevents postal entities from selling insurance or offering banking services,” USTR spokesman Matt McAlvanah said.
In Orlando, APWU President Mark Dimondstein wasn’t buying assurances from the Administration and others who support the trade deal. He urged postal workers to go back to every congressional district and Zip Code and spread the word against TPP. The APWU President emphasized that TPP affected public as well as private sector workers. He told the fired up crowd, “Brothers and sisters take it home, call the White House… This is real. The White House has gone on the record last week saying they will work with the Republican House and Senate, and what’s going to stop them? It’s you and me and all of the people like us!”