Free trade scam:Its bad for workers everywhere

“We’ll be marching with truck drivers and electrical workers, nurses and teachers, health care workers and Teamsters, all kinds of working people,” Fred Frost, president of the South Florida AFL-CIO, told the Miami Herald. Frost was describing the mass mobilization of labor for demonstrations in Miami against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Nov. 17-21.

In addition to labor, all kinds of activists are converging on Miami. Jane Rosecrans is an anti-globalization activist from Richmond, Va. She is part of a network of folks all across the country mobilizing for Miami. When asked why she is so active in building the demonstrations, she told the World: “Most members of the middle class don’t believe corporate globalization affects them, but it does. It destroys jobs in the United States and hurts workers and the environment in other countries. I recently traveled to Argentina as part of a delegation examining the effects of corporate globalization and I was astounded by the poverty but also the spirit of the people I met there.”

Rosecrans is typical of the kinds of grassroots activists around the country that are digging in to defeat the FTAA and corporate globalization. She is active in Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, one of a coalition of groups in Richmond working to turn out folks for Miami. She has been active in local forums and demonstrations protesting the World Trade Organization and sees the protests in Miami as a big “part of that effort.”

Doyle Canning is another activist on the road to Miami. She works from Plainfield, Vt. Doyle is the organizing director at the Institute for Social Ecology Biotechnology Project. She is part of the “Eco-Bloc,” a coalition of environmental activists that emerged in the protests against the World Bank in Washington, D.C., in April 2002. Doyle told the World, “The Eco-Bloc is mobilizing in Miami to stop the FTAA because so-called free trade agreements pose dire threats to our planet and people everywhere. Corporate globalization means the acceleration of ecological destruction – be it climate change, genetically engineered foods, water privatization, or the general rollback on environmental standards and protections. It’s time to build a future for ecology and democracy in America and around the world and to stop the FTAA in its tracks in Miami.”

Mark Froemke is president of the Northern Valley Labor Council AFL-CIO that covers adjacent counties in North Dakota and northern Minnesota. He says that 25 people from his local of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers union are going to Miami. His local works in the sugar beet industry. Froemke is proud that his local and labor council are part of an effort to send 300 unionists from northern Minnesota to Miami. They also helped organize rallies in their area in support of the Seattle-to-Miami anti-FTAA caravan that has been crossing the country.

Froemke told the World, “We’re going for a couple of reasons. One, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) put tremendous pressure on the sugar industry. The FTAA could end the sugar beet industry and kill our communities. And secondly we’re workers, and these agreements are bad for workers everywhere. We’re concerned about workers and their communities everywhere in the world. We all worry about the same things, jobs, good schools, health care and our children’s futures.”

Indeed there will be delegations marching in Miami from countries throughout the hemisphere. Eric Rubin, state coordinator of the Florida Fair Trade Coalition, told the World that disparate groups from many countries and many different nationalities will be meeting and exchanging ideas thoughout the week of activities. “Along with the protests will be teach-ins where activists from the 34 countries in the proposed FTAA will meet to discuss and learn from each other: where workers, family farmers, retirees, environmentalists, faith-based groups, are being brought together against these anti-people” policies, Rubin told the World.

In addition to marches, forums and exchanges there will be lively cultural events during the week. A highlight of the week’s activities is the People’s Gala for Global Justice on Wednesday night which will feature Billy Bragg, Lester Chambers, Steve Earle and many others. These artists have been on a whirlwind tour of 13 cities to promote the FTAA protests and global justice.

The author can be reached at scott@rednet.org

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