May 14th, 2002
ACERCA office
(802) 863-0571

Demanding Democracy,

BURLINGTON, VT - Calling on Senator Jeffords to pull his support for Trade Promotion Authority, a group of non-violent Vermont activists has occupied and locked themselves together at his Main St. office at 3:00 pm today. Refusing to leave, the group is demanding that Senator Jeffords vote against Fast Track and not allow the president to negotiate trade deals with other nations without congressional or public debate on the creation of such agreements.

Fast Track, now called Trade Promotion Authority, takes the power to negotiate trade agreements away from Congress and gives it to the Bush administration. Under Fast Track, there are no checks and balances and Congress must vote the entire free trade agreement up or down. Congress can make no amendments or modifications to free trade agreements if they are negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority.

"It is appalling to me that a so-called 'Independent Senator' who did so much to take power away from the President and the Republicans is now giving back that power for the sake of free trade. If Senator Jeffords votes in favor of Fast Track he will be giving power to the president and big corporations and further undermine democracy in this country," states S'ra DeSantis, an organic farmer. "A vote against Fast Track is a vote for democracy, family farmers, environmental protection, and working people. We have told him this over and over again and today we are taking non-violent direct action to demand that he make the right choice," DeSantis continued.

The group is risking arrest to protest the Senators support of Fast Track for one primary reason--it expedites the process of passing trade agreements, like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the newly proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). When free trade agreements like these are implemented, many national, state, and local laws have to be modified. The type of trade that will be created by these agreements will make environmental laws unenforceable, drive more family farms out of business, displace workers throughout the world, and undermine national and local sovereignty.

On January 12 2002, in front of a crowd of Vermonters rallying against Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority) in the Vermont State Capital of Montpelier, Senator Jeffords declared that he would not support it. When asked later for confirmation that this was, in fact, the Senator's stance on the issue, he reiterated, "I will not vote for Fast Track." Two weeks later, a staff person at his Vermont office reversed this statement, asserting that Jeffords actually did support Trade Promotion Authority.

Claiming membership to no particular activist group or political party, those involved in this non-violent act of civil disobedience come from many sectors of society. The occupations of those involved in locking down include: farmer, activist, student, videographer, carpenter, and web-site developer.


Activists Occupy Senator Jeffords Office: Demanding He Vote against Fast Track
S'ra DeSantis

Seven Vermonters are currently occupying Senator James Jeffords office in Burlington, VT demanding he vote against Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). We have locked together and refuse to leave until Jeffords complies with our demands or we are physically removed. After we entered the office a banner was hung across the street that reads: ìJeffords: Stop the FTAA, Derail Fast Track, No New NAFTAsî.

Background on TPA and NAFTA

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) takes all negotiating power away from Congress and gives it to the trade representativeís office of the Executive Branch. The billís name was conveniently changed from Fast Track to Trade Promotion Authority to conceal its true intentions. Fast Track intends to accelerate the process of implementing free trade agreements. Under Trade Promotion Authority, Congress must vote yes or no for an entire free trade agreement. Congress cannot amend or modify any portion of a free trade agreement.

The last Fast Track bill only provided Congress sixty days to review any free trade agreement negotiated under Fast Track. The House and Senate were only given 20 hours each to negotiate the agreement on the floor. This gives little or no time for indigenous rights advocates, trade unionists, human rights advocates and environmentalists to express their concerns about the pending free trade agreement. Fast Track hijacks any vestiges left in the eroding ìdemocraticî system in the United States. As people that believe in direct democratic forms of decision making, we think TPA is the antithesis to even the illusion of democracy.

The last time Fast Track was in place, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were ratified. This TPA will apply to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and any other multilateral or bilateral trade agreements the United States negotiates.

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a disaster for all three NAFTA countries and has impacted Mexico most severely. NAFTA has caused the loss of jobs and lower wages in all three countries, the annulment of laws that protect indigenous rights and the environment, increased pollution and birth defects on the Mexican-U.S. border, and the displacement of tens of thousands of Mexican farmers due to the influx of cheap subsidized grain from the United States.

In Vermont, alone, over 600 people lost their jobs during the first three years of NAFTA. The Northeast Dairy Compact or any similar bill that helps Vermont dairy farmers with guaranteed prices, could be considered a barrier to trade under NAFTA or the proposed FTAA. The Investor-to-State Dispute Resolution Body of NAFTA and the pending FTAA grant foreign investors the right to receive compensation if a law impedes their ability to make a profit. A Canadian company could sue the United Statesí government if the Northeast Dairy Compact was reinstated because it favors dairy farmers in Vermont. The company could be entitled to millions of dollars in compensation from taxpayer money.

Why We Are Occupying Jeffords Office

Jan Marinelli, a staff person at Jeffordsí office, informed us in December 2001 that the majority of people who called the office in reference to Fast Track, expressed opposition to the bill. In December, Jeffords voted in favor of the Senate version of the Fast Track bill in the Finance Committee. In January 2002, after much pressure from Vermonters, Jeffords at a book signing stated to a group of thirty Fast Track opponents, some of who are locked down today, that he would not vote in favor of Trade Promotion Authority. Two weeks later when several people called to confirm his decision, Jeffordsí staff declared that Jeffords had made a mistake and intended to vote in favor of Fast Track.

Our group has spoken with Jeffordsí staff repeatedly and sent numerous letters urging him to vote against Fast Track. He lied to us publicly to avoid scrutiny at his book signing. Our group believes we had no other choice than to take non-violent direct action since all other avenues have been exhausted. Jeffords must realize the threat that Fast Track poses to the sovereignty of communities. We demand Jeffords be accountable to the people he claims to represent.

We stand in solidarity with people throughout the world, especially indigenous peoples, who are most affected by free trade agreements, as their land and resources are privatized and then invaded by multinational corporations. Trade Promotion Authority is the next step in the imperialist war against the environment, workers, farmers, the indigenous and the poor.

Hopefully, Jeffords will finally listen to his constituency and vote against Fast Track. This would be a vote in favor of the indigenous, the environment, farmers, and workers (all of which he claims to support). Communities throughout the world must be given the opportunity to decide through direct democratic processes if they want to engage in trade globally and what the terms of trade are. This process can no longer be dictated by corporate and government elites and international financial institutions.

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