Meeks, supporter of TPP, to face primary challenger in Sanders

Peter Sikora, a community organiser from Brooklyn and a research economist with the Communications Workers of America, District 1, spoke at the Jewish Community Center in Jackson Heights on Thursday evening.  Source :  Louis Flores/Progress Queens

Peter Sikora, a community organiser from Brooklyn and a research economist with the Communications Workers of America, District 1, spoke at the Jewish Community Center in Jackson Heights on Thursday evening.  Source :  Louis Flores/Progress Queens

By LOUIS FLORES

Several dozen people attended a meeting to discuss efforts to oppose a controversial trade agreement being championed by the Obama administration.

Critics of the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, assembled at the Jewish Community Center in Jackson Heights on Thursday evening to hear various speakers address efforts to oppose the trade agreement.

Speaking on behalf of the Communication Workers of America, District 1, Peter Sikora described generally for attendees some of the negative consequences that passage of the TPP would have on the environment, climate change, pollution, prescription drug prices, food safety, economic and banking regulations, and the sovereignty of laws regarding dispute resolution.

Addressing the need to mobilise voters, Mr. Sikora added that his union was supporting a primary challenger to U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), who had voted last year to support the fast-track approval of TPP negotiations.  Even before Rep. Meeks cast his vote to support the fast-tracking of the TPP, Rep. Meeks faced criticism from leading Democratic Party officials in New York City, including State Senator James Sanders (D-Queens), over his controversial support of the TPP, according to a report filed by the journalist Will Bredderman for The New York Observer.  To show Rep. Meeks that New York Democrats opposed to the TPP would hold Rep. Meeks accountable, Mr. Sikora said that his union was supporting State Sen. Sanders in a primary race against Rep. Meeks in this year’s Congressional election cycle.

Attendees were asked to sign a petition opposing the TPP, and flyers and factsheets from the groups the NYC Sierra Club in Queens and Food & Water Watch were distributed about the TPP to attendees.  One of the flyers asked attendees to call U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-Queens), to ask him to publicly announce his opposition to the TPP.  Attendees were told that, in 2015, Rep. Crowley had voted against approving fast-track status for the TPP, so, if he were to remain true to his support of unions and American workers, he should not be hesitating to announce his opposition of the controversial trade agreement before it comes up for a vote in 2016.

In recent years, there has been a growing effort by some union organisers to do more work to check the neoliberal economic agenda of some elected officials from the Democratic Party, but that efforting has not been uniform or widespread.  As reported by Progress Queens, the union-backed campaign committee 1199 SEIU PAC supported the election of New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea), but the union committee has not pressured its candidate to reject the corrupting influence of accepting private meetings with lobbyists and real estate developers.

The union organizer and author Jane McAlevey has been addressing the need to transcend unions’ campaign approach of mobilizing voters, because voter turn-out has been trending lower in the United States.  A more rigorous organizing model focused on base-expansion is needed, as championed by Ms. McAlevey, and this more exacting model would act to diminish the power of the economic and governing elite, she said at a 2014 conference in Canada.