On Monday, the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) reaffirmed their “cross-border cooperation in the struggle for people and planet-centered trade,” especially in three pending trade deals that would grant corporations “extraordinary legal rights” and power over each nation’s legal system.
The three pending trade deals are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The “most egregious” provision in the trade deals that the two labor federations say must be changed is the investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS.
ISDS provides extraordinary legal rights to foreign investors so that they can seek taxpayer reimbursement for losses to expected profits from laws, regulations, administrative decisions or virtually any other government measure. The rights protected go far beyond traditional property rights and its private tribunals are staffed not by professional jurists sworn to promote the public interest, but by for-profit attorneys, many of whom represent investors when they are not sitting in judgment.
ISDS allows the foreign property owner to skip domestic courts, administrative procedures, city hall hearings and the like (all the processes that home-grown property owners use) and sue the host-country government before a panel of private “arbitrators” (like judges, arbitrators have the power to make decisions in cases, but they are not democratically elected or appointed, and they are not subject to stringent conflict of interest rules). Not only that, but the foreign property owners don’t lose access to the domestic U.S. processes—they can “double dip” to get what they want.
In their statement, the AFL-CIO and CLC said:
Such extreme rights to challenge democracy are not good for domestic businesses (which cannot use this private justice mechanism), not good for citizens (who may see popular policies withdrawn by governments in order to avoid adverse judgments) and not good for rule of law (which is undermined by the separate parallel system for foreign investors only).
The two labor groups also said they “ will not cease in our efforts to promote good jobs, rising wages, strong social safety nets, state-of-the-art public services and infrastructure, and an end to corporate power grabs like ISDS in all pending trade and investment agreements.”
Read the full AFL-CIO/CLC statement here. Download a fact sheet on these “corporate courts” and share it with a friend or family member. Read Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) take on ISDS.