Support letter to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi regarding Edolphus Towns pro-CAFTA vote. sign now

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Washington, D.C. Office
2371 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

February 16, 2006

Dear Congresswoman Pelosi,

According to an article in Roll Call newspaper on Dec. 14, 2005 (Pelosi Threatens Towns Slot by Erin P. Jillings), you are considering disciplinary action against Representative Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) for his decisive role in supporting the controversial Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), as well as for his absence on the key budget vote in November.1 We, The New York City Peoples Referendum on Free Trade, encourage you to take such action.

We are a coalition of community and labor groups in New York City who have been dedicated over the last three years to the struggle against the egregious and deceptive free trade agreements the Bush administration has been negotiating with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular DR-CAFTA.

During and after the negotiation process of DR-CAFTA, our group has educated New York City communities about the effects of DR-CAFTA and so-called free trade, as well as lobbied the New York Congressional delegation to vote against the treaty. When we started our campaign, only a few of the citys 14 representatives stated their opposition to the treaty, but our tireless work helped secure commitments from nearly every democratic representative as well as from Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer to vote against DR-CAFTA and for workers and human rights. The only Representatives who would not give us a firm commitment were Reps. Gregory Meeks and Edolphus Towns.

In our meetings with Reps. Towns and Meeks as well as their staff both in New York and in Washington D.C., we laid out a strong case for the potentially disastrous impacts of DR-CAFTA, based on the experience of NAFTA. We pointed out the cases of repression and forced disappearances that have targeted opponents to these FTAs in Central America and the Andean countries. On the eve of the vote in July, still lacking a commitment from Reps. Towns and Meeks, we carried out a massive telephone canvassing effort in their districts and held a press conference in downtown Manhattan. Nonetheless, these two Congressmen tragically and decisively voted in favor of this nefarious treaty. Our members in the labor movement felt particularly betrayed by this vote against New York City workers. Since the DR-CAFTA vote, we have been attempting to raise awareness in the city about this betrayal, which evidently is related to corporate campaign contributions and other promises from the Bush administration.

As you may know, Rep. Towns made a floor speech on Nov. 19, 2004, that detailed many of our groups own criticisms against CAFTA. In particular, Rep. Towns noted that CAFTAs underlying principle is the aggressive protection and expansion of individual and corporate investor rights [which] come at the expense of environmental protection, legislative independence, and a nations right to autonomously determine social and economic policy.2 You can imagine our shock therefore when Rep. Towns turned his back on his own criticisms and cast a deciding vote for CAFTA.

In January we are participating in a cross-border campaign against the implementation of DR-CAFTA. In various participating countries DR-CAFTA is facing challenges based on unconstitutional provisions and its illegal ratification process. Of course the legality of the treaty is also dubious here in the U.S., since its negotiation and ratification lacked transparency, popular participation, and the usual democratic checks and balances. We will furthermore continue to campaign against unfair trade, in the form of the Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), the FTAs with Peru and Panama, and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). In the context of our work going forward, it is crucial that an example be made of Reps. Meeks and Towns for their vote on DR-CAFTA.

Once again, if you indeed plan to censure Rep. Towns for his immoral and irresponsible voting record and remove him from his influential seats on the Commerce and Energy Committees, we commend you. We likewise urge you to hold Rep. Meeks accountable by taking similar actions.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We look forward to your response.

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Tyrone FitzgeraldBy:
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The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

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