Spring 2015

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72 CINEMONTAGE / SPRING 2015 compiled by Jeff Burman T he United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans- Pacific Partnership, a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries," writes Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) in The Washington Post in late February. "Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multi-national corporations in the world? "One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called 'Investor-State Dispute Settlement,' or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don't be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multi-national corporations. Worse, it would undermine US sovereignty. "ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge US laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a US court. Here's how it would work: "Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a US court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the US courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn't be challenged in US courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages." OIL WORKERS REACH TENTATIVE CONTRACT The United Steelworkers Union, representing oil refinery workers, has reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil Company, writes Mike Hall in the AFL-CIO's blog Now. The deal will act as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry. USW members at several refineries struck in February and the strike grew to include some 7,000 workers at 15 sites across the country. It was the largest US refinery strike in 35 years. Safety issues were central to the negotiations. In the past five years, 27 workers have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured. The proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that was also addressed. According to David Moberg, writing in In These Times, wages will increase 12 percent over four years; health-care coverage will remain the same, despite corporate attempts to reduce insurance provisions; and pensions will remain unchanged. 'MIDNIGHT RIDER' DIRECTOR PLEADS GUILTY Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and executive producer Jay Sedrich entered guilty pleas in the February 2014 death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. Both faced involuntary manslaughter charges. In early March, Miller was sentenced to two years in prison and Sedrich was sentenced to 10 years probation. Jones was struck by a train on the set of the film that told the story of musician Gregg Allman. "This was a very preventable tragedy," said Jackie Johnson, the district attorney who led the LABOR MAT TERS TPP: The Clause That Oppresses

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