Global Trade Watch salutes grassroots activist Dannette Sharpley from Raleigh, North Carolina. As a part-time union organizer for technology sector workers and a part-time coordinator of the North Carolina Fair Trade Coalition, Dannette led the fight to stop the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in one of the most trade-impacted states in the country.
Working tirelessly to knit together a coalition of labor unions, church groups, Latin American solidarity groups, farmers and environmentalists, Dannette was able to convince North Carolina’s six Democratic congressional representatives to listen to their concerned constituents instead of the huge multinational corporations and trade federations pushing the deal.
North Carolina had lost 237,800 manufacturing jobs between 1994 and 2004, so suspicion of free trade runs deep in the state. But lobbyists for Microsoft and for the National Pork Producers Council were pounding on their traditional free-trader allies like Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Raleigh) to secure their support. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce held an elite dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus and its chair Rep. Mel Watt (D-Charlotte) just weeks before the final vote.
Despite the resources they were up against, Dannette and the North Carolina Fair Trade Coalition never backed down. They alternated protests and press conferences with district meetings and postcard campaigns, and when the gavel fell on July 27th, all six of the state's Democrats along with Republicans had voted against CAFTA—not bad for a region with a tendency of late to rally around the president. The last three NC Republicans who abandoned their constituents that night, Robin Hayes, Sue Myrick, and Charles Taylor are profiled in our new CAFTA DAMAGE REPORT series.
Born in Ohio, Dannette has been a resident of North Carolina since 1992, working on union, social justice, anti-racism, and anti-war fights. Her broad interests mirrors that of many trade activists—she sees and understands the linkage between the politics of international trade policies and the struggles for labor rights and fair wages, civil rights, peace, democracy, and global justice.
Because of her special interest in the South American country of Colombia and struggle of Colombians of African descent—she’s visited Colombia three times—Dannette is particularly concerned about the Bush Administration’s plan to expand NAFTA and CAFTA to Colombia through the Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). Here at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, we are also concerned about AFTA, so we’ll be sure to be working more with Dannette in the near future.
Dannette deserves a high five for her work to stop CAFTA, and for her commitment to social justice over the long haul. Use the form below to send Dannette a high five for her important victories in North Carolina.
We are looking for other grassroots tales to highlight in the Fair Trade Activist Spotlight. If you have a story to tell about work you have done or a friend has done to help fight for fair trade and global justice, please tell us a story of trade heroism from your neighborhood.
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