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Labor and progressive groups to rally against Rice

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks at Garden City's Memorial

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks at Garden City's Memorial Day Ceremony on May 25, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Labor leaders and other progressive advocates will hold a rally outside Rep. Kathleen Rice's district office Monday night to protest her newfound support of fast-track authority for President Barack Obama to negotiate a trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Rice (D-Garden City) announced late last week that she was changing her position on the issue, angering opponents who argue that trade-deal authority could result in adverse effects on local workers. They called her action a "betrayal," but Rice countered: "I'm not afraid to do what's right for the working families and small businesses in my district, even if it means going against political allies."

The 5:30 p.m. rally against Rice and the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be led by large unions including the state AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America and District Council of Carpenters, as well as the Long Island Progressive Coalition and Working Families Party. Many of the groups had been prominent backers of Rice in her run for Congress last year.

In January, upon taking office, Rice had signed a letter opposed to fast-track authority that argued it would give Obama "almost unfettered power" to negotiate the kind of trade deal that "in too many instances has led to the exploitation of the American worker."

Explaining her position change last week, Rice said she wasn't initially confident workers would be protected, but "after more than five months of trade briefings, reviews of classified trade documents, and extensive conversations with those brokering a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership, my confidence has changed."

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand voted against the bill approved by the GOP-controlled Senate authorizing fast-track authority. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said he opposes the authority, while Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) supports it. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has not announced his position.

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