Organising locally against the US trade deal

Organising locally against the US trade deal


  1. How can we stop the deal?
  2. Bringing people together against the deal
  3. Being visible
  4. Speaking out
  5. Protesting in a socially-distant way
  6. Learn more about the deal

Boris Johnson’s government is determined to nail down a trade deal with the US. This guide gives you some ideas for how you could take action in your local area to stop it. In this time of Covid-19, some of these are things you can do from your home and online, some are things you can do in a socially distanced way in person, with others. Choose whichever activities which work for you and your local area, and if you come up with other ideas, let us know: [email protected]

How can we stop the deal?

This government has shown itself to be very reactive to public pressure. Public outcry has already forced the government to back down and make promises on the NHS, medicine prices and chlorinated chicken in the US trade deal. A recent poll showed that 82% of people are against a trade deal with the US if it means weakening UK food standards. The government may have an 80-seat majority, but that level of opposition means something, if we can mobilise it – letting our MPs know that support for this awful deal will not do their standing or re-election chances any favours. And it is not just food standards – people are concerned about a wide range of issues.

Every time the government makes a promise to take something off the table in the trade deal, that reduces the deal’s value to the corporate lobbyists behind it. If we’re successful, first the agribusiness companies aren’t going to be able to sell low animal welfare products, then the healthcare giants aren’t going to get increased access to the NHS, and next Big Pharma aren’t going to be able to charge more for medicines. The same could go for chemical companies, digital platforms or energy corporations. If we can force the government to make commitments on as many areas as possible, and keep the pressure up to hold them to those promises, then eventually the deal becomes more trouble than it is worth.

Basically, if we punch enough holes in the deal then it collapses under its own weight. We need people in every town and city to be putting out the word and pulling people in to active opposition. Together we can make this deal so toxic that the government can no longer swallow it.

Bringing people together against the deal

Creating or connecting groups

You may be trying to create a group locally to campaign against the US trade deal. It only takes a couple of people in a town to come together and draw up a list of others whom they want to get involved and you have the start of a group. Or you may already be part of a local group that is concerned about the US trade deal, and you want to reach more people and connect with other groups. Remember, to maximise our chances of winning we need to build coalitions and collaborative working practices.

A recent online activist assembly on the deal brainstormed a list of groups you might want to approach. Draw up a list of those that make sense in your area, and then divide up the task of contacting them.

Local sign on letter

A good first step for bringing together a local campaign coalition is to organise a local sign-on letter against the deal. It is relatively easy for other local organisations to sign on to something like this as it doesn’t imply lots of work for them to do. At the same time, the act of persuading other organisations to sign on to this is an opportunity to educate them and may well lead to them getting further involved.

You can approach environmental organisations such as local Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion groups, trade union branches, Keep Our NHS Public, local Labour, or Green party branches, and in some places the SNP, Plaid Cymru or the Liberal Democrats as well. Less usual allies in this case include branches of the National Farmers Union. But there is also scope for less obviously political local organisations to sign on, given that issues like the NHS and food standards have broad appeal.

Once you’ve got a good range of organisations signed up, there are a number of ways you can use it. Firstly you can send it to the local press, either as a letter to be published, or in the form of a press release announcing that X number of local organisations are opposing the US trade deal. You can also present the letter to you MP or MPs, asking for a meeting (most likely to be online) at which you can do so. The letter could also form the basis of a simple leaflet or used in other ways to raise awareness locally.

We have created a draft letter for you to use or adapt.

Organising a meeting

Another approach is to contact local allies and invite them to a meeting. Just before Covid-19 we produced a guide to organising local meetings, and some of this is still useful even though you’re now looking at an online meeting. We find meetings broadcast through Zoom to be very effective and for some are much easier to attend than an in-person meeting. They’re also much cheaper, and easier to get speakers for.

Global Justice Now can not only provide a speaker, but also help you get speakers from campaigning allies. Email [email protected].

The hardest things about any meeting – virtual or not – is getting people to come, so publicity and promotion are key.

  • Get the details of your meeting into other networks such as local environmental group updates, church and other faith group newsletters, constituency political party bulletins, community newsletters and similar.
  • Use all social media channels you can – post details of the meeting on different pages and groups in the area
  • Send a message to all your local contacts on WhatsApp
  • Tweet the meeting and get others to retweet it, especially people with lots of followers
  • Get it mentioned in local blogs and what’s on sites
  • Ask the speakers if their organisations can promote it through their networks
  • Get Global Justice Now to send out an email to all our members and supporters in the area (contact [email protected] as far as possible in advance of the meeting)
  • Let relevant departments at the local college or university know how to join the meeting.
  • Put posters or leaflets in cafés and shops who will take them
  • Send out a reminder the day before the meeting to ensure a good turn out.

Points to bear in mind for running online meetings

There are a number of different platforms for online meetings (Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts, Jitsi) but people are becoming more familiar with some of them, especially Zoom, as a result of the lockdown. It is still worth explaining how it will work clearly in advance though.

If you have a free Zoom account, meetings are limited to 40 minutes if there’s more than 3 participants. This is not the case for school associated accounts, and some people will have access to paid-for accounts through work. It’s also possible to ‘borrow’ an account from GJN – do contact us if you need this (other organisations may also be able to help).

Don’t plan to keep people for long periods of time on Zoom or similar applications. Staring at a screen for prolonged periods can get very tiring and people can get distracted. An hour is often a long as people can concentrate – if you need to go on for longer than this, it is good to plan in a break time or something a bit different to do for a while.

Always have a plan for action to follow up on the meeting. The ideas don’t have to be set in stone – maybe during the meeting you will all come up with a much better idea. But it is useful to have something in place that people can get involved with in case no one else does have inspiration. The following sections have some ideas for what these could be.

If you want a way to collect people’s email addresses during the meeting, Google Forms makes it easy to set up a very simple form that you can post a link to in the chat. Data protection rules mean you should just make sure on the form description that you are clear what people are signing up for.

After the meeting it’s important to remember that not everyone who could and will play a leading role in the campaign had even heard about that event. Get the people currently involved firing on all cylinders (we have limited time for this campaign) but always leave the door open and encourage others to get involved.

Being visible

Display a poster in your front room window

Global Justice Now has produced some rather fetching A4 sized posters which look great in your street-facing window. Download and print one or order some for yourself and your friends and any stall you might want to do (email [email protected]). Some shops and cafes might like to display one too. Local groups might want to target specific areas and draw up plans to get a good number of posters displayed there – perhaps around the area where an MP lives?


Organising a stall at present needs careful thought. There should be a limit to the number of people staffing the stall (we’d recommend 4 or fewer). At all times maintain social distancing from members of the public, even if they are not showing signs of wanting to do so themselves. Show respect for members of the public and give way to people passing by. Position the stall and yourselves somewhere where it is easy to maintain social distance at all times. Think about how to distribute resources and materials in a way that is safe. It is a good idea to have hand sanitiser on the stall – available to those working the stall and members of the public.

As an example, Global Justice Now’s Central London group held this socially distanced stall at a farmers’ market.

The fundraising regulator has issued guidelines for fundraisers when holding stalls. The measures suggested above are largely taken from that guidance, but you can read it in full here.

We can help with materials for a stall, including flyers, action cards and briefings.

Banner drop

Putting across a clear and simple message about the trade deal with a banner can turn heads and make a good impact. It can also provide an excellent image for your newsletter / leaflet / facebook page or similar. We have a huge (10 metre long) banner which reads “Dump Trump’s trade deal” which looks good from a distance, and two smaller ones (3.6 metre) that say “Stop the US trade deal”. Ask [email protected] if you want to use any of these. We can also design something specifically for your group to use – again just get in touch.

There are two ways to get a lot of people to see your banner. One is for people to see it while the banner is in place, in realtime. So pick somewhere busy, where a lot of people pass by, where the banner is very obvious and visible, and which is a public site that you won’t be moved on from. We would advise against hanging banners from bridges over roads, as they can distract drivers or there is the risk you could drop a banner completely.

The other way is to hang the banner somewhere iconic and striking and get a good photo of it, which you can then get coverage of in the local press and use on social media. This could be off a river bridge, from a tower or archway, in the middle of a shopping centre or in front of a local landmark. Often though you may be somewhere privately owned, where you will be rapidly moved on by security, and the banner itself may not be in the eyeline of people passing by. In this case, most people will see the photo, not the banner itself. It is therefore key to get a good photo and to have a plan for using it. Organise someone to take the photograph, work out where the photographer will stand and get them in place before you drop the banner. Then as soon as the banner is dropped, the photographer can get a few good photos before security guards ask you to leave.

Involving local celebrities

Local celebrities endorsing a campaign is often a good boost to your work. Get a quote, perhaps with a photo of the relevant celeb next to a banner or a stall or holding a leaflet, book or placard, maybe with a few campaigners.

Speaking out

Getting your local constituency party, union branch or community group to speak out

One of the best ways of showing a real strength of feeling against something like the US-UK trade deal is to get organisations to make a stand against it. There is a motion available for you to adapt for use in union branches, constituency branches of political parties, residents’ associations and student unions. All have their own styles and rules, so It’s hard to provide a completely ready-made motion, but we’ve put together a basis for you to adapt.

Local sign-on letter

See ‘bringing people together’ section above.

Using the local press

Local papers and their online versions love a local angle on a national issue. They also love to see how local people are adapting to working during the corona virus crisis, stories that have impacts on well-loved local places and institutions such as hospitals, food markets, and places where lots of people work. Press releases and letters to the editor for publication are always a good idea. Once they have printed something about the US trade deal, there’s good opportunity to raise further points on the letters page. Letters referring to things previously printed in the paper / on the website always stand a better chance of getting published than if you were starting off a subject anew.

Using social media

If you’re on social media, then sharing articles, memes and videos can be a good way to spread the word. If you read or watch something interesting about the US trade deal, then share it!

Many of the organisations involved in the campaign often share such material on their own social media, so you can also share things from there.

Here are a few videos:

Online petitions

Many organisations opposed to the US-UK trade deal have online petitions addressing one issue of concern or more. They all deserve a signature, and promoting them to as many people as possible can only help. If you’re emailing people about the deal, you could include a link to one or two of the petitions in a footer:

Photo messages

Rapidly becoming a staple of socially distanced, pandemic activism is a collection of photos of people holding a simple campaign message – like ‘Stop the US trade deal’.

You can simply ask people to write the message on a piece of paper. Or you can turn it into a bit of a competition and ask people to come up with creative, striking and beautiful ways of writing the message – write the message in pebbles on a beach, or cut out letters hanging on a washing line, or iced on a cake.

Make a video

Videos don’t have to be flash or extremely professional. People will watch a video with someone passionately presenting their case against the deal. One activist in Wales made this great video.

Protesting in a socially distant way

Hold a protest picnic

Suited to the times we’re living in, protest picnics are a good way of showing opposition, spreading the word about what a trade deal with the US could mean, and having a splendid time whilst doing it! What you need is time and ways to promote the event, some willing picnickers, a stall / information and a bit of decent weather.

Promote the event through all the usual channels (social media, emails to contacts, notices in community centres, friendly shops and cafes etc.) but also put notices on trees and lampposts in and around the park where the picnic will take place.

The idea isn’t for one huge communal picnic all sharing from one selection of food, but for a number of smaller family sized (or thereabouts) picnics (or whatever size those involved feel comfortable with). Each picnic bubble should have some way of showing that they’re part of the event, a flag, a banner, fancy dress or some other visual signifier. Someone should go round each picnic and have a distanced (if appropriate) chat with the picnickers – and try to get them involved in future events and protests, perhaps sign up to your email list, take a window poster

Having a stall with more info for interested passers-by helps hugely. You might even have some form of amplification for a couple of short speeches or some protest music – check the park by-laws to see how far you can go with this. Take photographs, invite local media. Media will be interested in a novel and considerate way of making your point known, try to make sure they spend a little time conveying your objections to the US trade deal as well.

Socially distanced protests

Protests don’t have to be a crowd of people shouting and getting angry in the streets! NHS workers did a very powerful protest outside Downing Street at the height of the pandemic, silently kneeling 2 metres apart from each other with one person holding a sign. Black Lives Matter have organised protests with lines of socially distanced people along pavements all holding signs. Banners help, as do all things that make a splash visually. These ideas can be copied or developed.

Stunts and small protests

Small pieces of street theatre, pavement chalking, projecting images and slogans on relevant buildings, hanging a banner from a prominent landmark, bridge or wall in your town or city.

Learn more about the deal

The best place to go for a comprehensive view of all the problems with the deal is the recently published Trade Secrets: The truth about the US trade deal and how we can stop it, by Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden. You can read it online or download it as a PDF for ebook.

We’re also producing a special regular email update on the US trade deal, also called Trade Secrets, which you might want to sign up for.