Oregon’s Unions Call for Fair Trade during Presidential Visit to Oregon

Portland, Ore –  A crowd of over 400 union members, environmental advocates and advocates for fair trade gathered outside of the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland on Thursday, May 7th to call for a stop to Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  On Friday, May 8th 70 or more union members and activists gathered outside of Nike Headquarters in Beaverton to continue the call for fair trade. 

Oregon’s unions are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership presents a substantial threat to the livelihood of workers.  At the demonstration in downtown Portland on Thursday, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain explained why labor stands opposed to free trade agreements that have historically left working people behind:  

“Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Oregonian wages have decreased by an average of $3,000 per year.  Trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA are removing the middle of our economy where manufacturing jobs once were prevalent.  Oregon has high rates of growth in both low and high wage jobs, but stagnation in the middle. That stratifies our economy. Without the tax revenue that is created with those middle class jobs, we can’t fully fund our schools.  We can’t fix our roads and bridges.  Trade agreements put the growth of our middle class in the crosshairs, and that’s something we can’t support.”

Addressing President Obama’s visit to Nike Headquarters, Chamberlain explains why union members are protesting outside of the front gates:

“While Nike is an locally-grown success story that we’re proud of as Oregonians, it’s our state’s workers and the products that they build that we’re worried about.  Look at our state’s recent history: Paper mills are closing down; companies like Freightliner have left the country. Since the passage of NAFTA, over 50,000 Oregon workers were certified by the Department of Labor as having lost their jobs due to trade.  President Obama has to understand that we simply cannot afford another trade deal that benefits multinational corporations while middle class jobs are disappearing from communities across Oregon.”

National AFL-CIO Communications Director and Strategic Advisor to the President Eric Hauser released the following statement regarding Nike’s promise to increase manufacturing jobs in the United States:

“Nike’s announcement that it intends to add American jobs and invest in the U.S. is a positive development, but one that should not be contingent on a possible trade deal.  We have heard similar promises from companies before, and very few have panned out. We hope this time is different. We are cautious, though.  Decades of experience have taught us that corporate-driven trade policy too often accelerates a global race to the bottom.”