Trans-Pacific Partnership Details Finally Released

PORTLAND, OR – The details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping free trade agreement involving 40% of the global economy, has finally been released for public comment today.  Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain issued the following statement today regarding the release:

“It’s finally clear why the administration has kept TPP negotiations secret for so many years: this pact is a disaster for working people.  If the TPP is approved by Congress, it will ship good-paying, family-wage Oregon jobs overseas, and will lower wages in jobs that are left; increasing inequality by forcing Oregonians into competition with workers abroad paid less than 65 cents an hour. 

Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, over 50,000 Oregon workers have been certified by the Department of Labor as having lost their jobs due to trade.  We can’t afford another trade deal that benefits multinational corporations, their shareholders and executives. We need to be more concerned about American work boots than sneakers made in Asia for pennies on the dollar.

President Chamberlain’s statement reflects the sentiment of labor leaders across the country, including National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who issued the following statement earlier this morning:

“After six long years, the secrecy is over.  The public finally has a chance to scrutinize the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for themselves instead of having to rely on characterizations made by the agreement’s supporters.  America’s voters can now make their own judgment about whether it meets their high standards for a 21st Century agreement that will raise wages, protect our democracy, and promote sustainable growth and development. 

From what we have reviewed so far, we are deeply disappointed that our policy recommendations and those of our trade reform allies in the environmental, consumer, public health, global development, and business sectors were largely ignored.  The investment rules still provide expansive new legal rights and powers to foreign businesses to challenge legitimate government actions, the labor enforcement provisions are still inadequate to address the enormous challenges posed by this deal, and the lack of enforceable currency rules subject to trade sanctions mean the promised new export markets may never materialize. 

We will be examining the text line by line in the coming days to understand the deal's full implications for working people in every sector from manufacturing and agriculture to public and private services.  But from what we have already seen, it is clear that the threats of this expansive new agreement outweigh its benefits -- for good jobs, for democracy, for affordable medicines, for consumer safety, and for the environment. The hardworking families of the AFL-CIO will join with our allies to defeat the TPP.”


Oregon AFL-CIO Supports BOLI Advisory Opinion on Employment Status of Uber Drivers

PORTLAND, OR – The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) released an Advisory Opinion today that finds Uber drivers are employees, rather than independent contractors, under Oregon’s labor laws. The Oregon AFL-CIO supports BOLI’s opinion on this important issue, the findings of which may impact the growing practice of mislabeling workers as independent contractors in numerous industries.  Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain has issued the following statement in response to BOLI’s announcement:


“Today’s Advisory Opinion by BOLI is a step in the right direction for working people in Oregon, and beyond.  The use of the Oregon economic realities test in BOLI’s Advisory Opinion makes it very clear that drivers working for Uber should be categorized as employees, and therefore should have access to state and federal worker protections, like the basic right to be paid on time, to receive workers’ compensation benefits, and the ability to collectively negotiate to improve their conditions under the National Labor Relations Act.” 

“We support BOLI’s Advisory Opinion, and similar decisions that we have seen come out of California, because they have the potential to help stop the erosion of the relationship between an employer and their employees.  Too often, working people are labeled as independent contractors so that employers can avoid paying for things like employment taxes just to get an upper hand on competition and maximize their profits.  That upper hand and profit maximization is coming at a high cost:  working people are losing their rights on the job, and it is becoming an alarming trend throughout the country.  By next year, the richest 1% will own more than the rest of us combined.  Our economy is stratified and widespread misclassification of workers is only going to push the gap between the rich and the poor further and further apart.   That’s why the Oregon AFL-CIO will continue to oppose any effort to keep workers from receiving their rights as employees for the sake of corporate profits.”

Statement from Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain on House Trade Vote

The House of Representatives voted today to put the brakes on a trade deal that would’ve lowered wages for Oregonians and for working families across the country.  Today’s vote is because of the hard work and unity of the labor movement along with our allies in the fight for fair trade. We’ve rallied.  We’ve marched.  We’ve made thousands of calls and written thousands of letters.  And that is exactly what democracy looks like; it’s about sending a clear message to our leaders in Congress that we don’t buy in to another Free Trade Agreement that puts profits for giant corporations over working people.

We’re disappointed that Representatives Blumenauer, Bonamici, Schrader and Walden did not stand with Oregon’s workers on today’s vote, and are thankful for Representative DeFazio’s consistent and strong support on this important issue.  

We know the fight for fair trade isn’t over, but today’s vote by the House was absolutely a solid victory in the campaign to revitalize our economy on the basis of real growth, worker rights, higher wages, and shared prosperity.”

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.”

Oregon’s Unions Bring Fair Trade Campaign to the Airwaves

(Portland, Ore.)—March 25, 2015   A new radio advertisement will begin to run in Oregon today with the goal of educating voters about the consequences of a “Fast Tracked” Trans-Pacific Partnership, and to put pressure onto Senator Wyden to stand against Fast Track.   The advertisement explains that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, dangerous chemicals could become more common in imported food items.  

Advocates for food safety are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will stretch our country’s capacity for food inspection too far and in turn increase the level of unsafe food in the United States’ marketplace.  An additional concern is the potential lowering of food standards under the Trans-Pacific Partnership through a process called ‘harmonization’ where standards from participating countries are brought to the same level – even if some countries, like the United States, have much higher standards than other countries in the trade agreement.

The radio advertisement is part of a coordinated effort between local and national unions, fair trade advocates and environmental organizations to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being pushed through Congress using Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.  Fast Track would only need a majority vote to pass, as opposed to a super majority, and would only require a simple “yes or no” vote on a 2,000-page trade agreement that involves twelve nations, including the United States, Japan, and Vietnam. 

Oregon’s Unions Oppose Fast Track

As Congress prepares to consider Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, workers and labor leaders from around the country, including Oregon, are in Washington, D.C. to meet with their representatives and urge them to oppose bad trade legislation that would hurt working families.

 “We are traveling to our nation’s capital today to tell Congress that Oregon cannot afford another fast tracked trade deal that undermines our labor, safety, and environmental protections. We have seen how our community has suffered in the past so we are urging Senator Wyden to stand with the working people he represents instead of the multinational corporations who will benefit from this legislation,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain.

 Fast Track is a legislative procedure that forces Congress to give trade deals—negotiated in secret—an up or down vote. It bypasses standard Congressional rules that allow Members of Congress to offer amendments, removing the possibility of improving any provision of a trade deal that is bad for working people. The administration is heavily lobbying for Fast Track as it negotiates two major trade deals with countries across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Congress is expected to consider Fast Track in the coming weeks.

On Monday, March 9th, the Oregon AFL-CIO, along with partner organizations in the fight for fair trade, will hold a rally at 5:30pm in Director Park in downtown Portland.   

“Every day, workers are struggling to scrape by and support their families. They need Congress to make investments in their communities that raise wages. They can’t afford for Congress to cede its constitutional authority over trade policy and pass Fast Track, which would outsource jobs and lower wages,” added President Chamberlain.

Statement from Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain on Oregon’s New Governor

“Governor Kate Brown has a long history of standing up for working Oregonians, and for supporting our unions.  She’ll bring the same qualities to the Governor’s office that brought her success as our Secretary of State: a transparent, fair and balanced approach to the priorities that we hold dear as Oregonians. 

Her record on unions and workers’ rights speaks for itself, I’m hopeful that as Governor she’ll be able to get more people back to work and start rebuilding Oregon’s middle class.  I look forward to working with her to ensure that our economy works for all Oregonians.”

Oregon’s Unions Are Growing, According to Bureau of Labor Statistics

Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that as the economy recovers, workers are standing up for a voice at work and the ability to collectively bargain.  While the national number of union members was reduced by 0.2%  from 11.1% in 2014, Oregon’s rate of union growth was the largest in the country: Union membership grew from 13.9% to 15.6%, and workers represented by unions grew from 14.8% to 17%. 

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain explained why Oregon’s unions are growing: “Oregonians want a better life, and we’re willing to stand up and demand it – just like we saw with food service employees at the Portland International Airport and with public health workers in Douglas County.  On top of that, we’re seeing more workers heading back to the job from layoffs and furloughs as the economy improves.”

Key national trends in the BLS report include:


  •   Union density edged up for workers 16 to 24 from 4.2 to 4.5%
  •    Public sector union density growth largely due to women
  •    Union density growth in Leisure and Hospitality
  •     Union membership increased among Latino men
  •    Largest growth, 1.8% among Asian American women
  •     Union membership increased for Black women and men
  •      Black men and women remain the groups with the highest union density



Statement by Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain on the State of the Union Address

“President Obama presented a vision of the future last night that working families across Oregon, and the country, stand behind.  His vision is of an economy that works for all of us, where a minimum wage can support a family, workers can take paid time off when they’re sick, our tax code is fair, and we have expanded access to higher education.  It’s encouraging to see our President take a stand for immigrant rights, for the right to form a union and for growing the middle class. That’s the America we need. 

Following President Obama’s lead, we must keep fighting for income equality. That’s why raising the minimum wage is so important right now.  I am concerned, however, about President Obama’s statements on expanding free trade agreements because Oregon lost thousands of jobs as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  The expanding trade deficit with China has displaced tens of thousands of jobs in our state.  It’s clear to me that we can’t afford another free trade deal that leaves Oregon’s workers hurting and unable to make ends meet. My hope is that Congress is able to weigh all of the information in front of them before passing any kind of trade agreement that could negatively impact our economy. 

The true test of Congress over the next two years will be to put the President’s plan into action and build an America where working families have a fair shot at economic prosperity.”  

UFCW Re-Affiliates with Oregon State Labor Federation, Brings 17,500 New Members to 120,000 Member Organization

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, a local union representing workers in Oregon and southwest Washington, re-affiliated with the Oregon AFL-CIO at the latter’s quarterly board meeting earlier this week.  The two organizations split ways as part of a national rift in the labor movement which led a number of unions to leave the labor federation.

“In Oregon we’ve always worked closely,” said UFCW 555 Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson.  “Over the past few years we’ve moved from supporting each other’s organizations to direct coordination on many program areas.  Rejoining the federation was the next logical step.”

“I’m glad to have Local 555 back within our organization, and look forward to even more opportunities to support their members, many of whom are ramping up for their busy season in the retail sector right now,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain, adding that “right now all workers, union members or not, are working more closely as we attempt to take our economy back from the corporations that have run our families ragged, and give everyone a fair shot.  It’s exciting to see that unity, both within the labor movement in UFCW 555’s rejoining our federation, and among all working people in campaigns across the state on important issues like earned sick days and raising the minimum wage.” 

"The members of UFCW Local 555 work hard to put quality food on tables all across Oregon and, like all workers, they deserve to be treated with respect by their employers. Joining together with the Oregon AFL-CIO will help strengthen both organizations and improve the lives of not just UFCW members, but all working Oregonians," said UFCW Local 555 President Dan Clay. 

The rejoining came after a vote by the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board cleared the way for a phased-in affiliation and for the addition of two seats on the Executive Board to be held by UFCW 555 appointees.  Both motions passed unanimously.  President Dan Clay and Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson were appointed and sworn-in later in the meeting.

Unions, Immigrant Rights Groups, Call on Obama to Tackle Immigration Now

Unions, Immigrant Rights Groups, Call on Obama to Tackle Immigration Now

(Portland, ORE) Standing outside of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in NW Portland, immigrants, legal experts, and union members called on President Obama to take executive action to address growing concerns about our country’s immigration system, and to help a growing number of refugee children from Central America who are fleeing violence and terror.

“Under U.S. laws and international human rights agreements, children fleeing violence and human trafficking in Central America have a right to seek asylum in our country,” ACLU of Oregon executive director David Fidanque said.  “Once those children reach the U.S., they also have a right to have their case heard in a fair process consistent with our Constitution.  No child should be deported without a fair hearing before an immigration judge – and that means the child should have an attorney to represent them in that hearing.”

While efforts to connect these children with their families have stepped up, there are still concerns.

“Refugees – especially children – who are fleeing countries where laws are not enforced and rights are not upheld, don’t know to advocate for themselves,” explained Center for Intercultural Organizing Executive Director Kayse Jama.   “We must have the resources in place to help these kids – and we must change our views, as a country, of the immigrants and refugees who are coming here because they seek the same opportunities that I did when I came here, and that you families did when they came to this country.  We are a country of immigrants.  It’s time to remember that, and to show compassion to our future neighbors.”

The calls for action were twofold: both immediate action to ensure refugee children are not being deported, and also fulfilling promises made to reform the immigration system for all those looking for a better life in our country.

“I want the President to hear this,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain: “We supported him; we saw the actions he took to help workers; we see what he’s doing to raise wages; but it’s not enough until we help all working people in this country; it's not enough while 11 million people are working in the shadows and children are overwhelming a system with no means to support them.  He must take this on.”

Oregon Legislature Approves Unemployment Extension for Locked Out Workers

(Salem, OR)  Oregon’s Senate voted late last night to approve HB 4086, a bill designed to extend unemployment insurance to workers who are locked out of their place of employment as the result of a labor dispute.  The bill was introduced into Oregon’s legislature at the same time Allegheny Technologies Incorporated chose to lockout workers represented by the United Steelworkers. The lockout began in August of last year and forced nearly 200 Steelworkers in Albany, Oregon out of work.  Earlier this week, the lockout ended when the Steelworkers and Allegheny Technologies ratified a new contract. 

 The approval of the bill by Oregon’s legislature is another victory for working people in what has been seen as a landmark legislative session with Governor Brown signing a minimum wage increase into law on Monday. 

 Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain explained why this bill is important, even after the nearly 200 locked out Steelworkers in Albany head back to work:

 “Lockouts are incredibly difficult to bear, especially if they last beyond the term of unemployment insurance.  Working people lose their homes and take on egregious debt to make ends meet, even during the time in which they’re drawing from unemployment insurance.  But by passing this law, Oregon’s legislature has taken a step forward to enact a policy decision that will ease the burden on working families during lockouts.”

Eugene City Council Votes to Stand Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership


EUGENE, OR – On January 11th, the Eugene City Council voted to take a stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The resolution against the trade deal was presented by City Councilor Claire Syrett, immediately seconded, and then unanimously approved by City Council. Syrett cited the impact of previous trade agreements on Oregon’s manufacturing economy, workers’ rights, and the environment as she presented the resolution:

“Those of us who were paying attention to these things during President Clinton’s administration saw the terrible impacts of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) on our manufacturing industry as just one example, and negative impacts on communities in other counties that were party to that treaty.”

Councilor Syrett also explained why it’s important for local governments to pass resolutions like Eugene’s:

“While adding our voice in opposition may not prevent this from going forward, it will put this city on record as opposing a treaty that has real potential to harm our local and state economy.”

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain responded to the vote on Monday by calling for more cities to pass similar legislation:

“Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, over 50,000 Oregon workers have been certified by the Department of Labor as having lost their jobs due to trade.  It’s time for localities, like the City of Eugene did on Monday, to say no to policies that ship their citizens’ jobs overseas, threaten the rights of workers, and lower the standard of living for all of us.  I hope that more local governments see Eugene’s example and follow it.”

The resolution is a result of local labor and community based organizations working together as Oregon Strong Voice Lane County, who held a series of actions and events in the area to call attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including a rally with Congressman Peter DeFazio last Spring.


Portland City Council Holds Public Hearing on Code Change to ‘Ban the Box’

Portland, OR- Advocates, impacted community members, and small business owners testified yesterday at a public hearing held by the Portland City Council in support of a proposal to ‘ban the box’.   A statewide ‘ban the box’ law passed in the 2015 Legislature, setting a minimum standard.  As the hub of Oregon's African American community, and other communities of color, Portland has an opportunity to provide a stronger solution that will better connect people to jobs and make communities safer. 


Expanding on the minimum standard set by the statewide law, the proposed code change prevents employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s conviction history during a job interview.  Tom Chamberlain, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO spoke about the importance of giving workers a fair chance at finding jobs:


“I urge Portland City Council to put a strong law on the books, take a stand and follow the 47 local jurisdictions who have done similar work by delaying inquiry until a conditional job offer has been made.”


Nkenge Harmon Johnson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, testified that an expansion of the state law will provide a gateway to employment for communities who have been left behind in Oregon’s economic recovery:

“While Oregon’s statewide unemployment rate continues to decline, the economic recovery is leaving out African Americans.  The recently released 2015 State of Black Oregon reported an unemployment rate of 21% for Black Portlanders. When Oregon’s overall unemployment was 11% following the recession, we called it a crisis. Black communities and other communities of color have faced almost double this rate for years.”


Community members provided a moving narrative about the impact that this ordinance will have: 


“We need an ordinance that can actually connect people with a history of justice involvement to jobs,” said Emmanuel Price, who has had trouble finding work in his past. “We know that criminal history affects employability. An effective ordinance will ensure that criminal history is not part of the job interview process until after a conditional offer has been made.”


Perhaps the most moving testimony of the day came from Llondyn Elliott, who grew up in a household where her father faced barriers in finding a job because of a past conviction: 


“Not having access to employment changes how society, your community, and your family, sees you. Most importantly how you see yourself, resulting in a lack of confidence, opportunity, and hope. This despair affects every relationship in that person’s life, such as the relationship between parent and child, taking away from one of the most fundamentalrelationships in life, and far too often setting the stage for that child to repeat the path of the parent.”


State Representative Lew Frederick and local business owner Bill Dickey also spoke at the hearing.   Representative Frederick, whose district includes parts of North and Northeast Portland, provided clarity on why an expansion to the state law is crucial, pointing out that barriers to employment subsequently create barriers to both family and community stability.  Bill Dickey explained that his company, Morel Ink, has a positive history of hiring people with records and has never had an issue with giving workers a second chance at earning a living.


City Council is expected to hold a second reading of the proposed code change next week.