We are please to announce that our annual volunteer award goes to Wes Brain from Ashland, OR, who has been a leader for trade justice with the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (ORFTC) before we were ORFTC. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (ASJE) in Oregon was the precursor to ORFTC and was founded in 1999. Wes Brain was one of the first elected board of directors, representing the labor caucus. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment brought together rank-and-file laborers and environmental activists in a strategic alliance that worked to challenge economic policies that destroy good jobs and a healthy environment. As ORFTC does today, ASJE worked to build a world where nature is protected, the worker is respected, and unrestrained corporate power is rejected though grassroots organizing, education, and action. Wes has been at the forefront of the trade justice battle, sharing his talent for bringing together unlikely allies for the mutual and far-reaching benefits of our coalition. He has been the lead organizer on multiple trade justice demonstrations, educational events and lobby visits. He has housed, fed and trained ORFTC organizers, fundraised for the coalition, and helped shape its direction. Continue reading
Portland, OR — Fair trade advocates praised the release of a new letter voicing Congressional opposition to Fast Track, a policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. The letter spearheaded by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), was signed by three quarters of the House Democratic Caucus including Oregon Congressmen Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio. Representatives Earl Blumeanuer and Suzanne Bonamici also signed onto another letter signalling concerns over Fast Track. Taken together, the letters demonstrate a strong demand from Oregon’s delegation for better oversight over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement than Fast Track would allow.
“With trade negotiators rushing to conclude the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s heartening that so many Members of Congress are standing up and demanding that each provision of the pact be scrutinized to ensure that it is in the best interests of working families,” said United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Douglas J. McCarron. “The middle class cannot afford for the TPP to become a ‘NAFTA of the Pacific,’ and at this stage in the game, only real Congressional oversight and intervention will prevent that from occurring.”
“The Trans-Pacific deal will affect working families, environmental protections, energy policy, food safety and more,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “Congress is right to want to do its job and have oversight over expansive trade pacts. Using Fast Track is like removing the seat belts and airbags from a vehicle and racing it toward its final destination. It’s an egregious way to speed up trade deals, which all too often put foreign corporations before families and communities.”
The 151-signature DeLauro-Miller letter sent to the President states, “we will oppose ‘Fast Track’ Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.” Continue reading
By Laura Bolaños-Ramirez, Portland Jobs with Justice & ORFTC Intern
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. Mexicans were told that increases in trade, forging direct investment and exports would raise income and the standards of living. It was claimed that NAFTA would be so beneficial to Mexican workers that immigration would be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2000. Research has revealed the contrary, only 10% of the population has seen higher standards of living. With millions of jobs made obsolete and destroyed by cheap imports from the United States, thousands of Mexicans were left with no choice, but to migrate to the U.S. in search of work.
Alejandro Lopez a day laborer who first migrated to the U.S. when he was 26 years old stated, “Before I migrated to the U.S. I tried to find a job in Mexico, so I went to other states and cities looking for work, but it was hard to find something that was permanent, especially in agriculture, and I had no other option rather than to migrate. I have tried to go back and establish my own little business, selling food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy’s. But, people bought what they could afford with the money they had, so they choose the cheaper products that often were those imported from the United States. I’ve try four times to establish a small business in Mexico and every time I failed because people chose to buy the cheaper products, so I have no other option then to stay in the US to support my family.”
U.S. Census data shows that rather than decreasing, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States increased by more than 80% between 1990 and 2000. Continue reading
Benjamin Gerritz is a native Oregonian, a strong leader with SEIU 503 and a dedicated member of Positive Force NW, a community-led group of HIV+ individuals working to eliminate HIV/AIDS-related stigma through social, educational, cultural, and recreational events, and community service projects.
Benjamin first became involved with ORFTC when he spoke at the Portland Peoples’ Assembly back in April where he told the audience, “This one pill I’m holding cost $64 or equivalent to $2,000 a month. For this price one would think it made of solid gold but for 34 million HIV+ people across the globe including me it might as well be as many of us would not be here today without it…The TPP would roll back internationally-held public health safeguards imposing rules and regulations to keep medicine prices high and out of reach of millions.” His personal testimony on the impact of the TPP on people living with HIV touched people in a way that data and statistics just can’t.
Since then he has been reaching out to Representatives Bonamici and Blumenauer and Senators Wyden and Merkley to ask them to oppose the TPP and Fast Track at every opportunity.
He is a truly inspirational social justice champion and Oregon Fair Trade Campaign will benefit greatly from his insights and experience serving on the board of directors.
At the Oregon AFL-CIO 2013 Convention this weekend in Bend, OR delegates voted unanimously for Resolution 21 to OPPOSE THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) and TRANSATLANTIC and INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (TTIP)!
The TPP is far, far larger than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in both its economic scale and its potential to undercut wages and worker power throughout the globe.
Thank you OR AFL-CIO for standing for workers and opposing a race-to-the-bottom trade deal that would devastate labor for decades to come.
Strong message of global solidarity from our friend Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO’s trade expert who met with some of our Oregon labor leaders in Portland last month. Please don’t miss the powerful video on the TPP below!
It’s happening right now, behind closed doors, and most people don’t even know about it.
Trade representatives from the United States and nearly a dozen other countries are negotiating the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. And it could mean corporations gain even more power over everything from the wages you make to how clean your drinking water is to the safety of your kids’ toys.
We’ve put together this video of some of the working people across the world who are speaking out about the TPP and its consequences.
Following President Obama’s meeting with Vietnamese President Troung Tan Sang last week to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we are calling for TPP negotiations with Vietnam to be suspended until the Vietnamese government demonstrates that it has brought labor and human rights abuses to an end.
It’s no accident that average American families have seen our incomes decline over the last 20 years as politicians from both parties have signed “free trade” agreements that do nothing but trade away family-wage jobs, worker rights and food and consumer safety standards. The U.S. and the world cannot afford more race-to-the-bottom trade pacts that put corporate profits above human beings.
Now politicians are trying to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, which would freely trade good American jobs and benefits for products produced in countries like Vietnam by workers who are forced to labor in sweatshops under unsafe working conditions.
A recent report by the Worker Rights Consortium entitled, “Made in Vietnam: Labor Rights Violations in Vietnam’s Export Manufacturing Sector,” provides concrete examples of how the Vietnamese government and unscrupulous employers maintain a low-wage regime:
Fair trade activists put the spotlight on secretive international trade negotiations in Vancouver B.C.
Negotiators from 11 Pacific Rim countries met quietly in Vancouver to set new investment rules within the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). No announcement of this “intersessional” on investment was made to the public or the media. People in Canada first learned about this TPP ‘mini’ negotiation from an article in the Peruvian media on Friday June 16th, just days before the weekend negotiations. It was later confirmed by iPolitics.ca with no other details and has since been acknowledged by the federal government in a brief statement concluding the intersessional talks.
“It’s long past time to end the silence on the TPP,” says Kristen Beifus of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. “It’s outrageous that this investor rights treaty is being developed behind closed doors. What they are negotiating will impact all of us, just as NAFTA has for 20 years, and we deserve to know what is being negotiated in our name.”
On May 21st, 2013 State Rep. Brad Witt held an informal hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that he chairs.
This hearing could not have been more timely as thousands across the globe gathered to protest Monsanto’s GMOs. Monsanto is one of the 600 corporations pushing for the TPP; they want to use this free trade agreement as a tool to force genetically modified seeds and foods onto countries regardless of existing laws and regulations.
The Committee heard testimony on the TPP’s impact on food safety standards that affect not only whether Oregon consumers will have to eat products that don’t meet our domestic safety standards, but also whether Oregon producers will have to compete with overseas fish farms, industrial fruit and vegetable operations and others that aren’t bound by the same standards as they are.