Failed trade policy and forced migration.

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

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Welcome Benjamin Gerritz, ORFTC’s Newest Board Member!

Senator Jeff Merkley (left) shaking hands with Benjamin Gerritz (right)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.

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OR AFL-CIO Resolution on the TPP and Europe/U.S. Free Trade Agreement

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.

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Video: Global Worker Solidarity Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

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!

Don’t Let Corporations Hijack Another Trade Deal

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.
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Take Action to End Labor Abuses & Protect Family-Wage Jobs

WRC_Vietnam_Briefing_PaperFollowing 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:
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Protest in Canada to demand “an end to the silence” on the TPP

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.”

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What’s on the Table? TPP threatens Oregon’s food safety, dairy farmers and the environment

lawrenceOn 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.
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Seven Reasons to Fight the TPP

By Arthur Stamoulis

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive new trade and investment pact being pushed by the U.S. government at the behest of transnational corporations, threatening the economy, environment and public health both at home and abroad.

The TPP is currently being negotiated behind closed doors by the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — but it is also specifically intended as a “docking agreement” that other Pacific Rim countries will join over time, with Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and others already expressing some interest in doing so.  Negotiations are scheduled to conclude in October 2013. International campaigners are fighting hard to prevent the deal from going through.

The TPP is said to contain 29 separate chapters, covering everything from food safety standards to banking regulations.

Here are some of the many reasons activists are fighting the current direction of the TPP:

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400+ Organizations Speak Out on the TPP & Fast Track

Over 400 organizations across the country, representing more than 15 million Americans, signed the letter to Congress expressing deep concerns about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opposition to the outdated “Fast Track” trade negotiating and approval process. Here in Oregon we got tremendous support from labor with Oregon AFL-CIO, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Linn-Benton-Lincoln Central Labor Council, Oregon AFSCME, SEIU 503 and many more locals and community groups that signed on.

The joint letter was submitted to Congress just one business day after the President included Fast Track in his 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, and the same day as negotiators from 11 countries throughout the Pacific Rim met in Singapore for a new round of talks aimed at pushing the TPP towards conclusion.

Fast Track excludes Congress from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements by allowing agreements to be signed by the president before Congress votes on them. We need members of Congress to commit to opposing any delegation of Congress’s authority on trade policymaking.

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