Displaced Mill Workers Decry Job-Killing TPP

IMG_3164Displaced workers from the Newberg, Ore. paper mill, which closed indefinitely in November 2015 as the result of unfair foreign competition, spoke out at a rally against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which they argue would result in more Oregon jobs being shifted overseas.

“We don’t want other hard-working Oregon families to suffer the same hardships we have,” said John Haslett, who lost his job the previous month with the closure.  “The TPP would offshore good-paying Oregon jobs and drive down wages in the jobs that are left by pitting Oregonians in competition with workers making less than 65 cents an hour in countries like Vietnam.  We’re calling on Representative Suzanne Bonamici and all in Congress to oppose this job-killing deal.”

The closure of the West Rock recycled paper mill in Newberg has resulted in the loss of approximately 250 family-wage jobs, as well as the largest single tax source for the city.  The U.S. Department of Labor has certified past layoffs at the mill as trade-related, and is currently investigating the closure, which workers say is largely the result of unfair competition from foreign manufacturers.

“Misguided trade agreements have forced local employers to compete with companies abroad that are benefiting from government subsidies, exploitative labor practices, lax environmental rules and currency manipulation,” said Robb Renne, President of AWPPW Local 60 who will also lose his job due to the mill closure. “The TPP’s weak language does nothing to adequately address these problems, and instead, would greatly exacerbate them.”

Under negotiation since 2008, text for the TPP was finalized in early November, but still needs to be approved by Congress.  The 12-nation pact would set rules governing approximately 40% of the global economy, and includes notorious human rights violators, such as Malaysia, where tens of thousands of ethnic minorities trafficked through the jungle in modern slavery work in the countries’ export-oriented electronics and agriculture industries.

“As you might expect from a deal that was negotiated behind closed doors with the aid of hundreds of corporate advisors, while the public and press were shut out, the TPP is a pact that makes it considerably easier to offshore American jobs,” said Elizabeth Swager with Citizens Trade Campaign.  “We need trade policies that prioritize quality jobs in communities across the state, that create markets for Oregon products by raising standards of living in partner countries and that allow our producers to compete on a level playing field.  The TPP would only accelerate the race to the bottom in labor conditions, environmental standards and human rights.”

“I’m worried about my ability to find new work that’s going to support my family, not to mention the impact that the loss of hundreds of good-paying jobs is going to have on this community,” said Dustin Appling, a trade-displaced worker from the Newberg paper mill.  “Why any elected official would enact policies that make it even easier for local jobs to be shipped overseas is beyond me.  If they’re not ready to protect our jobs, we should vote them out of theirs”

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