Displaced Workers Urge President to Remember Trade Promises During G-20

For Immediate Release
September 16, 2009

Displaced Workers from Oregon and Beyond Urge President Obama to Remember Promises on Trade Reform During the G-20 Summit
Communities that Have Been Hit by Trade-Related Job Loss Are Featured in New Report Recounting the President’s Campaign Pledges

PITTSBURGH, PA — As the United States prepares to host the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh next week, displaced workers from across the country called on President Barack Obama to use the summit as an opportunity to put his promises for trade policy reform into action.

In a briefing for reporters earlier today, they shared their stories of trade-related job loss and explained why the President’s campaign promises regarding trade are still important.

“On the campaign trail, President Obama repeatedly spoke out about the need to fix failed trade policies like NAFTA and the WTO. Since he’s been in office, the United States has continued to lose middle-class jobs as a result of these policies,” said Victor Pierce, a former machinist whose job at the Freightliner Truck Plant in Portland, Ore., was offshored to Mexico earlier this year. “As the President meets with other world leaders, I hope he’ll remember people like me — people who couldn’t afford to buy our kids new school clothes this fall because free trade agreements have cost us our jobs.”

On multiple occasions during his race for the White House, President Obama said one of his first acts if elected would be to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In 2007 and 2008, he made numerous other concrete campaign pledges regarding trade policy. Many of these promises are recounted in the new report “Trade Matters: First-Hand Accounts of Why President Obama and Members of Congress Should Keep Their Promises on Trade Policy Reform.”

The report also features the stories of displaced workers from Maine to Washington, and places in between, as evidence of why trade reform is important. A free PDF is available online . During the press briefing, several people featured in the report discussed why they want the President to follow through on his campaign promises.

“Current international trade policy can open our markets to imported food ingredients that would not meet U.S. standards for health and safety if they were produced here. Such policies put consumers at risk and disadvantage domestic farmers,” said Joe Logan, a fifth generation dairy farmer from northeastern Ohio.

“Just as in manufacturing, jobs in the high tech industry are not immune to the current anti-worker trade policies,” said Rennie Sawade, a software engineer from Seattle, Wash., who has seen past jobs shipped overseas. “High tech jobs are now treated as a commodity where jobs are constantly being shifted to the cheapest markets. Broken are the promises made two decades ago that the new high tech jobs were going to be stable jobs that could not be outsourced.”

Speakers on the call do not oppose international trade. Rather, they want changes to international trade policies that would better protect working people in the United States and abroad. As of today, 120 Members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, comprehensive trade reform legislation that addresses public demand for change and would uphold the trade reform promises made by President Obama and others during the 2008 elections.

“Americans need major change in trade policy to bring back our manufacturing and farming jobs to the United States,” said Gayleen Spooner, a former employee of the Pinkham Lumber sawmill in Ashland, Maine whose job was displaced by imports. “Companies move their factories to other countries to make bigger profits, but it is the working American that pays the price. I hope President Obama will support the TRADE Act so we can get our economy back on track.”


One of the First Things
“One of the first things I’ll do as President will be to call the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico and work with them to fix NAFTA. We’ll add binding obligations to protect the right to collective bargaining and other core labor standards recognized by the International Labor Organization. And I will add enforceable measures to NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, CAFTA and other Free Trade Agreements currently in effect.

Similarly, we should add binding environmental standards so that companies from one country cannot gain an economic advantage by destroying the environment. And we should amend NAFTA to make clear that fair laws and regulations written to protect citizens in any of the three countries cannot be overridden simply at the request of foreign investors.”

— Barack Obama, during the Iowa Caucus

Candidate Obama’s Statements on Trade

The President repeatedly said he supported renegotiating these and other free trade agreements.

Panama, Colombia and South Korea FTAs:
The President said he opposed these pending free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration.

Labor Rights:
The President said he will require new trade agreements to include labor standards based on the core ILO Conventions.

Environmental Protection:
The President said he will require new trade agreements to include enforceable environmental standards.
The President said he will require new trade agreements ensure that imported products, including food and toys, meet U.S. safety standards.

The President said he supported renegotiating trade agreements to allow for “Buy America” procurement policies.
The President said he supported the right of developing countries to protect small farmers from agricultural dumping.
The President said he supported eliminating trade provisions that grant foreign investors greater rights than U.S. residents.

This entry was posted in Candidates on Trade, president. Bookmark the permalink.