A Public Forum on the Local Impacts of Free Trade Agreements — and Opportunities for Change
Trade PanelOn October 14, 2008, the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign hosted a forum in Portland on “The Future of Trade.” Co-sponsored by the First Unitarian Church’s Economic Justice Action Group, the forum featured a panel discussion, testimonials from displaced workers and a response from political candidates. Here is video from the event.

Rev. Kate Lore(8:52)
Social Justice Minister, First Unitarian Church
Opening remarks on the future of trade

It’s important to acknowledge just how far we’ve come [since the 1999 WTO protests].Ten years ago, most people had never even heard of the WTO.Today, it is the subject of a Hollywood movie.Ten years ago, many people were still ambivalent about the concept of free trade.Today, the pollsters at the Pew Research Center report, “There is now broad agreement that free trade negatively affects wages, jobs and economic growth in the United States.”

Tom Chamberlain(8:46)
President, Oregon AFL-CIO
On job loss and wage stagnation due to existing trade pacts

What we do with these trade agreements is look for the lowest common denominator – the poorest nations to exploit.Then we turn American workers against them, saying those countries are taking our jobs away.Well, they’re not taking our jobs away.The rich and the powerful are taking our jobs away.

Erica Maharg(7:27)
Columbia Group Chair, Oregon Sierra Club
On the connections between “free trade” and increased global warming

China’s energy portfolio is 40% more carbon intensive than the State of Oregon’s.That means that when a paper mill, for instance, moves from Oregon to China and they flip on the switch to just turn on the machinery, they’re already spewing 40% more carbon into the atmosphere.

Ken Allen(9:30)
Executive Director, AFSCME Council 75
On the potential for increased offshoring of service sector jobs

CrowdOur members in the public sector provide a lot of essential services, but a lot of that can be done somewhere else for a much cheaper price… It’s a big concern to the public sector, because we’ve already seen what’s happened to the private sector.

Arthur Stamoulis(9:28)
Director, Oregon Fair Trade Campaign
On the TRADE Act and opportunities for change

The past fifteen years of job loss, of wage stagnation, of inaction on global warming, of inaction on health care, of increased international animosity – all these things have shown that free markets are no way to organize an economy or run a government.This latest financial crisis simply puts an exclamation point on what a generation of experience has already taught us. We needreal change in this country, and the TRADE Act is one tool for making sure we get it.

Frank Rouse(5:58)
President, Machinists Local 1005
On the day’s plant closure announcement at Freightliner

I wish I had better news, but this is the reality of what current trade deals have to offer our workers.The one thing that I ask is that we stop feeling helpless.We need to take control and unite as one to take back our country.We need to call the shots, and we need to tell the corporations that they need to take a back seat.It’s our turn.

Mitch Besser(3:14)
High-tech worker from Lake Oswego
On “free trade” and the high-tech sector

We went to the job fair and it was literally packed… After a while, [my son] looked at me and said, “Dad, you don’t stand a chance. There’s too many people here.It doesn’t matter how good you are or what you know. There’s just no way they’re going to know about you.”

Andrea Cano (Please jump to 54:53 for her comments)
Executive Director, Oregon Farm Worker Ministry
On NAFTA’s impact on farm workers

There are almost 175,000 farm workers in the State of Oregon – migrant, seasonal and year round… They’re part of the more than 1 million farmers who lost their livelihoods as a result of the corn dumping that occurred in Mexico.

Gregory Pallesen(3:28)
Vice President, Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers
On “free trade” and the pulp and paper industry
Frank RouseWith all due respect to all the politicians out there, I get very frustrated when I hear, even what I would consider good Democratic politicians and friends of mine, push for high labor standards in this country, as well they should, and push for high environmental standards in this country, as well they should… and then turn around and say, “China, you can come into the World Trade Organization, and you don’t have to follow any of those, and let’s go make a lot money for a handful of people.”

Jeff Merkley(5:10)
Oregon Speaker of the House
On his vision for trade and the economy

I’m all for trade. If one country has copper ore and one has iron ore and they swap them for mutual benefit, that’s a great thing. But a trade system that is designed on different labor standards and environmental standards to such a degree that it sweeps all the manufacturing jobs out of one country, wipes out the middle class — that doesn’t sound like a good deal for America.

U.S. Senator Gordon Smith declined an invitation to participate in this event.

Thanks to Dave King for videotaping. Top still photo by Andrea Townsend. Other still photos by Victor Pierce.