Friday, January 21, 2011

Wyden finds more KORUS FTA resistance in Southern Oregon

Free trade means only the flow of money and goods, this does nothing for the people and national industries choked by the policy. When workers cannot follow the jobs, labor is left to suffer, families will have no work and who is answerable to this, the great fair trade economists? If we seriously want free trade then every nation must open its borders completely! Thus free trade only works between neighbors and within a country or continent where the parties are already on good terms. Free trade here will only cause harm, owing to the large body of water dividing the nations. It is already difficult to trust the leaders of one nation from going to war, why open trade borders, for power and economic sway? This system of free trade was renounced by its own creator as a failed economic strategy- Milton Friedman, don't use a failed plan. Also Korea is struggling with its own food safety, as an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has caused the country to call out its national guard!

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden met more resistance to the Korean Free Trade Agreement when he held his Town Hall in Medford, Oregon on 1/19/11. Unionists Ivend Holen (IBEW steward, retired) and Ralph Browning (AFSCME President Medford employees) asked pointed questions at Wydens's Medford Town Hall.

Wyden got his facts wrong when he stated that longshoremen favor the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, in fact the Longshoremen sent this letter to (former speaker) Nanci Pelosi:
"ILWU Opposes Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement"

"I went to the town hall on friday night. I was lucky to even get to ask a question, but I did get to ask one and made some good points on Free Trade. I hope Sen. Wyden will consider the mood of this crowd when he formulates his position on the Korean Free Trade proposal....he said he is undecided on the subject. I logged some thoughts on the evening......"--Bruce Dennis

Multnomah County Town Hall
Ron Wydens Open Forum Jan 14, 2011

Senator Wyden, you are elected from among us, stop endangering the workers in your constituency!


In a discussion about this issue Read the below letters:
Senator Wyden:
Our valley lost two new and rising manufacturing facilities this past year, both green enterprises engaged in building electric vehicles. In late October, the owner of Ashland-based Barefoot Motors, a manufacturer of electric powered ATVs marketed mainly to the nursery industry, announced the company's closure. The owner said she was unable to acquire the necessary components to continue production, forcing the closure. We have learned recently that the facility is resuming production under a different name, but this time in Brazil, where components, unlike Oregon, are (apparently) readily available.
The other company, Brammo Motorcycles, announced the previous month, just last September, that they were moving their manufacturing facilities from Ashland to Asia, in partnership with the Singapore-based conglomerate, Flextronics, Inc. The press release announcing the move stated that the long-term goal was to manufacture the motorcycles in Asia, Europe, and North America. Flextronics, the second largest electronics manufacturer in the world, has its sole North American industrial manufacturing park, currently turning out flat-screen televisions for Wal-Mart, located across the border in Juarez, Mexico, also known as the murder capital of North America.
These are but two local examples where free trade pacts like NAFTA and those within the World Trade Organization (WTO) have cost Oregonians all across the state good manufacturing jobs, and across a wide range of industries. The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign documents that Oregonians making circuit boards in Dallas, bike trailers in Eugene and rock climbing gear in Bend have all been affected. So have technical writers in Beaverton, call center representatives in Roseburg and computer programmers in Lake Oswego. The number of lost jobs just in Oregon, directly attributable to NAFTA, and documented on their website,, is 74,500.


Wyden's response was extensive, to say the least, a much longer reply than even the question !! But it began by him explaining the reference to the shepherding of the process through the Senate by announcing that he is chair of a Senate sub-Committee on Trade. The meat of his reply had mainly to do with what he described as the complexity of the Korean Free Trade issue, the benefits of the agreement to Oregon agriculture, and an emphasis on the potential advantage of the Agreement to the orchard (pear, in particular) industry. He also said that he was a bit uncertain about some of the things mentioned, in that I had made reference to a couple of businesses that had relocated to Brazil and Europe, with whom the US has no free-trade agreements.

He did say that the reference to the plant in Mexico was pertinent to the issue of NAFTA, and that he did recognize the issue between the kinds of jobs that were being lost due to past trade agreements, which were mainly professional, and the kinds of jobs that were gained, which included good nursery jobs and other high-paying professional jobs associated with the export business. He said that President Obama had renegotiated the draft Korean FTA to provide better conditions for Oregon agriculture, which would really benefit, and also had managed to get much better conditions for the US auto industry.

Senator Wyden said he was strongly in favor of legislation which would remove existing tax incentives which tend to drive US businesses out of the US. He said we should not reward companies who move their headquarters out of the US in order to avoid paying US taxes, and that he and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio were joint sponsors of the "Enforce Act", which seeks to prevent foreign companies from evading US trade laws by strengthening enforcement powers of the Commerce Department. He finished up by saying that the issue of the Korean Free Trade Act was a very complicated matter that needed careful consideration, and the details of the Agreement needed close attention, and he appreciated input on the details. I said I had a copy of details printed out for him, and his staff person with the microphone picked them up from me.

Ralph Browning's subsequent questioning was powerful, hammering in on the same issue of the KFTA, and I noted Wyden's complexion reddening as Ralph continued his verbal challenge. His response was, again, long-winded, and referred again to his support of legislation to reduce the tax incentives for companies to remove their headquarters from the US. He challenged Ralph on his assertion that orchard workers were certainly not highly-paid professional jobs, saying that there is more to orchards than simply picking the fruit - that packers and truckers and Longshoremen were also needed to export the product. He said that he understood that US auto workers were very pleased with the draft KFTA. He also said that the Longshoremen were strongly in favor of it, and, in fact, favored every kind of Free Trade Agreement ever made. He said that trade agreements has benefited US exports, and resulted in a 100 percent increase the the value of exported goods between 2003 and 2008, and finished, again, saying that the issue needed careful consideration.

His response to Mike Duffy's question about his support of unions in general, and the Postal Union in particular, was that the best results came about when all parties, including unions, come to the bargaining table equally and fairly, and that he was a sponsor of legislation to encourage states across the country to go to a "Vote by Mail" system like Oregon's, and this was evidence of his strong support of the post office...

Ivend Holen

No comments: