Corporate globalization is an affront to workers’ rights all over the world. Jobs with Justice aims to reverse neoliberal economic trade policies that only serve to make the rich richer and the poor poorer and allow for free trade, not fair trade. Jobs with Justice works for global justice and against the global race to the bottom.
A globalized economy benefits corporations and employers at the expense of workers. The increase of corporate outsourcing of employees has dramatically impacted the wages, benefits, safety, and job security for all employees working inside and outside of the United States. Companies close factories, firms and work places and move them out of local communities and into locations where they can pay a lower wage. Corporations are then allowed to circumvent US labor laws in order to reap the maximum profit. This is made increasingly possible by free trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA that continue to be pushed through. Due to increased corporate globalization, many of our campaigns now have an international focus.
We are continuing to oppose Fast Track authority for the President, which does not allow congress to filibuster or amend free trade agreements put forth by the president and requires this process to occur within 90 days.
The Bush administration is still pursuing the renewal of Fast Track and continuing to push a trade agreement with Peru. Peru has asked for labor standards in the agreement, but was denied by the US. Corporate globalization brings an international aspect to local workers’ struggles, and in response to this, we are building coalitions with workers across borders. We have made alliances with unions in Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and India. Other groups working in solidarity to end corporate globalization are stopcafta.org, the Campaign for Labor Rights, the AFL-CIO, Citizens’ Trade Campaign, The Oregon Fair Trade Coalition and CBLOC.
Jobs with Justice is helping coordinate Portland’s first-time participation in the US Social Forum, happening in Atlanta, Georgia this summer. This will be an exciting planning and relationship-building forum for social justice and will send a message to social movements around the world that there is a strong opposition to US policies within the US.
Many local workers have been devastated by globalization. Jobs with Justice stands in solidarity workers worldwide and locally because we believe that every person has the right to a good job. Job losses in our community and low-paying jobs around the world hurt communities and keep the poor in poverty while corporations reap the profits.
NAFTA and CAFTA have taken thousands of jobs out of Oregon. Read more about it at the Capital Press. The search for the lowest paid worker has led to job loss in the manufacturing sector, with companies such as Pendleton, Boeing, and Freightliner and has spread to the service sector, with call center companies like Qwest who moved out of Oregon to a state with less stringent labor laws. Freightliner just ended production of its name-brand trucks in Swan Island and is moving manufacturing to South Carolina and Mexico. Half of the roughly 1300 workers were laid off at the end of March 2007. Machinists Business Agent Joe Kear, in an interview with the NW Labor Press, said that Freightliner’s move is “. . . a good example of what happens when trade agreements are negotiated without any consideration for maintaining job base in our local communities.” View the article at http://www.nwlaborpress.org/2007/3-16-07IAM.html.
Another aspect of corporate globalization is the sale of goods produced in sweatshops and by child labor. Many cities around the country have adopted sweatfree ordinances, which mean that as a market participant, sweatfree cities enforce a code of conduct, signed by all contractors, that they will not use or buy products that are produced in sweatshops, child labor, or like working conditions that deprive humans of basic rights or dignity. The Portland Sweatfree Campaign has been working hard on this issue and we strongly support making Portland a sweat free community. In February 2007, local unions and activists came together to rally to make Portland sweatfree.
Jobs with Justice is also working with the Oregon Fair Trade Coalition to end free trade agreements that hurt jobs and our community. The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign has collected some of the stories of the thousands of workers in Oregon who have lost their jobs or have been locally affected by globalization.
Owen Froerer is a small farmer in Nyssa, Oregon. Free trade policies can have the most effect in small towns like this. Mr. Froerer has this to say about the effects of free trade on his home and his livelihood:
- "We’re fighting against CAFTA."
"Some of the politicians want to cater to big corporations but they are just wiping out the farmers of this nation."
"ASPARAGUS: We raised about 100 acres of asparagus and throughout the season hired about 80 people. That is an awful big payroll here on a 100-acres field. That is a lot of people left high and dry when the asparagus crop moved elsewhere."
"MINT: Imports from Canada and China have been devastating to the spearmint industry."
"POTATOES: With potatoes, I used to grow about 350 acres. But the Simplots build the big processing plants right over the board in Canada and closer to the eastern coast so they don’t want the freight costs but also because we have more restrictions on how we can grow crops. So we had to give up on that crop because it wasn’t worth working on."
"There is no level playing field; in Mexico, they can use cheap labor and young kids to produce crops. We can’t do that and we don’t want to do that, so there is no way we can compete."
Courtesy of Oregon Fair Trade Coalition. Learn more at http://www.citizenstrade.org/oregon-stories.php.