FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For information contact:
Monday, November 17, 2003 Janet Szliske, SEIU Local 503, OPEU
W: 503-581-1505 x128 / C: 503-931-2435
Oregon labor and community coalitions join FTAA protest in Miami
Oregonians including workers and religious representatives are joining other labor groups and community coalitions from around the world in Miami this week. They are concerned about the effects of free trade agreements on working families in Oregon and are joining tens of thousands of workers who are asking trade ministers to oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Trade ministers from throughout the hemisphere will meet in Miami Nov. 18-21 to discuss the next steps in creating the FTAA.
Although trade has not traditionally been an issue for public service workers, the World Trade Organization and various free trade agreements have ramifications that affect how public services are delivered.
"The FTAA will increase the human disaster of NAFTA and the WTO," explains SEIU Local 503 member Craig Chadwick. "That's why I feel it important to take this stand in Miami with like-minded citizens. This so-called Free trade is neither free nor fair." Chadwick works at the Oregon Department of Transportation and is also a city councilor in Aumsville, in which role he has another concern.
"Rules are being made behind closed doors, without public accountability. The FTAA requires governments to accept the lowest bid. This means that local governments and city councils lose their ability to set standards and make decisions when awarding contracts. I am speaking for myself and not the city, but I don't see any upside for local government in FTAA."
Nationwide, over 3/4 of a million workers have lost jobs since 1994 when the U.S. entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and plants moved offshore to take advantage of lax environmental laws, lower wages and weak workers' rights. Despite the failures of NAFTA, the Bush administration is pushing for passage of the FTAA.
The ranks of the long-term unemployed have increased by more than 450,000 workers in the last year alone, bringing the total to 2.1 million workers with Oregon's unemployment rate leading the nation.