The U.S. Department of Labor determined that 1,911 Oregon workers lost their jobs to offshoring or foreign competition last year, according to data compiled by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (ORFTC), a union-backed group that is critical of NAFTA-style trade agreements.
The number represents permanently laid off workers who were certified for participation in a federal government program of benefits for displaced workers where trade is determined to be a factor. ORFTC has been tallying the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) certifications each year, and says 55,085 laid off Oregon workers have been certified for the benefits since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) took effect in 1994.
“We can talk about American productivity all we want, but it’s extremely difficult for Oregon employers to compete with what is by comparison almost free labor,” said ORFTC Director Elizabeth Swager in a conference call announcing the job loss tally. “That labor isn’t free because of the free market; labor costs are low because workers are brutally exploited and their basic rights denied to them by repressive governments. Trade can’t be free when human beings aren’t free.”
Swager said the true number of workers who lost jobs to trade could be double that 1,911 figure, or more. The Labor Department’s TAA program applies only to workers in manufacturing, and doesn’t include their suppliers, or workers in service sector jobs like call centers or computer programming. Under the 2009 stimulus act, the TAA program was temporarily expanded to cover service sector workers, and during that time, Swager said, 42 percent of the workers certified for TAA benefits nationwide (and 51 percent in Oregon) were service sector workers whose job loss was brought about by trade.
For those who get it, TAA pays for job training, job search and relocation allowances, income support, and assistance with health care premium costs.
The Oregon workplaces certified as having trade-related layoffs in 2012 included ATI (Albany), Aosom (Lake Oswego), Agro Group (Portland), Boise (St Helens), CenturyLink (Medford), Cognizant Technology Solutions (Beaverton), Consolidated Pine (Prineville), Cooper Bussman/Sure Power Industries (Tualatin), FT Material Solutions (Fairview), Fashion Tech (Portland), Hewlett-Packard (Corvallis), IdaTech (Bend), Jeld-Wen (Bend), Kelly Services (Albany), Lattice Semiconductor (Hillsboro), Lumber Products (Tualatin), Maxim Integrated Products (Hillsboro), Peak Sun Silicon (Albany), SIC Processing USA (Portland), Siltronic (Portland), Simple Way (McMinnville), Solaicx (Portland), T-Mobile (Redmond), TE Connectivity (Wilsonville) and Yahoo (Hillsboro).
Greg Pallesen, vice president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, says direct job losses are just part of the harm of imbalanced trade policies. The other part is that the members who still have jobs in the battered pulp and paper sector face employers whose demands for wage and benefit concessions are backed up by credible threats to close.