Displaced union millworkers plan to picket President Barack Obama's fundraising luncheon tomorrow at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
The Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers is leading the protest. Organizers are angry at the Obama administration's pursuit of a controversial free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama says the agreement will boost the economy. The union believes it will only outsource more jobs.
In a press release today, Greg Pallesen, vice president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership—established in 2005, and currently being renegotiated to add member countries—"NAFTA on steroids."
The AWPPW blames mill closures along the West coast and the loss of thousands of jobs to overseas competitors that benefited from the trade agreements. The closure of the Blue Heron Mill in Oregon City, for instance, caused 175 jobs to be eliminated.
"I myself worked at a mill in Washington that closed up shop, and saw every piece of equipment packed up into giant shipping containers and sent overseas," Pallesen said in the press release. "Outsourcing is destroying the middle class."
Other noted critics of the trade agreement include U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).
The President, obviously, has a different view. Addressing the trade deal last year in Hawai'i, he said:
The TPP will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people, which is my number-one priority. Along with our trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, the TPP will also help achieve my goal of doubling U.S. exports, which support millions of American jobs.