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Free trade cant come at expense of U.S. jobs

We need a Congressman who will fight for us at home. Avakian has the right skills to do the job.

On my way home from shopping recently, I was listening to a story on National Public Radio about the re-building of San Francisco's 'other' famous bridge - The Bay Bridge.

It's going to be replaced by a new single suspension bridge.

However, it's being built in China! There are U.S. inspectors galore overseeing the work in China and the assembling, no doubt, will require hiring hundreds of U.S. construction workers.

But why did California 'outsource' this major public works project to China? One answer - cheap labor.

In our local 1st Congressional District race, Democratic candidate Brad Avakian, the state labor commissioner, has drawn a line in the sand against this type of so-called 'free trade.' His strongest competitor, state Sen. Susan Bonamici, when asked in the Pacific University debate about NIKE's plans to develop a campus in Shanghai, said she didn't oppose that plan, assuming American jobs are created by a global economy.

But in a global economy where the race to the bottom is low wages, dubious environmental and quality control - buyers beware!

My next question: where will the Columbia River Crossing bridge be designed, engineered, and built, not just assembled?

I am in favor of 'free trade' that is fair trade. But assuming trade in our global economy creates jobs here in the USA flies in the face of too much counter evidence.

Currently SolarWorld, which has a large plant in Hillsboro that employs 1,000 people, joining six other companies, has filed an unfair trade complaint against China.

This case is an example of how China uses low labor costs combined with government subsidies to drive out the competition. Ironically, SolarWorld is a German company that has chosen to have a North American presence in our district.

Given a bad economy created by the Great Recession of 2008, whomever we elect as our new Congressman from the 1st Congressional District should put protecting and increasing American firms and jobs on the top of their 'to do' list. The assumption that 'free trade' is good is not enough.

We should demand that our government negotiate trade deals that create an even playing field by requiring that our trading competitors, such as China, have wage rates, environmental and work place standards comparable to those in the United States.

That doesn't mean identical standards, but given local conditions something comparable.

In the year of the Arab Spring where we are supporting emergent political democracies, we should not allow an authoritarian regime like China to play by its own rules in violation of the principles of economic democracy.

Yes I know China holds a large part of our debt. So what? We are still the safest haven for investors in the world (Where would they take their money and run? Japan? Brazil? Certainly not Europe!)

Our debt and market makes both nations mutually interdependent. Whether President Obama is re-elected or the GOP nominee assumes the Oval Office in 2012, we need a Congressman from the 1st District who will fight for us here at home. Given his resume as a state legislator, labor commissioner and civil rights attorney, Brad Avakian has the right skills to do the job!

I'm tired of politicians and CEOs treating us like so many widgets to be maneuvered or triangulated in an economic chess game.

NIKE employees in Beaverton might want to make sure their jobs are safe and not to be outsourced to China in that new campus.

I am one of the '99%' as most of you are. In his 1972 acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for president, George McGovern said 'come home America.'

We need a congressman who will understand this plea not just as a policy wonk but as a belief deeply embedded in his personal DNA.

- Russ Dondero is Professor Emeritus, Department of Politics and Government, Pacific University and an adjunct professor of political science at Portland State University. Read his blogs at russdondero.squarespace.com.