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Politicians: Listen to the voters

While driving by the Heritage House last week I was surprised to see a large vocal demonstration against Rep. Kurt Schrader who was hosting a fund raiser there.

What surprised me was that the demonstrators were protesting his position on the Korea Free Trade Act (he is 'leaning towards supporting' it) and I thought that issue had been resolved last year.

So I went to a town hall meeting hosted by the congressman the next day and arrived just in time to pose a question. I identified myself as a member of the state committee of the Oregon Working Families Party who worked on the nominations committee last year for political candidates seeking our party's endorsement.

Rep. Schrader had submitted a written questionnaire in which he indicated that he would not support the KFTA as written. He took issue with that part of the treaty relating to 'financial takings' and domestic sovereignty. As written, the KFTA grants investor-to-state rights that transcend U.S. and, for that matter, Korean laws; if a Korean investor thought he'd sustained financial losses as a result of, say, Oregon's land use policies, he could seek redress from an international tribunal and the American taxpayer would have to foot the bill.

When I questioned the congressman about this prior commitment, he said he'd been advised that that language was no longer in the treaty. For the record, the treaty's original wording is unchanged since President Bush signed it three years ago; perhaps it's time for the congressman to take his advisers to the woodshed.

During Sen. Ron Wyden's recent round of town hall meetings he was repeatedly challenged for his support of KFTA. One time a constituent asked the audience: 'Is there anybody in the room who thinks NAFTA and CAFTA have been good for America?' The silence was deafening, yet the good senator continues to support the treaty.

The message here for both Sen. Wyden and Congressman Schrader is listen to your constituents. We are the unemployed and underemployed who have watched our jobs flee the country in the name of 'free' trade. We are the small business owners whose communities can no longer support them. Although we don't have the money and lobbyists to control the debate, we are your constituents, not the stateless multinational corporations and their Wall Street financiers who are the only entities that profit from such trade deals.

Ray Kenny, Lake Oswego, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 48 and is their representative to the Oregon Working Families Party.