Four Arrested Trying to Get Trade Vote Commitment from Earl Blumenauer
Portland, OR — Four human rights activists were arrested in the Portland office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer today after failing to get the Congressman's commitment to vote against the pending Peru Free Trade Agreement, which they say will have a devastating impact on poor farming communities in Peru. Congressman Blumenauer sits on the House Ways & Means Committee, and voted to approve the Peru FTA on Tuesday morning.
"Earl Blumeanuer was elected to represent Portland. His support for Bush administration trade policies that harm working families in Oregon and outright destroy poor communities abroad is completely outrageous," said Amanda Shank, one of those arrested. "Blumenauer's constituents need to know what he's up to."
Over sixteen people, including Portland labor leaders from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901 and Laborers' Local 483, joined the occupation of Representative Blumenauer's office. CWA Local 7901 President Madelyn Elder emphasized how important it is for labor unions to keep Earl accountable for his votes on trade. "Labor contributes to Blumenauer's campaigns and expects him to represent the will of the people in his district, which appears to be to Earl's left. Most importantly, workers in his district have suffered greatly from these trade agreements. Plus there's no dialogue with Earl on this issue, so we've got to hold him accountable. He has no qualms asking my union for a $5,000 donation but on trade, he's just not with labor. The vast majority of Oregonians who lose their job never recover. Earl needs to understand that. I've lost hundreds of members to free trade."
Agriculture accounts for a full one-third of employment in Peru. The Peru Free Trade Agreement would require Peru to reduce tariffs and other protections for its domestic agricultural sector. Because food staples exported from the United States receive heavy government subsidies, they are actually sold on the global market for less than the cost of production. OxFam America has warned that the Peru Free Trade Agreement will "institute an uneven playing field" and "continue to entrench an unfair system in which the U.S. provides massive domestic agricultural supports that allow products to be exported below their cost of production, while our trading partners are left with no means of protection." Four million peasant farmers went on strike in Peru this July to protest the pending Free Trade Agreement.
"Over a million Mexican farmers were forced off the land after NAFTA was implemented. It destroyed many communities, and has compounded problems with everything from urban poverty to undocumented immigration," said Dan Denvir. "The Peru trade deal repeats the same problems found in NAFTA and is expected to have the exact same devastating effects."
"Requesting that Portland's Member of Congress oppose the Bush trade agenda should have been a pretty easy ask," said Laurie King, another of those arrested. "The fact that we were led out of his office in handcuffs shows just how far the Congressman has gotten from his base on a crucial labor and human rights issue."