Jobs and the Economy
Congressman Blumenauer works to ensure that American families are safe, healthy, and economically secure. This means, in part, ensuring an economy that works for all Oregonians while safeguarding our environment through smart investments and appropriate oversight of the economic system.
The current credit crisis facing the United States is one of the greatest economic challenges that the country has faced. It can be squarely traced to the ideology of economic deregulation, leaving the government with few tools to address the reckless actions of many financial institutions until it was too late. Congressman Blumenauer rejects the idea that special interests reap all the rewards of their risky behavior, while the public has to clean up the mess.
Congressman Blumenauer is proud of the actions of the 111th Congress to reinvigorate the economy and put in place policies to provide greater financial institution and mortgage market oversight and accountability. He believes, however, that we must balance these efforts with others to help the hardest-hit American families, by expanding food stamps and unemployment insurance and taking an active role in stabilizing the housing market.
In recent years, the percentage of Americans able to find good jobs has decreased, incomes have stagnated for all by the richest Americans, and Americans are feeling less secure in their economic well-being. Congressman Blumenauer believes we need to do more to create good jobs, promote a society that grows together, and help ensure that economic shocks, like losing one’s job or a major illness, don’t become economic catastrophes.
The lack of modern transportation infrastructure continues to limit our ability to compete internationally. Congressman Blumenauer is calling for a new national plan that will revitalize America’s communities, economy, and infrastructure. Not only would a major new infrastructure investment effort spur economic growth, but it would directly create hundreds of thousands of new jobs on these important public works projects.
Congressman Blumenauer also strongly supports the rights of workers to organize and believes that a vibrant union movement is key to the continued strength of the middle class.
Employee Free Choice Act
Declining union membership in United States is not merely the result of changes in the economy or attitudes of American workers, but of a concerted attack to limit the rights of American workers to organize into unions. This has an historic opportunity to level the playing field between corporations and workers by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
This critical piece of legislation would restore workers rights to organize by establishing stronger penalties for employer violation of employee rights, and would allow employees a choice to form a union by either the election process with majority sign up or by signing cards authorizing union representation.
Congressman Blumenauer renewed his sponsorship of the Employee Free Choice Act because human enterprise needs checks and balances -- whether it is a union or a corporation, the country must have effective oversight, enforcement of the laws, and accountability. Accountability is needed in Congress, on Wall Street, and at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Under Republican leadership, the NLRB, created by lawmakers to protect the legitimate rights of workers and to oversee union elections, has been reduced to a toothless tiger. In recent years workers seeking to form unions have been subjected to intimidation, indoctrination, threats and actual retaliation with no recourse through NLRB. A recent report by the Inspector General found "substantial" delays in the NLRB issuing decisions in pending cases. The impact of these delays fall disproportionately on workers who wait months for the NLRB to certify union elections and these workers have yet to attain collective bargaining and other benefits of union membership.
In addition to the direct attacks against unions and the NLRB's institutionalized delays, ideologues have waged a public opinion campaign against organized labor. There is no small amount of irony here: the same corporate interests that have driven the economy into the ground, systematically looted the Federal Treasury, and participated in criminal behavior in the name of greed and at the expense of their employees, are the ones arguing that the Employee Free Choice Act gives too much power to workers.
Congressman Blumenauer is proud to support the Employee Free Choice Act as a way to restore the balance long abandoned by Republican administrations, ideologues in Congress, and the virulent antiunion interests in business. Congressman Blumenauer looks forward to the legislative process as this bill works its way through Congress and will thoughtfully consider alternative approaches should they strive to meet these same goals of effective oversight, enforcement of the laws, and accountability.
Congressman Blumenauer has been working hard to dramatically change U.S. trade policy so that the rules of competition are fair and inequitable barriers to our products are removed because when America can compete on a level playing field, our economy grows and family wage jobs are strengthened.
The U.S. must do everything it can to protect and grow our manufacturing base, and high-level research and development. Key to this effort is strong trade enforcement, ensuring other countries adhere to their commitments. Blumenauer recently sent a letter, with other House colleagues, to the Administration on the importance of trade enforcement, which you can read here.
We must also have an active and consistent policy against currency manipulation. China’s currency manipulation alone costs U.S. businesses an estimated $125 billion in net exports a year. Blumenauer supports legislation, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act of 2015, to crack down on currency manipulation, which you can read more about here.
Much of his work on trade has been a push to transform Free Trade Agreements and trade enforcement as a means to not only ensure that the U.S. competes on a level playing field, but are also used to increase the quality of life for the average citizens living in the countries we’re negotiating and trading with. Through a bill he introduced and passed, the Legal Timber Protection Act, trade enforcement has been used to limit illegal logging in other countries which has helped turn a $20.3 billion trade deficit with China in forest products into a $600 million surplus. You can read more about these efforts here.
With regard to the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, Congressman Blumenauer, along with his colleagues, has urged the President and the U.S. Trade Representative to provide Congress and the American people with increased transparency in the negotiations. You can read that letter here. He has also urged the administration to make further progress in other areas such as access to affordable pharmaceuticals, enforceable labor standards and environmental protections, and tobacco.
Trade is Critical to the Portland Metropolitan Region
It’s difficult to overemphasize the beneficial impacts that a strong exports sector has had on the Portland metro region over the last decade. In fact, one fifth of the Portland economy is generated by exports. It is also one of the few metro areas to have doubled their export value during the last decade, increasing its export volume by nearly 110 percent, making it the second fastest growing export market, and adding nearly 50,000 jobs since 2003.
Trade-dependent jobs are important on their own, but they also lead to additional investment and job-growth throughout the region, creating a value chain of economic output that includes more manufacturing in the United States. A recent case study of 5 Portland Harbor companies found that over half of their export-related investments went back into the regional economy, benefiting 288 local businesses. Most importantly, ninety percent of Oregon exporters are small- and medium-sized companies with fewer than 500 workers, each full of export success stories. It’s no wonder that the Portland metro region equals or exceeds the national average for major traded industries in 9 out 12 categories, illustrating a diverse and export-heavy region.