At yesterday's Oregon AFL-CIO debate featuring the major candidates in Oregon-1, a number of questions were about the impact of foreign trade deals on American workers.
As I was live-tweeting it, rapidly banging out summaries of each candidates' responses, it started to become clear that Suzanne Bonamici wasn't willing to stake out a strong position on trade.
For example, here was one series:
Bonamici asked: What would you do to stop Colombia trade agreement?
Bonamici: Make sure trade agreements have job & enviro protections. (Doesn't say she'll oppose, though. Hmm...)
Witt: Trust me on labor's position on fair trade b/c I have lived fair trade for 30 years. Spent 10 years on unfair lumber trade.
Avakian: Trust me on fair trade b/c I've stood w/ labor "in every court in this state".
Avakian: "These trade agreements aren't just foreign policy, it's about people in this room & in our communities. I will not forget!"
Now, those were paraphrases, and I was typing fast - but the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes noticed the same thing, and tried to pin Bonamici down:
Bonamici refused to take a stand on the proposed trade agreements at a forum held during the labor federation's annual convention in Eugene. ...
"I'm not telling the unions I'll oppose the trade agreements and I'm not telling Nike that I'll support them, either...I know how critically important they are to the businesses in the district and I know what a concern they are to the unions, so I'm very carefully weighing the policy. Obviously, I'll have a position on that at some point."
By contrast, Avakian:
Avakian told the AFL-CIO that the "people of Northwest Oregon really deserve to know where every candidate on this stage stands on this important issue" and said his opposition to the trade pacts was clear.
"I say no to any trade agreement that is going to take a job away from an American worker and ship it overseas," Avakian said.
"You can trust that I will uphold organized labor's position on fair trade because I have lived and breathed fair trade for 30 years," he said.
This isn't a purely academic question either. In the coming months, trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama are likely to come up for votes.
Now, certainly, there are folks around here that will support Bonamici's position (or, more accurately, her ambivalence). Dave Porter ("the Mandarin guy"), for example, declared on his blog that "Bonamici wins this debate on trade policy."
But if you believe that these trade deals are unequivocally bad deals for Oregon workers, then it seems to me that your candidate is one of the two guys named Brad.
Meanwhile, I guess we'll just wait for Suzanne Bonamici to figure out what her position is.