Oregon City, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today met with former employees of the Blue Heron Paper Mill and highlighted the unfair subsidies and trade policies of China and the effect that those subsidies have on closing down factories in America and shipping jobs overseas. Merkley was joined at today’s event by former paper mill employees who shared their personal experiences and advocated for policies to help keep the jobs we have here in America and create more jobs to help our economic recovery.
“In China, paper manufacturers are subsidized on everything from water and electricity to the land they build on which allows Chinese paper manufacturers to sell the paper for less than it costs to actually produce. This is not fair to American paper mills and we’re seeing the effects here in Oregon City with over 175 workers who lost their jobs, health care, and retirement savings,” said Merkley. “We must be more aggressive in making sure that U.S. companies and workers have a level playing field to compete with the rest of the world.”
Last week, after a bipartisan coalition of Senators led by Senator Merkley called for disclosure of foreign subsidies that hurt U.S. manufacturing, the U.S. submitted information to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that identified nearly 200 subsidy programs that China has failed to disclose under WTO rules. Through these actions at the WTO, the United States is seeking the prompt provision of detailed information and data from China and India regarding the operation of these subsidy programs. These will enable stronger enforcement of commonly agreed trade laws, which will result in better protections for Americans businesses and workers.
“I worked at Blue Heron paper mill for over six years before I abruptly lost my job and health insurance earlier this year,” said Ron Milton. “Free trade as we’ve experienced it is not fair trade. It is very frustrating to see hundreds of living wage American jobs go away while knowing that because of Chinese government subsidies, the paper machine I worked on will be making paper in China next year.”
Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City closed its doors earlier this year and laid off 175 workers. Since 1990, over 15 Oregon paper mills have shut down.