Portland artisans refuse to be part of Obama Nike talk

Members of the “Maker” movement, who are opposed to the “fast-track” trade proposal, turn down invitation to president’s speech.

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Leaders of Portland’s “maker” movement turned down an invitation to President Barack Obama’s speech at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton in a show of opposition to his “fast-track” trade proposal.

The leader of the Portland-based maker space, ADX — which will be joined by the Portland Made Collective in boycotting the event — told the Portland Business Journal why they will not attend:

“We were invited to participate, and of course we are honored to be invited and love to be part of the conversation, but part of what we want to get across is Nike doesn’t represent the values of American made and Portland Made,” said Kelley Roy, founder and director of ADX and founding board member of Portland Made. “We want to make that point very clear and we thought not participating was a way to get that point across.”

For Roy and Portland Made, the maker movement and artisanal manufacturing community — which can encompass everything from made products, to fashion to craft brewing and distilling — is sustainable economic development. It’s local manufacturing from local suppliers with employees who have an interest in the local community.

Refusing to attend the speech is particularly noteworthy because Roy will be a part of a White House roundtable for the “maker” community.

From OregonLive.com:

President Barack Obama hosted a “maker faire” at the White House last year. This year’s May 11 roundtable is an extension of an effort to promote homegrown manufacturing, which has declined dramatically in Oregon and elsewhere in recent decades as mass-production jobs migrated to Asia and other countries with lower labor costs.

The Portland maker scene represents an alternative model, according to Roy, demonstrating that people value locally crafted products. Most of the companies operate small niches in larger markets, but she said cumulatively they account for more than 1,000 Oregon jobs – and maybe several thousand. That’s tiny compared to mass-production industries, and it’s an open question whether independent manufacturers can wean Americans from inexpensive, mass-produced items from overseas. At the White House next week, Roy said she will seek ways to return what was lost as manufacturing moved overseas, specifically knowledge and experience in trades that were once widely practiced across the United States.

The Portland Business Journal explained why the president would choose Nike as the site of his Portland speech.

The Obama Administration believes having the ability to negotiate trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership is critical to keeping the U.S. competitive globally. But as Earnest pointed out several times, the U.S. believes this trade pact can serve as leverage to push other nations — particularly those in Southeast Asia — to improve labor and environmental standards within terms of the trade agreements.

Previous trade agreements, including NAFTA, didn’t include enforceable labor provisions. A key criticism of that deal was that it prompted U.S. companies to open shop in Mexico where the labor was significantly cheaper. The Trade Promotion Authority bill, which would enable Obama to fast-track the negotiations of foreign trade pacts, includes a requirement that any deal signed by a sitting president include enforceable labor and environmental standards provisions, [press secretary Josh] Earnest said.


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