Corporate Cheap-Labor Lobby Opposes Oregon’s Sanctuary Repeal Initiative

In what should surely come as no surprise to anyone, several big corporations have recently come out against Measure 105, the initiative on Oregon’s November ballot that, if approved, would repeal the state’s 1987 sanctuary law.  The Chamber of Commerce crowd’s seemingly limitless appetite for cheap labor has reared its head again, and once more they’re trying to make sure state and local governments ignore and undermine our country’s immigration laws.  As usual, it’s wrapped in touchy-feely rhetoric, but it’s the same game as ever: spread disinformation, appeal to emotions, and pad the bottom line.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office released their Online Voter Guide for the November election on September 11.  In it, five top Oregon corporate officials provided statements for a joint “Argument In Opposition” entitled “Oregon Business Leaders Agree: Measure 105 is Bad for Business, Bad for Oregon”: Nike CEO Mike Parker, Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, A to Z Wineworks President Amy Prosenjak, and Vernier Software co-founders Christine and David Vernier.

In Parker’s statement, he proclaims that “[e]nding Oregon’s sanctuary law will damage Oregon’s long-standing track record as a place that attracts diverse talent from across the globe.”  But that’s apparently just a foregone conclusion to him, as he never explains how one leads to the other.  Likewise, throughout all five statements, the common themes are striking: 1) a total conflation of legal immigrants and illegal aliens into the single category of “immigrants,” as if there were no difference; 2) vacuous praise for “diversity” as a self-evident virtue and 3) condemnation of Measure 105 as harmful to Oregon’s economy and “values,” with no explanation, arguments or evidence to show the actual impact.

But praise of high-minded values is particularly rich coming from these companies.  Nike, of course, a true global leader in hypocrisy, is well-known for both its social-justice rhetoric and for paying rock-bottom wages often in sweatshop conditions across the globe.

And Columbia Sportswear, despite its clean, green ethical brand image, subcontracts much of its production to Shahi Export, the largest garment manufacturer in India, whose Unit 8 factory in Bangalore reportedly pays an average of 62 cents an hour and where in April it’s alleged ”supervisors…were ’engaged in vicious retaliation against workers’ exercise of labor rights, including physical beatings, death threats, threats of mass termination and the expulsion from the factory of 15 worker activists.’”  Fewer than 500 of Columbia’s over 328,000 manufacturing jobs are still in Oregon, and under 1,000 in total are in the U.S.

But please, by all means, let’s hear more all about their corporate “values.” What they value is the cheapest labor they can find anywhere.  The rest is rhetorical fluff.  Do these companies and their executives value either the safety or prosperity of ordinary Oregonians and their families?  Based on the dichotomy between their rhetoric and their business practices, Oregon voters might just decide to “take a knee” when reading these CEOs’ statements.