The Trade Stories Project aims to increase public participation and accountability in trade policymaking by providing displaced workers, immigrants and others significantly harmed by the current NAFTA-style free trade system with the opportunity to share their personal experiences and voice their opinions on necessary policy reforms. Simply, the aim is to bring the power of personal stories to the trade policy debate – at both the local and the national level – in order to build public pressure for meaningful reforms.
The Trade Stories Project builds directly on the experience and success of the Oregon Stories Project. Begun in 2005 by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, the Oregon Stories Project has to date interviewed approximately 150 people as part of their “oral history project with an agenda.” The stories collected thus far have been extremely compelling, and the project has garnered significant media and political attention throughout the state. The project has also served as an effective organizing tool, training displaced workers and others to serve as spokespersons for trade policy reform and to remain engaged in the political process. The Oregon project serves not only as an inspiration, but also as a source of “best practices” protocol and template materials that have facilitated project implementation in other states.
The Trade Stories Project includes a series of interrelated activities. First, state-based organizers conduct one-on-one interviews with displaced workers, immigrants and others whose lives have been severely impacted by existing trade policies. This includes people laid-off due to offshoring, as well as immigrants pushed from their communities by free trade forces such as agricultural dumping in their native countries.
The interviews are collected and documented on a project-wide website (tradestories.org) and then incorporated into state-level campaign materials that are shared with policymakers, the media and other opinion leaders. This past year the interviews were also used as the basis for a project-wide report (Trade Matters).