When it comes to trade policy, it’s déjà vu all over again.

I’m a business owner, and I’ve built companies, developed real estate, and created jobs. The company I sold in 2012 is one of the largest managers of care facilities in the state, with more than 400 employees making a living wage.  

Because I’ve built a business and lived the American Dream, I know that we need smart policies to help create jobs, raise wages and improve the economy. But so-called “free trade” is anything but smart. 

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It’s been more than twenty years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed, and just about every promise of free trade has proven false. NAFTA changed the rules, putting the interests of big multinational corporations before the needs of Main Street. So instead of more jobs, “free trade” sends American jobs abroad. Instead of higher wages, we’ve seen lower wages. Instead of leveling the playing field, we’ve just leveled the middle class. 

First came NAFTA, then other agreements with indecipherable acronyms like KORUS, WTO, and CAFTA. Now, Congress is considering a proposal for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – better known as “Fast Track” – so they can force through a “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) and other so-called free trade deals.   

Look, we all know that since the Great Recession, the big banks, the stock market, and those at the very, very top are doing very well. But for most of us, wages are flat or down, we don’t have millions socked away in the stock market, and our retirement is looking more tenuous. Now, we all know that trade can be good—but doing it under a set of rules that we know are rigged against most Americans is simply bad policy.  

Talking to folks in my neighborhood, and in my industry, people understand the deck is stacked against regular people and small, local businesses. We want an economy where middle-class families have enough spending power to buy the goods and services they want, send our kids to college, maybe go on vacation once in a while. But if we don’t change the rules of the game, things aren’t going to get better. 

That’s why many business owners like myself strongly oppose granting the president that “Fast Track” authority to negotiate new trade deals. 

Fast Track is designed to help the big corporations on Wall Street while doing nothing to help small businesses on Main Street. 

And there really is a better way. Congress can reject the failed model started by NAFTA, and reject Fast Track. We can insist that our nation’s trade policy create a fair playing field for American businesses, instead of rigging the game for the big multinationals. Local businesses need consumers with good-paying jobs in order to thrive and expand.  

So I’ve joined more than 2,500 other small businesses in Oregon in the Main Street Alliance to say “no” to Fast Track, and instead ask our leaders to advance freedom and prosperity for our local small businesses. 

Instead of a race to the bottom on wages, job security, and workplace safety, let’s build a middle class that can afford the products we make here in America. I am disappointed in Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas US wins aerospace subsidies trade case over the EU Wells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel MORE in co-sponsoring the fast track bill now in the Senate. There is still time for the Oregon congressional delegation to do the right thing and oppose fast track.

Kellenbeck is the co-chair of The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, a network of over 2500 small business owners in Oregon dedicated to providing small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues in Oregon and nationally.