October 21, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Help Save Oregon Manufacturing Jobs

Homeland Security Spending Measure Bolsters Oregon Businesses with New Knife Definition

Washington, D.C. - Fighting against a decision by the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) that would have devastated Oregon knife manufacturers, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) saw the amendment they co-sponsored to prohibit the reclassification of certain knives as switchblades included in the final FY 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that passed the Senate today.

The amendment was sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and a number of senators from both parties. CPB's proposed reclassification of the knives would have jeopardized over 1,000 jobs in Oregon alone. Wyden has just taken the reins as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, which oversees the CBP and trade issues.

"This is a textbook case of agency overreach threatening legitimate commerce. Everyone understands why it's important to control switchblades, but these folding knives are tools used by Oregonians in their work and in sports like hunting and fishing," said Wyden. "I'm pleased that a bipartisan group came together to protect jobs for American workers and our state's economy."

"Reclassifying sporting knives as switchblades would have unnecessarily cost Oregonians good working class jobs and harmed Oregon companies," said Merkley. "I applaud my Senate colleagues for supporting our amendment to protect and preserve Oregon jobs and ensure that companies can continue making their products right here in America."

Oregon is a national leader in the specialty knife industry, with legendary companies like Gerber, Leatherman, Benchmade and Kershaw each employing hundreds. The Customs proposal itself was a reversal of a 2005 ruling which allowed for the knives to be bought and sold in the US.

In June, Wyden, Merkley and four of Oregon's five House members wrote to Customs asking them to delay the adoption of the new rule so that citizens affected by the change could weigh in on the issue. When Customs failed to do so, and after consulting with relevant law enforcement authorities, the senators worked with members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations to craft language reversing the rule change and protecting the associated jobs.