NAFTA : Don’t Make A Bad Deal Worse

Don’t Make a Bad Deal Worse: UE Statement on Renegotiating NAFTA

UE General Executive Board

 

Three years ago, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s passage, North American labor, environmental groups, human rights organizations, and other citizen watchdogs—united to call out the terrible impact of this trade agreement on working people and our communities. As attention returns to NAFTA, now that President Trump has notified Congress officially of his intention to renegotiate, we caution against any belief that his administration will seek a deal benefitting people and the planet. NAFTA benefits corporations and those who have an interest in the free flow of capital, rather than improving the lives of workers, our communities, or the environment. Past attempts to appease concerns from labor and environmentalists have not been meaningful. .

We see the consequences of this failed treaty vividly: Across the continent, workers and families have been hit hard, as evidenced by persistent unemployment, wage stagnation, and record wealth and income inequality. There continues to be a decline in good-paying, union manufacturing jobs, as well as a loss of high-paying jobs in smaller businesses.  In those pockets where manufacturing has expanded, the jobs created have been mostly low wage with little attention to worker health and safety. In Mexico, the jobs that have emerged have been at such low rates of pay that poverty rates have risen—not fallen—since 1994. Mexico has experienced a loss of jobs in agriculture, where heavily-subsidized US corn, sugar, and other commodities led to the collapse of the Mexican farm economy.  Since the implementation of NAFTA, workers in the three countries have suffered, while wealthy investors and big corporations have seen their profits balloon.

 

Communities of North America continue to suffer under NAFTA as corporations continue to exploit our shared environment for profit and pollute our land, air, and water as governments are unable or unwilling to force corporations to clean up hazardous mistakes created by negligence. This is evident from the St. Lawrence River in Québec, which is threatened by fracking from Lone Pine Resources, to the Midwestern plains, where oil leaks from the TransCanada-owned Keystone Pipeline, to the hills of Guadalcázar, where residents pray they have seen the last child born with birth defects from the toxic waste MetalClad has refused to clean up. Corporate profits continue to grow while the health of our communities and environment suffers.

NAFTA enables the unrestricted flow of capital causing misery for working people, including: the forced migration of people looking for jobs; increased rates of homelessness; mental health problems associated with dislocation; higher rates of diabetes and other ailments linked to cheap high fructose corn syrup; and rising violence, particularly against women. NAFTA devastated the Mexican economy, particularly agriculture and family farms by allowing US corporations to dump cheap corn and other staples into Mexico. It is a key reason why millions upon millions of Mexican workers have been forced to migrate north to the US looking for better work.

President Trump says he wants to renegotiate this “bad deal,” but his vague plans are anchored in building a wall for workers and tearing down walls for capital. He makes a xenophobic argument for renegotiation, and we reject its racist and nationalistic orientation. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have stated that the rejected and discredited Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be the starting point for a renegotiated NAFTA. Unionists and environmentalists rejected TPP for good reasons and to have that as the administration’s starting point is very troubling.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA infringes on sovereignty and citizens’ rights to self-governance by allowing corporations to sue governments who restrain profit-making opportunities. This would have been made more powerful under TPP. TPP would have weakened US health and safety standards, including those that ensure safe pharmaceuticals and food. TPP attacked net neutrality and a free and open Internet. NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990’s and the internet was not included in the original NAFTA. We expect this to be a major target of the administration’s renegotiation.

We reject the corporate-led vision for a renegotiation of NAFTA and call for a new set of trade policies that prioritize workers common interests and relies on international solidarity as its cornerstone. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must be oriented around the improvement of workers’ lives and protection of the environment focused on those regions of the continent where conditions are the most desperate.

We call for the end of the ISDS protections NAFTA offers to  corporations to exploit working people and the environment.  As we said three years ago, 20 years after the passage of NAFTA, any new treaty must “strengthen governments’ ability to protect social, environmental and labor rights, particularly for migrants.”

We demand, as required by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions 87 and 98, an end to laws that allow employers to prevent workers from choosing their own unions or from exercising their rights to assemble, organize, and represent workers without any employer interference. This includes an end to attacks in the U.S against unions seeking to negotiate union security clauses with employers.

We demand government investment to create good-paying jobs in our communities, to build affordable housing, accessible public transportation, and green energy production, with quality food, education, and healthcare for all, and with improved access to clean air and water, public parks, and green recreation spaces. All trade negotiations must be opened to civil society participation, which includes prior publication of the texts and the construction of mechanisms for information sharing, social participation and deliberation, while avoiding the imposition of any “fast track”. A renegotiated NAFTA treaty must include effective mechanisms to protect human, labor, and environmental rights with meaningful sanctions and enforcement provisions to assure the supremacy of human rights over corporate privilege.

We support the “Political Declaration of the Encounter of the Social Organizations of Canada, United States, and Mexico” which came out of meetings held in Mexico City on May 26 and 27, 2017. We unite in international solidarity with these goals in mind and are prepared to fight back against any and all attempts to divide or devalue our work, our communities, and our environment.

Reposted from our friends at Portside.

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Trump’s Assault on Workers

The first 100 daysPresident Trump’s top priorities include rolling back protections to workers’ wages, health, and safety

 In this report, we look closely at President Trump’s actions in his first 100 days in office and ask: Do these actions benefit or harm U.S. workers and our economy?

April 29, 2017, marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. During his first 100 days in office, President Trump has talked often about improving the lives of people who “work hard and play by the rules.” But looking beyond the president’s rhetoric and examining his actions during this time reveals a different set of priorities. During his first 100 days, President Trump has rolled back worker protections and outlined a fiscal year 2018 budget that would dramatically cut funding for the agencies that safeguard workers’ rights, wages, and safety. He has also advanced nominees to key posts—even to the Supreme Court—who are hostile to policies that boost wages, enhance workers’ bargaining power, and protect worker safety. This report evaluates President Trump’s actions during his first 100 days and analyzes their impact on this nation’s workers and our economy.

Go to EPI.org

White House Talks to Some Unions

From Politico’s Morning Report:

TRUMP’S DOOR ALWAYS OPEN, BUT ONLY FOR CERTAIN UNIONS: At the North America’s Building Trades Unions Conference in April, President Donald Trump told attendees that “America’s labor leaders will always find an open door with Donald Trump.” But that’s not quite right, the Associated Press reports. Trump has welcomed to the White House union representatives for the construction trades as well as workers in the auto, steel and coal mining industries who supported him during the election. But “there’s been no White House invitation for other unions representing the sprawling but shrinking pool of 14.6 million workers who collectively bargain with employers in the labor movement.” For example, the administration did not invite the two largest teacher unions- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers- to White House sessions with teachers and other educators, hosted by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.”

“Much like President Ronald Reagan did, Trump is not so much pursuing a labor agenda but one that appeals to those who share his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ priorities and happen to be union members.” More here. Continue reading

Can Labor Unite?

IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, CAN LABOR UNITE?

Donald Trump performed far better among union voters than previous Republican candidates, but since taking office has enacted disastrous anti-worker policies. Now, some unions are organizing their members around an explicitly progressive analysis, hoping to unlock the power of workers to help lead the resistance.

BY ALEXANDRA BRADBURY

YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING THE SHORT END OF THE STICK AS A WORKER, but you don’t really know why,” says Joe Tarulli, a Staten Island Verizon tech who’s put in 17 years with the company. “They make it seem like these rich people are just lucky they got the right chances, and these poor old working folks, nothing ever goes right for them. No! These corporations are doing it on purpose.”

Last spring, Tarulli and 39,000 Verizon workers were forced out on a 49-day strike to fend off outsourcing and other concessions demanded by the company, even as it raked in billions in profits. Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders walked the picket line with them to draw media attention to their battle against corporate greed. But in the general election, Tarulli says many of his coworkers went on to vote for Donald Trump, who spoke to the anger that had motivated them to strike in the first place. “Trump’s a great communicator,” says Tarulli. “For a long time people felt ignored, even by their own unions, because these companies take advantage of them so badly.”

Trump’s win highlighted a rank and file that feels alienated from politics as usual. While most major unions backed Hillary Clinton, 43 percent of voters in union households cast their ballots for Trump. The swing in votes was less a bump for Trump (who outperformed Mitt Romney by 3 points in union households) than a shortfall for Clinton (7 points below Obama in 2012)—and that’s not counting those who simply stayed home.

“I did believe in him trying to get more jobs back to the United States,” says Trump voter Jack Findley of Chattanooga, Tenn. Findley worked for four years on a Volkswagen assembly line, backing the unsuccessful union drive at the plant in 2014 before an injury put him out of commission. He has two kids, ages 4 and 7, and worries as he watches power companies and retailers in his area shut down. “When my kids get old enough, I don’t know where they’re going to be working,” he says.

It’s difficult to fathom that workers who risked their livelihoods to take on a corporate behemoth like Verizon, or back a long-shot union campaign at Volkswagen, went on to vote for a poster child of corporate greed. But after decades of bipartisan fervor for privatization, budget cuts and so-called free trade deals, many workers are disillusioned with both parties. Continue reading

May Day Message – Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka; AFL-CIO

Throughout North America and globally, May 1 is a day to remember and respect workers’ rights as human rights. As working people take to the streets in communities around the world, a quieter but equally important movement of workers on both sides of the United States–Mexico border has been growing.

Whatever language we speak and wherever we call home, working people are building power, supporting labor rights and fighting corruption—and we’re doing it together.

Our agenda is simple. We oppose efforts to divide and disempower working people, and we oppose border walls and xenophobia anywhere and everywhere. We want trade laws that benefit working people, not corporations. And we want economic rules that raise wages, broaden opportunity and hold corporations accountable.

Nearly 20 years ago, many independent and democratic Mexican unions began an alliance with the AFL-CIO.

We’ve developed a good working relationship. We’ve engaged in important dialogue and identified shared priorities. Now we are ready to take our solidarity to the next level, turning words into deeds and plans into action.

You see, we believe no fundamental difference exists between us. We share common values rooted in social justice and a common vision of the challenges before us.

The corporate elite in the United States and Mexico have been running roughshod over working people for too long. Corporate-written trade and immigration policies have hurt workers on both sides of the border.  We each have experienced the devastation caused by economic rules written by and for the superrich.

 

Those of us in the United States can see how unfair economic policies have destroyed Mexico’s small farms and pushed many Mexicans to make the perilous trek north or settle in dangerous cities. Many in Mexico are worried about their own families, some of whom might be immigrants in the United States today. Workers in the United States share their concern, especially as anti-immigrant sentiment has become disturbingly mainstream.

The truth is more and more politicians are exploiting the insecurity and pain caused by corporate economic rules for political gain by stoking hatred and scapegoating Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants.

We will not be divided like this. Workers north and south of the border find the idea of a border wall to be offensive and stand against the criminalization of immigrant workers. We need real immigration reform that keeps families together, raises labor standards and gives a voice to all workers.

Instead of erecting walls, American and Mexican leaders should focus on rewriting the economic rules so working people can get ahead and have a voice in the workplace. One of our top priorities is to transform trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement into a tool for raising wages and strengthening communities in both countries.

We’re outraged by the kidnapping and murder of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College, as well as too many other atrocities to list.

America’s unions are democratic in nature and independent of both business and government, but that’s mostly not true in Mexico. A key step in ending violence and impunity in Mexico and raising wages and standards on both sides of the border is to protect union rights and the freedom of association in Mexico.

We’re united. We’re resolute. We are ready to win dignity and justice for all workers.

Posted on the AFL-CIO website.

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Labor, Socialists and Immigration

Evans_Signage_HumanoIlegal.pngDr. Duane E. Campbell, April 19, 2017

In spite of the economic boon for the wealthy, working people in the U.S. have yet to receive a significant improvement in their standard of living for over 30 years. At the same time, democratic forces are once again confronted with anti immigrant campaigns- this time fostered and promoted by a President of the U.S.

As socialists, we stand with and among the US working class in opposition to the rule of the transnational corporations and their exploitation of the economy and their despoliation of our lives, our society and our environment.

We are currently experiencing a major restructuring of the global economy directed by the transnational corporations to produce profits for their corporate owners. The impoverishment of the vast majority of people in pursuit of profits for a small minority has pushed millions to migrant in search of food, jobs, and security. Global capitalism produces global migration. Along with wars NAFTA and other “Free Trade” deals each produce a new waves of migration.

Socialists support the rights of working people to organize, to form unions, and to protect their rights and to advance their interests. Unions have always been an important part of how socialists seek to make our economic justice principles come alive. Working people- gathered together and exploited in the capitalist workplace-are well positioned to fight their common exploitation. Continue reading

$1.4 Trillion With Earned Income Tax Credit

Paul Krugman: ” … we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income… We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong — which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down.”

We can rebuild union density so half the workforce isn’t getting paid way less than they would be paid if we had, say, German union density.

If McDonald’s can pay $15 an hour with 33% labor costs, Target pay pay $20 with 10-15% labor costs, Walmart can pay $25 an hour with 7% labor costs. At least that’s the hope — and labor being able to flex its bargaining muscles in the (truly) free market is the only way we are going to find out.

Labor unions are the only way to end punishing just-in-time work scheduling. Continue reading