The AFL-CIO and Mexico’s National Union of Workers
formally complained to the Department of Labor that Mexico is violating the
already low labor standards of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
The AFL-CIO and Mexico’s National Union of Workers formally complained to the Department of Labor that Mexico is violating the already low labor standards of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Jan. 25 complaint came in the middle of the sixth and penultimate round of talks to modernize the 1994 trade deal, which ended Monday.
“Mexico’s low-wage, low-rights economy keeps wages down in all three countries and has failed to develop Mexico as a larger market for U.S. exports,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “As laughably bad as NAFTA’s labor protections have been, it says something that Mexico isn’t even meeting them.”
Organized labor in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. have accused Mexico of unfairly suppressing wages by letting companies bust unions. The results for working people in all three signatory countries have been disastrous. NAFTA has sent nearly 1 million mostly manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and Canada to Mexico, according to Department of Labor’s own statistics, but wages there have fallen 9 percent.
And previous efforts to hold Mexico to account have failed.
AFL-CIO Trade and Globalization Specialist Celeste Drake said the complaint was filed because labor law reforms under consideration in the Mexican Congress will make the situation even worse. The unions want the United States to prevent the measures from being implemented and to demand further changes to bring Mexico into compliance.
Timing the complaint to coincide with the NAFTA meeting was no accident, Drake said.
The negotiations began in August, with President Trump promising to deliver a better deal for U.S. workers or he would walk away from the agreement.
IBEW Political Director Austin Keyser said U.S. negotiators have made some proposals that organized labor has been calling for, including ending corporate-run tribunals that decide trade disputes, increasing the North America-made content requirement for light vehicles to qualify for duty-free trade and requiring regular NAFTA reviews.
But in the last five months, Drake said, only Canada has introduced stronger worker and environmental protections while U.S. negotiators have consistently rejected them.
“It is a lot like the tax bill,” Keyser said. “Trump says he wants blow up a system saying it is bad for working people – which is true – but then he wants to replace it with something even worse.”
Unless the new NAFTA has protections for medicines, big banks, privacy and food safety, Trump will have broken another of his key promises to American working people.
“You cannot raise wages in the U.S. if we don’t raise wages in Mexico,” Stephenson said. “We have to level the playing field up, or more Americans will be forced into part time and other low-paying jobs that don't support families.”
As the final round of negotiations in March approach, fears are rising that the Trump administration will simply walk away from the deal without negotiating anything in its place to regulate the $1 trillion in trade every year between the three countries.
“For decades we’ve been saying that NAFTA was a bad deal for working families, but chaos would be worse,” Keyser said. “We need what he promised to deliver: something better for us. We’re waiting.”