A New NAFTA? Working Families Are Watching.
For working families, trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have been a string of one broken promise after another. The 200,000 new jobs NAFTA was supposed to create instead became more than 900,000 jobs lost. Wages for jobs that remained in the United States have declined or stagnated. Communities have been devastated as employers shut their doors and move to Mexico, while critical public services have been cut due to a declining tax base.
NAFTA, which was negotiated in secret, behind closed doors by corporate lobbyists, has been a disaster for working people in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
For U.S. workers, NAFTA has led to job loss, lower wages, and weakened bargaining power as employers threaten to relocate instead of bargaining fair contracts.
For workers in Canada, NAFTA has also led to substantial job loss and stagnant wages while Mexican workers have experienced intensified exploitation, wage stagnation, and higher poverty rates compared to pre-NAFTA levels. In Mexico, workers’ rights and a meaningful right to bargain collectively are virtually non-existent. The overwhelming majority of unions in Mexico are employer-dominated “protection unions” that look out for the interests of companies and their allies in government, not workers. With the lack of meaningful collective bargaining rights, workers in Mexico have little to no ability to raise wages, which benefits the corporations that exploit Mexican workers. Moreover, nearly two million Mexican farmers have been displaced by big U.S. agribusinesses that devastated the local corn economy in Mexico after the passage of NAFTA, while the annual number of immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. more than doubled from 370,000 in 1993 (the year before NAFTA passed) to 770,000 in 2000 — a 108 percent increase.
Since NAFTA took effect in 1994, thousands of call center jobs and hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been offshored to Mexico, hurting workers and communities across the country. CWA members report that companies threaten relocation during contract negotiations to block real movement on wages and benefits. All too often, employers carry out these threats. Since NAFTA was enacted, a full 15 percent of companies have shut down the facilities after workers’ union certification victories, which is triple the pre-NAFTA rate.
Corporations have also utilized the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions (ISDS) enshrined in NAFTA to overturn laws or government decisions in order to make it easier for companies to offshore jobs, drive down wages, overturn public health and safety regulations, or take other action that corporations claim will impact “expected future profits.” The ISDS provisions have become a form of “corporate veto” that companies can use to change or eliminate laws they do not like. Governments are faced with the prospect of either cancelling democratically enacted laws or regulations or face harsh financial penalties paid for by taxpayers to the corporations. For example, when the Obama Administration announced it would stop the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian parent company of the pipeline announced it would use the ISDS provisions to overturn that decision. When the Canadian government banned the use of the toxic gasoline additive MMT, the U.S. manufacturer U.S. Ethyl sued over Canada's ban, even though MMT was already banned in the U.S. Ethyl ultimately settled the case for $13 million in damages.
Trade agreements like NAFTA have also failed to address the problem of governments actively engaging in efforts to manipulate the value of their currencies in order to ensure that their exports remain cheaper than U.S. produced goods. In 1994 after passage of NAFTA, the value of the Mexican peso dropped by 40 percent, making Mexican produced goods much cheaper.
It is time to replace NAFTA with a trade deal that benefits working families in all three countries, not just multinational corporations and investors.
CWA led the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), building strong opposition to one -sided trade deals designed to increase corporate profits at the expense of workers’ living standards. CWA will not tolerate NAFTA renegotiations held in back rooms and behind closed doors by big corporations, with no transparency and no public input. Working people and communities must have a voice and a seat at the table now, at the start of the process.
CWA will not accept a renegotiated NAFTA that’s another version of the anti-democratic, anti-worker TPP. This is why CWA has continued working with our allies in labor, the environmental community, consumer rights advocates, family farmers and the faith community here in the U.S. who fought side by side with us against the TPP. It is also why CWA recently joined together with labor, environmental, faith, farmer and other non-governmental organizations from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to develop and issue a statement of joint principles for a renegotiated NAFTA that will put our concerns into any renegotiated trade deal.
We believe that a better NAFTA will do the following:
- Eliminate provisions that give corporations enhanced powers, especially the private system of justice only available to corporations known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
- Include provisions to protect human rights, environment, migrant indigenous people, and workers’ rights, including the core ILO conventions on workers’ rights, as part of the core text of the agreement
- Strengthen workers’ rights by ensuring that the labor provisions included in the core text of the agreement include meaningful enforcement provisions that can be used to increase wages and benefits and strengthen organizing and collective bargaining
- Include strong rules against currency
- Make certain that “Buy American” laws remain in force and not allow any provisions that would undermine efforts to keep call center and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. or force privatization of public services.
Working families will be watching as the renegotiation begins.
Resolved: CWA will work with coalition partners from the environmental, human rights, labor, faith and consumer rights communities as we did in the successful campaign against the anti-worker, anti-democratic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to spotlight the harm that NAFTA has caused to CWA members and millions of people in all three countries.
Resolved: CWA will continue working with allies and key stakeholders from Mexico and Canada to ensure that our progressive communities in all three countries remain united in our demands and efforts to influence the NAFTA renegotiation and ensure it addresses all our concerns.
Resolved: CWA will mobilize at every level of our union to press policymakers and elected officials that any renegotiated NAFTA must work for working families and communities, not just multinational corporations and investors.
Resolved: CWA will hold the Trump administration accountable for the promises it has made that a new NAFTA will be a good deal for U.S. workers, protecting U.S. jobs from offshoring and creating good-paying U.S. jobs.