by Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist
By now, you’ve probably heard of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). You might have heard that some businesspeople think it’s a great deal, while average working families—and those who stand with us—think it only works if you’re already at the top.
If you’ve been reading our blog regularly, then you know NAFTA is being renegotiated. That means working people like us have an opportunity to fix it. And we laid out the first step: open the negotiations so that average citizens, not just corporate lobbyists and CEOs, can participate. So far, it’s not clear the negotiators heard us—but you can help us keep up the pressure.
Even if they do keep the doors closed on the talks, we have to address the rules of the deal. The first rules that need replacement are the labor rules. The labor rules determine whether the playing field is fair for all workers or whether global corporations can treat us like pawns, bidding down our wages and working conditions as they increase their profits at our expense.
Given our long experience of trying to use trade rules to protect rights and freedoms for working people, we know what works and what doesn’t. We won’t fall for vague promises about NAFTA being the best deal ever for working people. Instead, we will be looking for specific provisions.
A fair North American deal will:
- Ensure that all three countries protect fundamental labor rights as set for in the International Labor Organization’s eight core conventions.
- Establish an independent monitoring and enforcement entity so that governments can’t use delay tactics to deny our rights.
- Establish prompt enforcement tools.
- Ensure that goods traded between the countries are made by workers being paid living wages.
- Protect migrant workers from fraud and abuse.
- Protect all workers from discrimination and trafficking.
- Contain effective tools to continually lift our wages and working conditions, rather then putting a ceiling on what we can achieve.
- Ensure that no communities are left behind—we must all prosper together or we won’t prosper at all.
Since the dawn of the modern trade era (roughly 1990), no trade deal has ever put working families first. But we know the rules we need to make it happen. But no one will fight for those rules if we don’t lead.
Are you ready to join us? Urge your representative to call for open, transparent NAFTA renegotiations.
Celeste Drake is the trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, where she advocates for reforms to U.S. trade policy to create shared gains from trade on behalf of working families. She has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, various House subcommittees and the U.S. International Trade Commission, and made presentations before the European Union’s Economic and Social Committee.