"NAFTA is a story of extremes: benefits and progress for the few, and poverty and decline for the many. NAFTA should be renegotiated to promote fair trade relations among Mexico, the United States, and Canada. A new treaty should assure just treatment for workers and full enforcement of the labor laws of each country. Mexico's labor code should be fully enforced, and the government's labor authorities as well as unions should defend the authentic interests of workers."
-Julia Quiñonez, Comité Fronterizo de Obreras, 2017
In November 2019, over forty trade unionists, academics, allies, and policy practitioners including the CFO from Canada, Mexico, and the United States gathered in Erie, Pennsylvania.
They gathered to attend “Overcoming Fear: Creating A Trinational Workers Toolkit.” This event emerged out of seven previous Trinational labor gatherings put on by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. This event was geared towards building international solidarity to overcome reactionary and right-wing rhetoric around trade, migration, climate, and gender. This created a foundation of a toolkit to help progressives in each country provide a proactive message on these issues. Over the last 9 months, these 40+ activists have deliberated, developed, and built the following toolkit. We hope it is useful to activists everywhere and can help guide the international solidarity we need.
USMCA ("NAFTA 2.0")
In a speech to the Mexican Congress during his 12.1.18 inauguration, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador charged that 36 years of neoliberal economic reforms, including NAFTA, had lowered the purchasing power of Mexico’s minimum wage by 60%.
When NAFTA was being renegotiated to create the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) as its replacement, a requirement was that Mexico pass labor reform laws. Both this and the election of President López Obrador resulted in Mexico’s Morena Labor Reform Laws. They were to greatly improve collective bargaining practices and internal union life.
In the U.S., passage of the USMCA was fast-tracked for 7.1.20 implementation. The majority of the strongest pro-labor U.S. representatives voted against its passage. All environmental groups opposed it, at least because mention of global warming was forbidden in the document. There were no substantial changes from NAFTA in the agricultural regulations, thus enabling conventional growers in the U.S. to export crops such as genetically-modified corn.
Labor organizations, including those with transnational solidarity for workers in all three countries, asked how strong and effective the new labor components actually would be. The case of labor attorney Susan Prieto Terrazas in 2020 has indicated that they are not being enforced in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Chihuahua. https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2020/07/10/susana-prieto-terrazas-juarez-labor-lawyer-faces-new-charges/3287089001/ Because of her work to aid maquiladora workers and help organize an independent union, she was arrested and jailed one month before implementation of the USMCA. Labor provisions within it appear to be skirted in her case as charges against her had nothing to do with labor law and appear false. This precedent is not hopeful for substantial improvement under the latest free trade agreement. The work for justice continues.
Labor Rights Enforcement in the USMCA
July 7, 2020