Future of NAFTA 2.0 Could Turn on Labor Rights

Scott Sinclair Director of the Trade and Investment Research Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The next phase, legislative approval, is a foregone conclusion in Canada (where the Liberals have a parliamentary majority and Conservative support) and Mexico (where the newly elected president and his allies control the Senate and can count on support from opposition senators).  But that is not the case in Washington. Under “fast-track” rules mandated by legislation, the USMCA must be approved, with no amendments, by a simple majority in both chambers of Congress.

Although Congress cannot amend the deal, it can insist on commitments about how the USMCA is to be implemented. In effect, these could amount to changes. Furthermore, if the White House anticipates a negative vote in the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the U.S. administration might come back to Canada and Mexico demanding textual revisions, interpretive side letters and/or new assurances about how the deal is to be implemented in each country.

The USMCA’s labor provisions are certain to be a key area of ongoing discussion and contention.  The incoming Democratic leadership in the House and labor allies have expressed a clear need for stronger assurances on the enforcement of labor rights. Such a development might even be welcome to the Canadian and new Mexican governments.

On the other hand, a group of 40 Republican legislators (most of whom were re-elected) have threatened to vote against the deal because the labor chapter forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Removing or even diluting such fundamental human rights would be a difficult, perhaps politically impossible pill for the Trudeau government to swallow.

The USMCA labor provisions represent an improvement over previous free trade agreements, but those agreements set a low bar. The original NAFTA, for example, contained no binding provisions protecting labor rights or standards. NAFTA’s labor side agreement, negotiated by the Clinton administration to secure congressional approval of the trade deal, was toothless and ineffective.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work