Pro-Worker Dems Bargain With Trump Trade Rep About Worker Rights and the ‘New NAFTA’

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

A coalition of pro-worker House Democrats, led by veteran Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., opened talks on June 25 with GOP President Donald Trump’s trade negotiator about writing strong and specific worker rights straight into Trump’s “new NAFTA,” rather than just into U.S. legislation to implement the controversial “free trade” pact.

“We have made it clear from Day One there must be changes in the agreement” itself, DeLauro said in an interview after a Capitol Hill press conference that day with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, other union reps and other pro-worker lawmakers.

Trumka called the confab to present more than 200,000 names on “National Day Of Action” petitions demanding Congress not even consider, much less approve, legislation implementing the ‘new NAFTA’ – formally called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- unless there are strong and enforceable worker rights sections.

With such strictures, Mexican wages would increase, unions and workers say. “If Mexican wages are not allowed to increase, they” – corporations – “will continue to suck jobs out of the U.S.,” Trumka warned. 

One reason the lawmakers and unions want the pro-worker requirements written into the trade pact’s text itself is they don’t trust Trump, or U.S. multinationals, to follow any law implementing the new agreement.

“Go back to 1992-93, when NAFTA passed,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., an Electrical Worker and former head of the South Jersey Building Trades Council. NAFTA proponents “promised we’d get more and better-paying jobs, but if you were a worker, you got royally screwed.”

“So the idea of ‘Trust me again and somehow it’ll be different’ isn’t going to do it.”

“My workers asked for” a new trade pact, “but they also said ‘Don’t give us the shaft,’” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., whose district includes Detroit 3 auto plants, such as Ford’s River Rouge. “We need an enforceable deal that pays American workers fairly and Mexican workers fairly.”

The worker rights sections of the USMCA are important. NAFTA, the 25-year-old pact it would replace, cost the U.S. between 770,000 and one million industrial jobs and thousands more white-collar jobs, such as in call centers. Machinists Legislative Director Hasan Solomon said his union alone lost 40,000 aerospace jobs as bosses moved 300 factories to Mexico.

As a result, the AFL-CIO and its member unions have been lobbying hard for enforceable worker rights and Trumka led a 3-day trade pact town hall listening tour to Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit earlier in June.

Those enforceable worker rights include extensive labor law reform in Mexico, establishment of a Mexican Labor Department and a new court system to handle worker rights, free – not pro-company – Mexican unions and hiring of thousands of labor rights inspectors there.

They also include an end, in four years, to the 700,000 contracts those sham unions signed with multinational corporations, Trumka said. He previously doubted Mexico could achieve those goals, even more so since he reported multinationals are now challenging USMCA’s Mexican ratification in 96 court cases.

All those worker rights proposals, and more, were thought to be in the enabling legislation Trump has yet to send to Congress to implement the USMCA. DeLauro and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., made it clear those rights must be in the pact itself, especially since lawmakers theoretically cannot change the USMCA or the legislation Trump sends with it.

“There must be amendments to the text” of the “free trade” pact, DeLauro said in an interview after the press conference. “That has been our understanding from the outset and the U.S. Trade Representative has been told that,” DeLauro said of Trump’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer.

"We have said we want changes in the agreement,” not just in the bill Trump sends to Capitol Hill, Schakowsky added.

“Activists are demanding there be no vote on NAFTA 2.0” – the USMCA – “until it’s fixed,” said Lori Wallach, a trade expert who heads Public Citizen’s Trade Watch. “The petitions demand strong labor and environmental standards” in all three countries, but particularly in Mexico, “and that enforcement be swift and certain.”

She also noted there is precedent for rewriting the actual texts of trade pacts once they’re supposedly signed, sealed and delivered to presidents by Congress, with the enabling laws, too.

Three trade pacts the GOP George W. Bush administration signed in 2006 were reopened and renegotiated after congressional Democrats took power that fall and demanded it. The one pact Bush refused to reopen lost, Wallach said.

And both Wallach and Hassan warned of political trouble should Lighthizer, and Trump, not budge. “Expect an ugly fight” in Congress over the USMCA if Trump stays stubborn, said Wallach.

“I want to be crystal clear,” Hassan added.” This message is for any candidate for president or running for Congress: If you support NAFTA 2.0 as currently written, please do NOT call the Machinists union for an endorsement, political support or a contribution. You need to call Mexico for support! Because that’s exactly where NAFTA 2.0 will send our good American jobs.” 

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

He Gets the Bucks, We Get All the Deadly Bangs

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre has had better weeks. First came the horrific early August slaughters in California, Texas, and Ohio that left dozens dead, murders that elevated public pressure on the NRA’s hardline against even the mildest of moves against gun violence. Then came revelations that LaPierre — whose labors on behalf of the nonprofit NRA have made him a millionaire many times over — last year planned to have his gun lobby group bankroll a 10,000-square-foot luxury manse near Dallas for his personal use. In response, LaPierre had his flacks charge that the NRA’s former ad agency had done the scheming to buy the mansion. The ad agency called that assertion “patently false” and related that LaPierre had sought the agency’s involvement in the scheme, a request the agency rejected. The mansion scandal, notes the Washington Post, comes as the NRA is already “contending with the fallout from allegations of lavish spending by top executives.”

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Corruption Coordinates

Corruption Coordinates