Last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa hosted a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Conference regarding changes that Teamsters want to see in the new NAFTA.
What do we already know? NAFTA is unfair to workers, cost good jobs, and is not always good for business. There are unsafe trucks from Mexico being used by members, and Mexican workers need higher wages. President Hoffa claims labor’s voice is missing, and the Teamsters must do something about it. “In new NAFTA, it must contain a strong and enforceable labor chapter. New NAFTA, not modernized NAFTA.”
Rep. Brian Higgins (D- NY) responded on How Congress is influencing New NAFTA. “I would like to thank Teamsters for visionary leadership” and helping to educate all in the nation. Higgins emphasized that NAFTA agreement currently is not enforcing labor rules. “We [The U.S.] are the strongest economy, this is why we must lead NAFTA. We must protect and honor work of our country.”
Mike Dolan, Legislative Representative for Teamsters, mentioned a recent strike in Mexico, resulting in 2 striking miners killed by members of an employer union. From this story, Dolan concludes the need for strong labor rights which can also be enforceable. “Workers, no matter what country they live in, must have the right to fight for basic decency and respect on the job and work conditions.”
The Teamsters have been working closely with Congress and negotiations are unpredictable for labor right now. In the conference, the most important issues split into two categories: new NAFTA rules and bad NAFTA rules that must be pulled out. Under new NAFTA, Teamsters want a labor chapter, strong labor protections which the International Labor Organization (ILO) may enforce, and the right to organize for all workers.
Bad practices have arisen from NAFTA including the manipulation of currency, which makes it hard for US to export when the dollar is hugely manipulated. The government procurement chapter regarding “Buy American” seems to be a pro-American chapter, but instead reduces sales of American products and ends up hurting American workers. Finally, Teamsters demand substantial reform to Chapter 11: Investor-State Dispute Settlement, which they’ve been talking with the U.S. Trade Representative about and have reported to be working in the right direction. Teamsters can’t support final negotiations, but they are working alongside folks and are having some success.
Christy Bailey, Director of Political and Legislative Action, recounted the Teamsters efforts to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and similar to NAFTA, we want “no more bad trade deals” which give to big America and takes away from working America.
How to help? Get signatures to Congress, show up to strikes, and share with your community with the grassroots pressure from the Teamsters. You may see the Teamsters’ NAFTA updates by going onto www.teamster.org/nafta or text trade to 86466.