North American labor federations blast NAFTA
The heads of three major Canadian, Mexican and US labor federations responded to the Aug. 10 "Tres Amigos" summit—a meeting of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and US president Barack Obama in Mexico City—with a joint statement criticizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a 15-year-old agreement on trade between the three countries. The statement was signed by Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Kenneth Georgetti; Francisco Hernández Juárez, president of the National Workers Union (UNT), Mexico's second-largest union federation; and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor federation.
"NAFTA did not create more net trade-related jobs," the statement said, "and those that it did were very often less stable, with lower wages and fewer benefits. Instead, increased trade largely benefited the corporate elite in all three countries. Income inequality has also grown in the region." The union leaders noted that the "failure of the North American economies post-NAFTA to create the decent jobs necessary to absorb displaced workers and new entrants has forced many into a desperate search to find employment elsewhere." Employers in Canada and the US have used their "access to a large and poorly regulated workforce of undocumented and temporary migrant workers" from Mexico to "undermine...all workers by failing to afford the basic labor rights and protections to everyone."
The statement called for greater labor rights in all three countries and for expanded economic development, including "a substantial transfer of investment funds to generate job growth" in Mexico. (Mexican Labor News & Analysis, August 2009; AFL-CIO Now Blog, Aug. 14)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 25