Politico is reporting that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will brief his executive council this afternoon on proposed changes to the new North American trade agreement, offering the latest sign that a compromise deal is in its final stages.
Two union officials with knowledge of the plans confirmed to POLITICO that the briefing will take place via conference call this afternoon. It comes after U.S. and Mexican negotiators spent last week and part of the weekend negotiating changes to the pact’s labor, enforcement, and other provisions to satisfy demands from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders.
POLITICO reported on Saturday that the U.S. and Mexico had resolved the major outstanding issues and were checking with all parties to see if further changes were needed.
Trumka told POLITICO this morning that a deal has “not yet” been finalized, “regardless of what’s said.”
Democrats have for months been working closely with Trumka in an attempt to reach a deal that organized labor can support — or at least will not openly oppose. An endorsement from the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor union, is likely to garner enough support for the USMCA from congressional Democrats to pass the deal in the House.
“We have pushed them hard and have done quite well,” Trumka said in an email to the Washington Post this morning.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said unions are supportive of the new North American trade pact, as he ramps up his push for Congress to approve the deal this summer. But the head of America’s largest labor organization thinks Trump’s claim is laughable.
“Maybe he’s talking about the unions in some other country?” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told POLITICO, laughing at Trump’s suggestion that unions are “in favor” of the deal his administration negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA.
“I don’t have a clue” where Trump gets that from, Trumka said, “because we’re pretty united.” Unions in the U.S., he warned, will not support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in its current form.
The AFL-CIO and other major unions like United Automobile Workers have said the USMCA features some improvements for workers compared with NAFTA, but the Trump administration still has work to do to earn their backing.
And while ratification of the USMCA is Trump’s top legislative priority this year, getting the deal approved in the Democrat-controlled House could hinge on the administration’s ability to address the shared concerns of House Democrats and organized labor, such as securing changes to bolster enforcement of the pact.
Trumka emphasized that labor unions want to support USMCA, but he cautioned the administration to allow time for negotiations with House Democrats to play out.
“We still have a lot of work to do and rushing this thing or trying to push it through to a vote will backfire, because if people were forced to vote on the current text, they would have to vote ‘no,'” Trumka said in an interview Monday, ahead of a three-day NAFTA town hall series the AFL-CIO is hosting in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have made clear that the administration must make changes to the deal’s provisions on enforcement, labor, the environment, and drug pricing before a final vote can be held. Last week, Pelosi appointed nine House Democrats to four committees that will negotiate proposed changes on those topics with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Lighthizer has been active in courting congressional support for the deal. He has expressed a desire to get the pact approved with backing from a large number of Democrats and held numerous meetings with Democratic lawmakers in an effort to listen to their concerns.
The U.S. trade chief has repeatedly told Democrats he does not want to send Congress legislation to implement the trade deal until Pelosi gives her blessing.
But in recent weeks, House Democrats and insiders tracking the deal increasingly believe that other administration officials are growing impatient and want to move more quickly by sending the bill to Capitol Hill without Pelosi’s support.
“There are people in the Trump administration that are trying to rush this thing through and I think it’s a terrible, foolish strategy because it will blow up in their face,” Trumka said. “I think the reasonable people in the Trump administration know it’s more important to get this right than to do it tomorrow.”
If the administration decides to make a pressure play, Pelosi could short-circuit consideration of the deal by removing it from the so-called fast-track procedure Congress agreed to under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. That process allows the deal to be approved in an up-or-down vote by a simple majority in both chambers, in an effort to provide for speedier approval of trade deals.
The two articles shared here are provided to CUE as part of our subscription with POLITICO PRO. The article on the new AFL-CIO political candidate endorsement process was written by Ian Kullgren. The article on labor standards reform in Mexico was written by Doug Palmer.
The AFL-CIO will require Democratic candidates to get their hands dirty if they wish to receive an endorsement from the nation’s largest labor federation in 2020, president Richard Trumka said today.
Trumka, speaking to the Economic Club of Washington, detailed a new endorsement system that will involve candidates working with union members for several hours in order to receive an invitation to a larger forum later this year.
“We’re asking candidates to come out and actually work on the job with our members for half a day,” Trumka said.
Those who do will then meet with a panel of workers to take questions.
“If they do that,” Trumka said, “then we will invite them to a forum later in the year, probably in mid-September this year, where workers will ask questions and be able to do follow up.”
The new system speaks to the more cautious approach unions are taking after 2016, when portions of their membership who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) felt burned by early union endorsements of Hillary Clinton.
The AFL-CIO, by contrast, didn’t endorse Clinton until June 2016, after the contest was essentially over. In 2020, Trumka suggested that the labor federation may not endorse a candidate at all in 2020.
“I guess it’s possible that we would not endorse a candidate,” Trumka said. “No matter how I answer that question it’s going to get misconstrued.”
Union workers will need proof that Mexico will follow through on a promise to hold votes to potentially eliminate about 700,000 collective bargaining agreements before backing President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the head of the largest U.S. labor group said Tuesday.
“They have four years to eliminate all 700,000 protectionist contracts,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said during an on-stage interview at the Economics Club of Washington. “That’s about 175,000 a year, and we haven’t seen them having the ability to do that.”
Trumka’s statement shows the problem Trump continues to have in persuading Democratic members of Congress to support his new trade deal.
In one positive for labor, the U.S. International Trade Commission’s recently estimated that the USMCA’s provisions could increase wages in Mexico by 17.2 percent.
“The agreement, if enforced, would strengthen labor standards and rights, including those related to collective bargaining in Mexico, which would promote higher wages and better labor conditions in that country,” the ITC said.
Trumka said Mexico needs to demonstrate they have the “infrastructure” in place to conduct those votes on the 700,000 collective bargaining agreements before the AFL-CIO can support the USMCA.
Mexico’s existing union contracts were negotiated by “sham unions that were actually part of the government,” Trumka said. “The sham union would go in with the government, negotiate an inferior low-wage contract, and workers didn’t even know they had a contract or were part of a union.”
The Trump administration says it has worked hard to address the AFL-CIO’s concerns in the new pact.
“What Mexico is doing on labor reforms is really revolutionary,” a senior U.S. trade officials told reporters last week. “Mexico’s agreed to go back and have verified secret ballot votes on all 700,000 existing collective bargaining agreements in their country. That’s not a small thing.”
The congressionally mandated ITC report also details many ways that the USMCA is an improvement over the 25-year-old NAFTA, which relegated labors provisions to an unenforceable side agreement.
In contrast, “USMCA labor provisions are subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as other provisions in the agreement,” the ITC said.
USMCA also prohibits the three countries from eliminating or weakening their existing labor regulations to attract more investment and trade, the ITC said.
Union workers need proof on the ground that Mexico is capable of following through on that promise, starting with the adoption of new labor legislation, Trumka said.
The union chief said he would resist any appeal from the Trump administration to trust that they would take care of his concerns after USMCA is approved by Congress.
“I was born at night, but not last night,” Trumka said.