Tag Archives for " USMCA "

AFL-CIO’s Trumka laughs at Trump’s suggestion unions love new trade deal

  • June 18, 2019

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.

Mexico readies labor law overhaul

  • April 10, 2019

Mexico readies labor law overhaul, a move that could please Democrats

Mexico is finally poised to pass a major labor reform law this month, which would remove a major roadblock House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said is preventing Congress from considering the new North American trade pact.

A top Mexican official assured U.S. lawmakers that Mexico plans to pass the legislation by the end of April. This move would check off one of Mexico’s commitments under the replacement deal for NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, that President Donald Trump has championed.

“Let’s knock down USMCA if Mexico doesn’t pass that legislation, because yes, we are going to pass it,” Jesús Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, declared during a press conference last week.

Pressure has heated up in recent weeks for the Mexican Congress to pass the labor reform bill, as a growing number of Democrats on Capitol Hill have indicated that they are waiting for Mexico to make the necessary labor law changes before they consider the new deal. Democrats have long criticized the 25-year-old NAFTA for being toothless on workers’ rights in Mexico.

Mexico’s proposed labor changes would completely overhaul the country’s existing union structure, which has long been criticized for failing to protect workers. The majority of unions in Mexico are not independent and have been regarded as corrupt by U.S. union leaders.

The new law sets out to protect workers’ rights to collective bargaining. Secret votes would also be required at companies when a labor pool considers whether to unionize.

Addressing Mexican labor laws isn’t the only aspect of USMCA that Democrats have complained about. Several lawmakers are also worried that the deal’s labor and environment standards are not strongly enforceable. Some also have reservations over provisions they say could lock in high prescription drug prices.

Still, Mexico’s passage of the new law would be a major step toward the deal getting a vote before Congress.

Pelosi said last week consideration of USMCA would “take some time,” adding that lawmakers need to “see the evidence of what’s happening, not only that they pass the bill [in Mexico], but that they implement the policy.”

Several other lawmakers, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), will be closely monitoring the law’s results as well.

Brown agrees with Pelosi “that both enactment and implementation of labor law reforms that comply with the standards outlined in the agreement are necessary before Congress should consider the new NAFTA,” one of his staffers told POLITICO this week.

The most recent draft has been well-received by U.S. labor leaders, who are considered a crucial group needed to get Democrats to support the deal.

“Upon first review, this new bill is an improvement and meets a key criteria of ensuring workers can vote on their collective bargaining agreements,” said Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist for the AFL-CIO.

A U.S. labor representative told POLITICO recently that the previous draft of the Mexican labor bill fell short of the requirements outlined in Annex 23 of the new USMCA language. Some of the concerns included that the text did not fully outline that Mexico must have an independent body in place to register union elections and help resolve labor disputes tied to unions, this representative said.

The country’s major union organization, Confederation of Mexican Workers, has long been accused of entering into collective bargaining agreements that were signed between companies and unions without workers’ consent.

The current labor proposal would create a mechanism for all collective bargaining agreements to be renegotiated within four years of the law’s passage.

Another issue was whether the previous draft bill ensured that labor courts in Mexico cannot “unfairly extend and delay hearings” to avoid having to weigh in on union representation issues.

Drake cautioned that AFL-CIO will continue to review the bill, “as well as the mechanisms and resources that Mexico puts in place to ensure these changes make the rights to organize and negotiate not just a promise but a reality.”

“Our standard is you hit the bar on everything in Annex 23 totally, or this process should stop dead in the water,” she told POLITICO recently.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration have repeatedly said that Mexico would deliver on its promise to overhaul its workers rights regulations. López Obrador, a left-leaning populist who took office in December, made workers’ rights and labor justice a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

“There’s a coincidence of opinion with López Obrador and the Democrats in U.S. on this — in the sense of wanting to strengthen the protection of workers’ rights,” Kenneth Smith Ramos, chief NAFTA negotiator under former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, told POLITICO.

The labor law is important for USMCA, but “it’s also very important as a public policy piece for the López Obrador administration, so it will happen,” Smith Ramos added.

The Mexican government last week submitted a final draft of the legislation for Mexican lawmakers to review. The bill, which was first introduced in December, was “frozen for a while because of some technicalities,” Seade said.

A top Mexican lawmaker, Mario Delgado Carrillo, said Sunday that passing the law is a main priority for Mexico’s legislature, which is controlled by López Obrador’s party.

It remains to be seen how the Trump administration and lawmakers like Pelosi will view Mexico’s labor changes.

Seade said once the labor law passes, it will be important to find out how long Pelosi and other U.S. lawmakers want to monitor implementation before declaring the new law a success.

“Implementation is forever,” Seade said. “The law will be passed at the end of this month and the implementation starts immediately. There’s things that happen immediately, and there’s things that are scheduled to happen over time.”

USMCA signing does little to dispel labor skepticism

  • November 30, 2018

Some U.S. labor groups said they won’t support President Donald Trump’s new North American trade deal unless the administration makes major improvements to the deal.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, for one, said Friday that it can’t back the agreement in its current form.

“While we will continue to offer our suggestions to the administration and Congress with respect to improving the text, unless major changes are made so that outsourcing by corporations seeking Mexico’s suppressed labor costs are adequately addressed IAM cannot support NAFTA 2.0,” said Robert Martinez Jr., president of the union.

Support from labor groups, however tepid, could prove vital for getting broader support for the deal from a Democrat-controlled House next year.

Organized labor has repeatedly said that there have been no assurances that the deal’s labor rules with respect to Mexico will be enforced. The machinists group said the labor chapter “does not come close” to meeting the labor union’s requirements. The group also complained that rules to prevent the outsourcing of auto jobs to Mexico “inexplicably” don’t apply to other manufacturing sectors.

The United Steelworkers also expressed skepticism with the deal, saying that the burden is now on Mexico to make constitutional changes to overhaul the country’s labor arbitration system. U.S. labor groups have long complained that Mexican workers are hindered from forming independent unions, which has led to a trend of suppressed wages.

USW President Leo Gerard called the signing “only another step in the process to reform NAFTA.”

“Only when all the issues have been resolved and it’s clear that Mexico is fully and faithfully recognizing workers’ rights, should Congress vote on the agreement and implementing legislation,” he said in a statement.