A Not-So-Modest Proposal to Reform NAFTA

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

The next NAFTA negotiation round officially begins Nov. 17, and the news isn't all bad. It may sound crazy, but the same administration that put a Goldman Sachs and OneWest operative in charge of the Treasury Department and an anti-public school advocate in charge of the Department of Education recently made a NAFTA proposal that would nearly eliminate the private corporate justice system known as ISDS (investor-to-state dispute settlement).

This proposal alone is not enough to fix NAFTA's many shortcomings, but it is a step in the right direction. As trade activists know, ISDS is nothing more than a crony capitalist giveaway that reduces our power as citizens to impact our government. It gives foreign companies the right to use private tribunals to attack local, state and national decisions they deem not "fair and equitable." This private justice system has been used to attack worker training programs, local building permit decisions and even criminal indictments of corporate CEOs.

For the United States, NAFTA’s ISDS means our democratic choices are threatened and foreign companies have as much sovereignty as the U.S. government. It acts like a free insurance policy that rewards outsourcing. It provides an edge for foreign companies over small, local businesses. For our trading partners, the corporate power of ISDS is even more insidious, because their governments are not as powerful as our own. In other words, it is a win-win for global companies (no matter what country they like to call "home") and a lose-lose for workers that makes it even harder to join together to negotiate for better wages—no matter where we live or work.

The U.S. proposal, designed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, would allow each NAFTA party to opt out of being sued by foreign investors. More importantly, for those who opt in, it would eliminate claims based on the vague and easily abused "fair and equitable treatment" standard. It reportedly even would close a loophole that would allow U.S. companies to "pretend" to be foreign companies so they can seek U.S. taxpayer funds in these private kangaroo courts.

As you might imagine, corporate CEOs and their powerful lobbies are freaking out about this proposal. They are panicked that they might lose this special privilege and have to play on a more level playing field.

We don’t know whether this proposal will make it into any final renegotiated NAFTA, and even if it does, there are lots of other things that need to be improved, including labor protections, currency rules and the right to label meat by country of origin. But this is one bright proposal in times of extreme challenge for North American working families.

To get involved this week, the most important thing you can right now do is ask your member of Congress to speak up for higher wages and labor standards in NAFTA. We need to keep pushing for trade rules that work for all working people. 

*Note: Given the secrecy of the NAFTA proposals, we know a lot about the details about the ISDS proposal because they have been extensively reported in the media. 

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work