AFL-CIO, Allies Disappointed in Trump’s NAFTA Renegotiation Letter

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Republican President Donald Trump’s formal letter notifying lawmakers that he intends to renegotiate NAFTA, the jobs-losing 23-year-old U.S.-Mexico-Canada “free trade” pact, doesn’t go far enough, the AFL-CIO and its allies say.

In particular, any new NAFTA must ensure Mexico not only lives up to international labor rights standards, but raises its wages to livable levels, congressional Democrats said.

The Economic Policy Institute calculates the trade pact cost up to a million U.S. industrial jobs since its enactment. On the campaign trail last year, Trump called NAFTA “a disaster,” but his letter says a lot less, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka notes.

“A good outcome is far from guaranteed” from the new bargaining, Trumka explained. “While the president has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, his administration has given conflicting signals as to its priorities, raising the prospect that some of NAFTA’s most problematic elements could remain intact.

In a new NAFTA, “we must elevate and effectively enforce workers’ rights and environmental standards, eliminate excessive corporate privileges, prioritize good jobs and safeguard democracy. This is the standard we will use to judge any renegotiation...We will continue to fight to fix a trade deal that wreaked havoc on working families.”

The Democrats concentrated on Mexico’s low wages, its failure to live up to universal labor standards, and the impact on U.S. factory workers. They’ll also focus on “who is involved in the negotiations,” and they want to kill its secret pro-corporate trade courts, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said. NAFTA benefited multinationals, who exercised huge influence on it.

“NAFTA’s ongoing damage to good paying jobs must end. This administration cannot rely on corporate advisors and lobbyists as past administrations have done. They must produce a rewritten NAFTA that puts working Americans ahead of corporations,” she added.

“In meetings to date, the administration evaded questions about a core problem with NAFTA: A wholly deficient labor regime in Mexico that kept wages low and workers without the rights to change the system,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. “There will be no change in NAFTA, and there will be no stemming the loss of the U.S. jobs, unless this issue of labor costs is fully addressed. It must be front and center in any renegotiation.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, also a top Dem on trade, reminded Trump he won last year in part because he drew voters with his blasts at NAFTA. That included union voters.  “The jobs and trade issue has become so important to our nation that it became the tipping point for this past presidential election in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin,” said Kaptur.

“Renegotiating NAFTA is an opportunity to rectify” workers’ struggles since its passage. “The question remains whether President Trump will follow through as he promised them.” Levin, DeLauro and Kaptur are among the top Democrats on trade issues.



Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

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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