NAFTA Can’t Be Fixed Behind Closed Doors

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

This week, the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico will begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA.

NAFTA, which has been governing our economy since 1994, is a bad deal. It has held down wages across North America. It has empowered global corporations to offshore jobs, shutter factories and drive small farmers out of business. It has driven away more than 850,000 U.S. jobs. It has made our economy more unequal and unfair.

Renegotiation offers a chance to give North America’s working families a new economic deal, so that any benefits of international trade can be shared broadly instead of being captured by the largest global corporations and their CEOs.

The first step to replacing NAFTA with a new economic deal is to negotiate in an open and transparent manner. If the proposals to fix NAFTA are only developed and discussed behind closed doors, how will ordinary people have a fair chance to review and influence these rules? If the negotiators claim we must trust them to do what’s best, but they won’t show us the new rules we will have to live under, the likelihood of a better deal is slim.

There is an old saying in the labor movement that if you are not at the table, you’re on the menu. We can’t hold our government accountable if we don’t know what it’s doing in our name.

Now is the time to eliminate old-style, secretive trade negotiations and usher in open, 21st-century negotiations that allow citizen participation. Isn’t that what democracy is all about anyway? Click here to send a message to your elected official about the kind of new trade deal that working people need now!

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Reposted from AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work