NAFTA Must be Fought from the Ground Up

A group of local labor leaders, activists, and politicians met in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take part in a forum regarding NAFTA renegotiations, which were set to begin this week in Washington. Of course, the main focus was how to rework the free trade deal to instead be fair for all workers instead of favoring CEOs.

“It’s urgent that workers’ voices be heard,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard. “If the agreement is renegotiated and doesn’t meet the standard that workers have a voice, we’ll have a very aggressive campaign to stop this new NAFTA.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey also touched on one point that perhaps many in the debate tend to miss, which is that NAFTA can't just be reworded with the hope that it solves all of our economic problems. The countries must also tackle policies put in place outside of the failed trade deal in all three nations involved—the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

One of these things, Casey pointed out, is tax reform. As of now, there is no financial incentive to keep U.S. companies operating on U.S. soil. Our tax code does the opposite and encourages them instead to ship jobs overseas and into Mexico.

Labor must also fight back on President Trump’s budget proposals, which cut funding for vital systems and institutions like infrastructure and job training. He also wants to cut the labor department by 21 percent.

Lastly, allies must work together to raise the standard of living for people in Mexico, and not just because it will benefit the United States but because it is the right thing to do. Their wages should not be $3 an hour. That is criminal, and it benefits nobody except those at the top.

Renegotiating NAFTA is not a simple task. It is not a single-issue matter. Let’s hope those at the bargaining table take into consideration all of the many moving pieces in order to put them into the right place for all workers.


To contribute a piece for Union Matters, email with your story (less than 350 words) along with a short bio.