Trade Committee Gets an Earful on Workers’ Rights in the USMCA

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The USMCA – the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement, the trade deal that will serve as an update to NAFTA – has been signed by the heads of government of those three countries.  

But the deal was negotiated before the U.S. midterm elections in November when Democrats took control of the House. And Congress has to ratify trade deals that the United States will be a party to before they can take effect. And the president and congressional Democrats don’t often get along! This could become a problem for the White House.

Enter President Trump, most famous before winning the 2016 U.S. presidential election for his supporting role in the 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, who is now getting involvedin whipping votes for the deal. The president is gonna rely heavily on his boys, the House Republicans, to move it. But even if he gets every GOP vote, it will still require Democratic support to gain a majority.

And yet that Democratic support is no sure thing. To begin, the deal will only get a vote in the House if Speaker Nancy Pelosi allows one. Bloomberg reports:

Pelosi is expected to only move the deal through the House if she can find a critical mass of her caucus supporting it and if she extracts concessions unrelated to trade from the White House in return, senior congressional aides say.

The administration is trying to build that critical mass. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Trump’s chief trade negotiator, has spent time on Capitol Hill meeting with House Democrats to try to assuage their concerns about the deal – particularly its provisions on the environment, pharmaceutical drug prices, enforcement and labor.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been holding hearings to explore those concerns. And on Tuesdaythose concerns focused on the USMCA’s labor provision. The House Ways & Means subcommittee on trade heard testimony from unions, think tanks and trade associations on this topic, and more than one witness said:

1. Mexico’s low manufacturing wages, which have weighed down wages across the North American continent, must be raised, and

2. this needs to be done before the American labor movement will lend its support to the USMCA.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) asked Josh Nassar, legislative director of the United Autoworkers, about Mexico’s wage and labor obligations under USMCA. Here’s what Nassar said:    

"I think people need to understand how bad it is in Mexico. There’s a BMW plant there, for example, and the workers there were signed to a contract that they never saw and the plant wasn’t even operating yet. Because you have these company unions that dominate in Mexico. That is why wages are so low – they’re closely associated with the government.

"Is this really gonna break it up? Is this gonna break up that system? I can’t tell you that it will. And that is why we need to see action first. And not just promises, but actual action."

He went on:

"A lot of the pressure to keep the Mexican laws so weak comes from US corporations. And it’s not a matter of fact at all that US companies have done poorly by NAFTA. Many have done quite well. It’s workers in all three countries that have done poorly. That’s a fact."

And this is only on how USMCA handles labor rules. Sounds like the Trump administration may have some work to do to win Democratic support for its trade deal.

If you've got the time and this is your kinda thing, watch the whole hearing here:

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Reposted from AAM

There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work

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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