USW - United Steelworkers

12/10/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/10/2019 16:39

USW Supports Adoption of Improved USMCA

Contact: Jess Kamm Broomell, 412-562-2444, [email protected]

(Pittsburgh) - United Steelworkers (USW) International President Thomas M. Conway issued the following statement today regarding changes to improve the negotiated U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA).

'Members of the USW, the largest industrial union in North America, have suffered firsthand the devastating effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The bad trade deal cost countless jobs, ravaged families and communities and pulled down wages as companies have outsourced jobs and production to Mexico.

'For 26 years, workers have lived with NAFTA as a yoke around their necks, and we have been committed to fixing it.

'Last fall, the administration, along with the Mexican and Canadian governments, signed an agreement they thought would sail past the labor community. But that agreement, called the USMCA, fell far short of what workers in all three countries needed.

'Since the negotiations to improve the proposed USMCA began last year, we have been deeply involved in identifying essential changes to help working people, coordinating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats and other key leaders to address significant problems.

'The core concern has always been that companies profit by exploiting their workers - here, in Mexico and across the globe.

'In Mexico, there are hundreds of thousands of so-called 'protection contracts' signed by corporations with sham unions that have no regard for the interests, rights or needs of workers. Workers at facilities in Mexico operated by some of the world's biggest and most profitable corporations are paid only a fraction of what workers get in the United States or Canada for essentially the same work. Workers who have attempted to form democratic unions have faced repression, violence and murder.

'The original USMCA required changes in Mexican labor law that we supported, as they were clearly better than current law. But the agreement had no clear path to ensure that workers' rights would be safeguarded.

'The updated draft agreement now has enforcement provisions that can help make a difference. There is still a great deal of work to do in terms of implementing, monitoring and enforcing the provisions, but the base for progress is there.

'There were also problematic provisions in the original USMCA that showered U.S. drug companies with huge opportunities for higher monopoly profits. Democrats, working with labor, were able to eliminate this language from the agreement.

'In addition, the labor movement, working with Democrats and other key allies, was also able to beat back portions of the original USMCA that would have jeopardized our ability to protect a sustainable environment.

'The revised deal is better than the original USMCA and certainly better than NAFTA. It should be adopted. The leaders of all three countries must diligently enforce the provisions, however, and we intend to hold them accountable to ensure that workers, the environment and consumers are protected.

'No one should overplay this agreement's impact, or underestimate the work that remains to be done. Mexico must devote the money, resources and political will required to implement its commitments. The U.S. and Canadian governments must be active and vigilant in ensuring that companies respect workers' rights in all of their facilities.

'We also have concerns about definitions of aluminum sourced in North America as they exist in the agreement. We have been on the frontlines protecting jobs in smelting and casting, but leaders of all three countries should be equally invested in this industry.

'Speaker Pelosi, the members of the Democratic Working Group and key leaders such as Sens. Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden deserve our thanks for their efforts and refusal to back down in the face of massive special interest lobbying. Mexican Senator Napoleón Gómez Urrutia should also be recognized for his key role in facilitating dialogue between the labor movement and the Mexican government.

'Outsourcing won't end as companies continue to search the globe for places where they can profit off of the hard work of others, spoil the environment to improve their balance sheets and raise prices for basic needs. The fight for fair trade won't end with this agreement, but it's an agreement worth passing.'

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.