|ONLINE VERSION||VOLUME 106 - NUMBER 8 - SEPTEMBER 1997|
|NAFTA Expansion Plans Draws Labor's Ire|
|Labor is leading the charge
to put the brakes on fast track legislation that would
expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to
23 more countries in Central America and the Carribean.
Fast track authority limits the Senate to an up-or-down vote without any amendments on trade agreements reached by U.S. negotiators.
The Clinton Administration is expected to ask for fast track authorization in mid-September, despite being able to only cobble together a few examples of "modest positive" effects on the U.S. economy from NAFTA in a recent report required by law.
Labor disputes whether the net effect has been positive at all, pointing out not only the much predicted job loss, but also unanticipated side effects such as unsafe food entering the country and increase opportunities for drug smuggling.
"NAFTA has contributed to increased inequality in all three North American countries," explained AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "By increasing the mobility and flexibility of multinational corporations, NAFTA undermines the bargaining power of North American workers and puts downward pressure on wages and working conditions."
According to AFL-CIO calculations, the $30 billion loss to the U.S. balance of trade under NAFTA has cost 420,000 jobs. In addition, many U.S. employers now counter employee requests for wage and benefit increases with a threat to move to Mexico.
Closed factories and eroded wages can directly hurt rail workers in their contract fights and through a decreasing customer base for the railroads.
Labor, joined by key House Democratic leaders such as Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), wants to ensure that any NAFTA expansion includes enforceable worker and environmental protections in the core agreement.
BMWE members are asked to call their U.S. representative toll free at 1-888-723-5246 and ask that he or she oppose fast track authority for NAFTA expansion.