Trump’s new NAFTA labor rules to be tested

Better than NAFTA, but how real are the labor rights provisions that were added to Trump’s trade treaty with Mexico and Canada? A new filing by the national AFL-CIO aims to find out.

The AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union have filed the first ever labor complaint under the trade treaty President Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA. According to the complaint, workers at the Tridonex auto-parts plant in Matamoros—just across the border from Brownsville, Texas—haven’t been able to elect union leaders or ratify a contract, and 600 were fired in acts of retaliation for union activity. Those things violate labor rights commitments that Mexico made in the treaty.

When protests broke out in 2019, many of the plant’s roughly 4,000 workers earned just above the then-minimum wage of $8.82 a day. The workers and thousands more at other Matamoros factories walked off the job demanding a 20% raise. In nearly all cases, the companies conceded. But those concessions were followed by waves of retaliatory firings.

Under the treaty, companies violating freedom of association for Mexico’s workers can face tariffs and other penalties.

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