On February 12, the member-elected SEIU Executive Committee voted to sign on to the letter below, calling for better deal on NAFTA.
#ReplaceNAFTA Organizational Sign-On Letter
Dear Senator / Representative:
Too many Americans haven’t seen a pay increase in years and can’t find better-paying jobs in part because of trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Instead of leveling the playing field, NAFTA makes it easier for big corporations to outsource jobs to Mexico to take advantage of poverty wages and lax environmental standards. To date, more than 930,000 American jobs have been certified as lost to NAFTA under just one narrow government program. Meanwhile, Mexican median wages are down 9 percent in real terms since NAFTA and below $2 per hour, while American wages have remained flat.
The status quo of NAFTA helping corporations outsource more middle-class American jobs every week, while exposing critical health and environmental safeguards to attack in investor-state tribunals, is obviously unacceptable. But simply withdrawing from NAFTA is not enough to reverse the pact’s economic and environmental damage.
We ask that you please demand that NAFTA be replaced with a fair new trade agreement that, among other things, meets the following basic criteria:
- Stop outsourcing and raise wages by adding strong labor and environmental standards with swift and certain enforcement. Congress must not vote on a NAFTA replacement until each party adopts, maintains, implements — and enforces — domestic laws that provide the labor rights and protections included in the International Labor Organization’s Core Conventions and policies that fulfill the Paris climate accord and other core multilateral environmental agreements. New measures must specifically help raise wages, reduce pollution and put an end to existing “protection contracts” that lack majority support of the workers they cover. New tools must be added to ensure that independent monitoring and enforcement will occur, and preferential market access must be conditioned on sustained evidence of on-the-ground improvements, with social and environmental dumping tariffs imposed for backsliding.
- Eliminate NAFTA terms that promote the outsourcing of Americans’ jobs. This means eliminating the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system and the special investor protections it enforces that make it less risky and cheaper to outsource jobs, and that also empower corporations to attack environmental and health laws before tribunals of three corporate lawyers and get unlimited payouts of our tax dollars. Likewise, NAFTA procurement rules limiting the ability to direct our tax dollar investments must also be eliminated to further the creation and retention of American jobs by promoting the purchase of pro-worker, pro-environment American goods.
- Protect consumers and the environment and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers by ending NAFTA rules that threaten food safety and food labeling. Imported food must be required to meet U.S. safety standards, not the safety and inspection standards of Mexico and Canada, and enhanced border inspection must be added. The right to require food labeling — including mandatory country-of-origin labels for meat and dolphin-safe labels for tuna — must be explicitly affirmed and protected so consumers can make informed choices.
- Make medicine more affordable by eliminating NAFTA rules that increase costs. No terms that extend beyond the existing World Trade Organization patent rules or that limit countries’ abilities to negotiate lower prices for government health programs like Medicare or Medicaid are acceptable.
Ensure a fair playing field for American job creation by adding strong, enforceable disciplines against currency manipulation and misalignment. New binding disciplines against currency manipulation and misalignment must be added to NAFTA’s core text along with a commitment to cooperate tri-nationally to confront harmful currency manipulation and misalignment by trading partners around the world.
- Create American jobs and reinforce improved labor and environmental standards by strengthening “rules of origin” and stopping transshipment. Strengthened rules of origin to incentivize production in North America in general and the United States in particular must go hand-in-hand with significantly improving labor rights, wages, environmental standards and enforcement to effectively address American job loss and wage stagnation.
- Protect our health and the environment by requiring that all imported goods and all services and service providers meet U.S. standards and add a specific safeguard for domestic environmental, health, labor and other public interest policies. A broad “carve-out” must be added that exempts from the entire revised agreement’s terms all non-discriminatory domestic policies so as to provide a strong deterrent and defense to “trade” challenges to policies that governments use to protect workers, promote public health and highway safety, tackle climate change and otherwise advance broadly-shared goals.
- Boost the rural economy by overhauling NAFTA rules that harm family farmers. The right to establish domestic farm policies that ensure that farmers are paid fairly for their crops and livestock must be safeguarded. NAFTA rules that forbid countries to establish and implement many farm and food policies — such as inventory management, strategic food reserves, import surge protections and other anti-dumping mechanisms — must be eliminated. Maintaining market access and avoiding market disruption is also important. New tariffs on U.S. exports could cause serious harm to fragile family farms already suffering from below cost of production prices, as well as to other sectors of employment relating to food production.
- The NAFTA renegotiation process must be transparent and participatory. The original NAFTA was negotiated in a closed-door process dominated by hundreds of corporate trade advisors and, to date, much the same process has been used for NAFTA renegotiations. Moving forward, the public and all members of Congress must be invited to help formulate U.S. positions and comment on draft U.S. proposals. And negotiated texts must be made publicly available, with opportunity for comment, after each negotiating round.
In the absence of a binding and easily-enforced agreement based on these critical measures, Mexican workers will continue to be horribly exploited, American jobs will continue to be outsourced, the environment will continue to be degraded and the wages for workers in all three NAFTA countries will continue to decline.
We’re counting on your leadership in support of fair trade.