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WORKER SOLIDARITY IN ACTION: A TRI-NATIONAL LABOR RESPONSE TO THE RE-NEGOTIATION OF NAFTA
October 19-20, 2017 - Chicago

On October 19-20, 2017, we organized a Tri-National Labor Gathering with representation from 25 unions and 20 other civil society organizations to elaborate a collective response to a re-negotiation of NAFTA that privileges corporate profit over people and planet.

Held as part of our long-running series of Tri-National Labor Gatherings, this year’s meeting took place in Chicago and was co-organized by the UCLA Labor Center and the United Electrical Workers, who hosted us in their historic Western Region Hall.

Recently proposed multilateral “trade” agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), have had little to do with conventional trade and much to do with securing profits for large corporations through intellectual property protections and other measures. Some of these—including “ISDS mechanisms” that let corporations sue governments in private courts to undermine regulations that infringe on profit-making opportunities—have drawn widespread criticism and led to the trans-partisan backlash that toppled both TPP and TTIP negotiations.

Now the fight moves to NAFTA, which Trump, together with his right-wing and pro-corporate associates, hopes to use to reinforce a trade model that gives big business free rein to trample on workers’ rights and the environment. Where Obama failed with his air of reason and deference to expertise, Trump hopes to succeed with overt racism, chauvinism, and xenophobia.

In this context, our meeting brought together important actors, from labor as well as other sectors, who form part of the loose-knit tri-national coalition opposed to these crooked trade deals. We spent two days discussing the impacts of NAFTA on workers and our own possibilities for collaboration, and concluded in workshop groups that began to elaborate specific plans to prevent a Trump-style re-negotiation and articulate our own people-centered vision for trade.

The spirit of the gathering and its main results were captured in this article published by In These Times.

Based on his panel remarks, longtime Tri-National Gathering participant David Bacon outlines the ways that NAFTA has contributed to lower wages and working standards, environmental catastrophe, and devastating forced migration in an article in The American Prospect.

Photos from the event can be found here.

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Flickr/Ryan Lejbak

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Flickr/Ryan Lejbak

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