Over the last 477 days, we’ve fought to strengthen labor rights in the renegotiated trade agreement. We’ve organized workers and allies across the trinational corridor to convince negotiators that trade and labor are inextricably connected. It was worth it.
Late last night, we learned that negotiators listened to our demands. The full text of the new trinational deal, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), includes a labor chapter and migrant workers’ rights. With timelines and a stronger dispute resolution mechanism, USMCA is an improvement over its predecessor. The trade related standard, or the minimum criteria for bringing a case, in this agreement is lower than in other deals, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Under USMCA, parties should not need to show the monetary value of the violation in terms of lost trade opportunities.
These protections are a big win for millions of workers. We have observed firsthand the barriers to justice in the current NAFTA. After submitting two complaints under NAFTA’s labor side accord alleging the U.S. government’s failure to enforce its domestics labor laws, we realized that the dispute settlement mechanism to protect migrant workers was toothless.
While the text of the new agreement specifies that domestic labor rights will be enforceable, we cannot determine whether the mechanism is enough to address abuse until we submit a complaint.
Things are still up in the air. Congress needs to approve the draft, and Mexican President Peña Nieto must sign the agreement before he leaves office on December 1st. We will keep you posted!