After President Trump’s announcement of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in May 2017, CDM launched a trinational, coordinated campaign with allied organizations from Mexico, the United States, and Canada to strengthen protections for migrant workers in the renegotiation process.

CDM has supported migrant workers in filing multiple petitions under the NAFTA labor side accord. Through this experience, we have seen firsthand NAFTA’s failure to protect and vindicate the rights of migrant workers who rightfully claim that the US government has failed to enforce its labor laws. Worker petitioners under the existing agreement have waited years for responses to their complaints, and the remedies offered by the U.S. government have not made workers or their communities whole. Through supporting workers like Adareli Ponce Hernandez and Leonardo Cortez Vitela, CDM knows that NAFTA’s complaint and dispute resolution mechanisms are deeply flawed.

The work ahead is clear: we will keep the pressure on the Trump administration to protect migrant workers in NAFTA renegotiation. Through reports, supplements to our previous petitions, and educational advocacy, we will continue to demand that the renegotiated NAFTA protect migrant workers.

Recent Actions

On March 23, 2021, migrant worker women submitted the first-ever petition against the U.S. under the USMCA. The petition was signed by a binational coalition of dozens of allies led by CDM. Together, we’re arguing that the United States government failed to live up to its obligations under the trade agreement by allowing systemic gender-based discrimination against migrant worker women.

On June 30, almost four years after submitting the complaint and hours before the new treaty came into effect, the Mexico National Administrative Office finally issued a report on our complaint, stating that they “recognize the existence of mechanisms in the United States, to which people can go to manifest the facts that they consider discriminatory.” The Office absurdly offered that workers can call ICE to report abusive employers or turn to brochures and posters about how to submit complaints to federal government agencies. This response is frustrating and disappointing.

On August 28, 2018, we celebrated a big win: announced that the preliminary agreement for a new trade deal reached by the United States and Mexico will ensure migrant workers are protected under labor laws, bring labor obligations from a side accord into the core of the agreement, and make labor obligations fully enforceable.

On August 17, 2018, we delivered a letter to the USTR on behalf of 30 organizations recommending that labor protections, including those for the tens of thousands of migrant workers, be strong, enforceable and binding in the new NAFTA. On August 21, we delivered it to the Ministry of Economy in Mexico City.

On January 22, 2018, on the eve of the sixth round of the renegotiation, a group of migrant worker women and supporting nongovernmental organizations across the trinational trade corridor took the next step in holding the United States government accountable for violating its obligations under the NAFTA labor side accord. The group argues that the United States fails to protect women and remedy labor rights violations in temporary labor migration programs.

On December 13, 2017,  we presented our report, Coerced under NAFTA: Abuses of Migrant Workers in the TN Visa Program and Recommendations for Reform. This report highlights the range of abuses to which thousands of Mexican professionals are subjected each year under the TN visa program, created under NAFTA, and recommends actions the governments should take to address them. Workers experience fraud, economic coercion, and retaliation, the root of which is employer control of the visa and hiring processes.

On October 17, 2017, in line with the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations, CDM submitted a petition signed by 98 individuals and organizations, urging the USTR to protect migrant workers in the renegotiation.

On June 28, 2017, CDM, the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, and petitioners Adareli Ponce Hernandez and Leonardo Cortez Vitela testified before an interagency panel at the U.S. International Trade Commission. We demanded that a renegotiated NAFTA must include all current NAFTA labor principles, as well as additional protections for internationally recruited workers; eliminate barriers to accessing justice and benefits; and include a clear and enforceable labor dispute resolution process.

On June 27, 2017, CDM met with key members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, which have jurisdiction over the negotiations.

On June 26, 2017 — the eve of the U.S. Trade Representative’s hearing on NAFTA negotiating objectives –, CDM organized allied workers, organizations, and academics from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for a day-long strategy meeting in Washington, D.C. to create a coordinated strategy for demanding migrant worker protections in all three countries.

On June 12, 2017, CDM submitted comments in response to the U.S. Trade Representative’s request for input on the NAFTA negotiating objectives. We recommended the inclusion of a NAFTA labor chapter that would use the same dispute settlement mechanism as other complaints, rather than a labor side accord, along with other recommendations that would strengthen the complaint and dispute mechanisms and bolster legal protections for migrant workers.