Top Mexican and U.S. labor unions joined on Thursday to file a complaint with the U.S. office overseeing NAFTA that Mexico is violating the weak labor standards outlined by the neoliberal agreement.
Union leaders hope the complaint will help push the U.S. toward stronger labor laws as NAFTA negotiations continue.
The joint complaint argues that proposed labor amendments by the Mexican government will violate the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, or NAALC. “The government of Mexico brazenly violates the central obligations of the NAALC – namely to 'provide high labor stands' and to 'strive to improve those standards,'” the complaint reads.
Previous complaints have done little to strengthen labor laws, but union representatives say that it “gives ammunition at the negotiating table.”
The NAFTA agreement has been criticized by labor groups and leftists within Mexico for having kept down Mexican wages, turning it into a manufacturing-based export economy with poor labor safety standards, and a poor environment for unions.
“Mexico's low-wage, low-rights economy keeps wages down in all three countries and has failed to develop Mexico as a larger market for U.S. exports,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
Although unions exist in Mexico, they are often seen as weak, ineffective, ridden with corruption and not inclusive of workers.
Low wages in Mexico have been a concern of U.S. President Donald Trump as well, although not out of any concern for the workers. Throughout his campaign and presidency, he has complained that NAFTA has allowed Mexico to out-compete U.S. manufacturing, drawing automotive factories away from the once-booming rust belt, and it's formerly highly-paid, unionized workers.
The NAFTA negotiations have been volatile, and representatives don't seem any closer to an agreement than they did several months ago. As Mexican, Canadian, and U.S. officials continue to debate on how to overhaul the agreement, Trump has continually threatened to withdraw from the agreement.
This week, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he was going to use NAFTA negotiations to try and make Mexico pay for his infamous border wall, “indirectly.”
“We make a good deal on NAFTA, and, say, I'm going to take a small percentage of that money and it's going toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico's paying,” Trump said.
Trump's term in office has been marked by an about-face in U.S. economic policy toward a protectionism, marked by the antics surrounding NAFTA, and a notable withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP).