Both the Church and the US labor movement have expressed concern that today’s global economy and trade relationships allow the owners of capital to escape obligations to workers and the poor. So the Catholic Labor Network is pleased to learn that — under pressure from the AFL-CIO — the renegotiation of NAFTA has yielded new protections for workers, especially in Mexico.
A decade ago Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2009 Encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, explained the challenge globalization poses for workers and the poor:
The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market… The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level .
It’s gratifying to note that during negotiations the labor unions of the United States did not prioritize tariffs, or quotas on imports. Rather, they were determined to defend the right of Mexican workers to organize freely in unions of their choosing. Too often in the past, Mexican workers have been represented by paper “unions” dominated by the employer or political bosses; the USMCA includes new mechanisms to ensure that workers’ freedom to choose their representatives is respected.
Under NAFTA, large manufacturers pit North America’s workers against one another by threatening to relocate production if concessions are not granted, creating a race to the bottom. USMCA has taken an important step forward for workers in all three countries, a much-needed expression of solidarity in challenging times.