During President Trump’s election campaign, Trump optioned to attack Mexicans every chance he got. He insulted Mexican immigrants, calling them drug dealers, criminals and rapists. He then promised to build a yuge wall that he’d force Mexico to pay for. Finally, he blamed cheaper labor and lax labor standards in Mexico as a reason to drop out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Instead of withdrawing from the trade deal, Mexican and Canadian leaders convinced Trump to renegotiate the agreement instead. To reach a deal however, the playing field must be fairly level. So, while American negotiators demand better Mexican labor standards, Canada is demanding the same, but for Americans as well.
In the middle of President Obama’s second term, Canada’s middle class surpassed that of the United States in terms of median income. In other words, for the first time ever, Canada’s middle class became wealthier than its neighbors to the south. It’s not to say Canada’s middle class is doing great, just better compared to the United States.
In order to protect its middle class, renegotiating NAFTA means Canada must protect its work force from unfair labor standards in Mexico and the United States. One of the key demands Canadian negotiators have levied on their American counterparts is to do away with so-called “right to work” laws which are now on the books in 28 states.
“Right to work” States make union dues optional for workers even though the unions they belong to still bargain on everyone’s behalf. These laws essentially starve unions of resources. Union leaders then face an impossible task of joining workers together to fight for better wages, benefits and work conditions.
American Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on a CNN opinion piece that “strong unions lift wages for all workers — even those workers who aren’t union members. Union membership is sharply lower in “right-to-work” states — after all, that was the whole point of these laws. And the impact is clear: In “right-to-work” states, wages are lower and employees are less likely to have access to employer-provided health care and pensions — and that’s true for union and non-union employees.”
Warren continued, “The decline in unionization over the last 30 years has hollowed out America’s middle class. For the more than 40 million non-union people in America’s private workforce, the lost wages add up to about $109 billion every year. Unemployment has declined and corporate profits have gone up, but workers don’t have the kind of bargaining power that unions once created.”
Instead of fighting for the working man, President Trump has done the opposite. Since taking office, as Warren states, “Trump has signed several laws that directly undermine the wages, benefits, health and safety of American workers”
The decline of labor in the United States however, didn’t start with Trump or “Right to Work” laws. The deterioration started under Ronald Reagan and has progressed through Republican and Democratic Administrations alike over the past forty years.
It has now gotten to the point where Canada must demand better American labor standards in order to maintain its own middle-class work force. If the demands are not met, Mexico and the United States will continue to exploit their workers, much to the detriment of its Canadian counterparts and the race to the bottom will continue.