Pittsburgh (PAI) — Steelworkers organizer Maria Somma came up with a great line for unionists to use when urging lawmakers to defeat GOP President Donald Trump’s “new NAFTA.”
“If ya can’t enforce it, why are ya gonna pass it?” she asks.
Somma’s summary for workers to tell their lawmakers revised the answer she got from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at a June 17 town hall meeting in Pittsburgh on the “new NAFTA,” formally called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trumka hosted two other town halls on the “free trade” pact, one in Cleveland and the other just outside Detroit.
Somma, the union’s Organizing Director, told Trumka that as an organizer, she needs a quick and simple soundbite “to get me in the door” so she can sit down with workers and their families to explain the multitude of problems with the proposed pact. “Put on your organizing hat,” she urged.
“If it isn’t enforceable, it’s useless,” Trumka replied after thought. Somma took it from there.
Enforceability, or lack of it, is a big problem with the USMCA, Trumka said, adding that he seriously doubts Mexico can meet the USMCA’s targets for total revision of its pro-corporate anti-worker structure in the pact’s four-year time frame.
Other problems with the pact include its goal of enforcing higher North American content on new cars and trucks, and that those cars and trucks must be made by workers averaging at least $16 an hour.
“If you’ve got a U.S. worker making $29 and a Mexican worker making $3.50” for chunks of the same car, that car qualifies under the USMCA, Trumka said. And the requirement still leaves Mexico’s low-pay no-standards regime in place, he said.
The USMCA could also hurt consumers in all three countries, said Trumka, by giving Big Pharma a big bonanza: 10-year exclusive rights to new drugs, while barring development of competing cheaper generics. Exclusivity would drive up drug prices in all three nations, Trumka said. Many drugs are already sky high here, he said.
The town halls are part of Organized Labor’s push to get the USMCA’s enabling legislation rewritten to include strong pro-worker and pro-consumer language before Trump sends the measure to Congress. Lawmakers can take up or down votes on Trump’s bill – not the USMCA itself – but they can’t change it, or make any changes after it takes effect.