Towards Worker's Rights: A Restructured NAFTA


Jack Hans

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Since it was enacted in 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been an economic success, but a disaster for the average worker. The safety net promised by President Clinton disappeared. Many workers who were suddenly out of the job received no benefits from the United States. They applied for Transitional Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program that gave laid off workers extended unemployment and job retraining, from the government but were denied. In the year and a half after NAFTA was enacted 3,457 laid-off California workers applied for TAAs, but only 914 were certified by the U.S. Department of Labor to receive benefits. Another area of the safety net that fell through was the public submissions process within the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The public submission process was supposed to serve as a check on any of the signatory countries to insure they do not violate labor laws. Since NAFTA was enacted there have been 29 cases submitted for review, and not one of them has resulted in anything more than setting up a meeting to discuss recourse. In addition, not one of those submissions was done so by a signatory. To improve worker's rights throughout North America, NAFTA has to be restructured to insure that governments are accountable for their own actions, and that they follow through with the promises they made 14 years ago when NAFTA was signed and ratified into law.


Larry Caldwell




Anderson Fund Fellowship

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