NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Striking At Unions Via NAFTA

April 14, 1999

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to promote greater employee involvement in workplace issues. But under U.S. law, employees in nonunion shops are largely prohibited from creating labor-management teams to address such issues.

The Labor Policy Association sees the inconsistency and wants it resolved by changing the U.S. law.

  • The association sent its complaint yesterday to the Canadian agency that oversees NAFTA enforcement there -- urging it to hold hearings on the issue and ultimately levy financial sanctions against the U.S.
  • Since no NAFTA nation has ever been fined as the result of such a complaint, what the LPA says it really seeks is to prompt Congress to amend certain provisions of the National Labor Relations Act -- specifically rules that forbid formation of the labor-management teams.
  • The group wants to revive the TEAM Act, vetoed by President Clinton in 1996 under pressure from union bosses.
  • A Canadian Embassy official says that his government would have 60 days after receiving the complaint to decide whether to accept it.

Under NAFTA rules, complaints regarding a signatory nation are generally filed with the National Administrative Office of another NAFTA nation. The recipient nation can pursue several options, including consultations between the governments, financial sanctions, or even the withdrawal of trade benefits.

At least 20 labor-law complaints have been filed under NAFTA: 13 against Mexico, five against the U.S., and two against Canada.

Source: Glenn Burkins, "Antiunion Group Tries to Use NAFTA to Reach Goal," Wall Street Journal, April 14, 1999.


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