Brown Leads Efforts to Fight Back Against Unfair Trade Practices that Hurt Ohio Manufacturers and Their Workers;
Download Production-Quality Video of Full Exchange Here
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In Case You Missed It: Yesterday, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing titled “Implementation and Enforcement of the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement: One Year After Entry into Force,” U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) touted the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as the floor – not the ceiling – of future trade agreements. Brown highlighted the continued issues regarding the implementation and enforcement that need to be addressed with respect to the agreements.
“Ohioans know that during my entire career I’ve never voted for a single trade agreement until USMCA. Since NAFTA was enacted, thousands of workers from Dayton to Lordstown, Lorain to Fremont to Mansfield, where I grew up, saw 30-dollar-an-hour manufacturing jobs move to Mexico where workers made no more than a couple dollars an hour for the same work,” said Brown at the Finance Committee hearing.
“I want to speak directly to workers in Mexico and here in the U.S.: the Brown-Wyden Rapid Response Mechanism labor enforcement provisions were put into place to empower all workers to exercise their rights to form a union to alert us of any interference or strong-arm tactics of their labor rights. The Brown-Wyden Rapid Response Mechanism and labor enforcement provisions were put in place to empower all workers to exercise their rights to form a union, and to alert us of any interference or strong-arm tactics of their labor rights. The success of this agreement depends on the enforcement and implementation,” Brown continued.
Brown and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) fought for and successfully secured the Brown-Wyden Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) as part of the USMCA, for the first time empowering workers to bring cases alleging labor violations at the facility level. The new agreement allows workers in Mexico to report when a company is violating their rights, and see action within months if it’s determined that workers’ rights have been violated. It also applies punitive damages when corporations stop workers from organizing and stop goods from coming into the U.S. if the anti-worker tactics continue.
When corporations are held accountable for treating workers fairly, regardless of where those workers are located, companies no longer have an incentive to move jobs abroad – thereby protecting workers on both sides of the border.
During the hearing, Brown questioned Mr. Ben Davis, Director of International Affairs for the United Steelworkers (USW), about some of the issues he has noticed as chair of the Independent Mexico Labor Expert Board (IMLEB), which was established by USMCA. Brown also asked Mr. Ben Davis to detail why the agreement should be considered the floor – not the ceiling – for future trade agreements.
More from Brown’s hearing exchanges is included below and video is available HERE:
Brown: Mr. Davis, you raised concerns about USMCA implementation in your testimony. Can you elaborate on the Independent Mexico Labor Export Board’s recommendations and what will need to take place to address them?
Mr. Davis: Senator, I would answer it this way to do it quickly. You remember that we had a problem at Goodyear and the workers were fired for trying to start an independent union. They have not gotten their jobs back yet, some of them are still trying. The same protection union that was at that Goodyear plant is the protection union that's at the General Motors plant in Silao. And it may be that the workers, despite the company and the union having a four month period to carry out this legitimation vote, they might still vote that contract down, but it is doing to be real hard. They don't have a union, so even if they vote the contract down Medina or another CTM union can come back the next day and try and get it. So, we are making progress here but we have to do a lot more to push back on the protections union czars, like Medina and some others, who still control the Mexican labor force.
Brown: Thank you, Mr. Davis. I want to make clear, as we continue, that most of us in this committee see USMCA as the minimum standard for trade agreements going forward. Especially with countries we do not have a long standing relationship with, they will need much more robust enforcement of labor rights – Brown-Wyden is the basic position. Speak to why this committee should view, Mr. Davis, should view USMCA as the floor – not the ceiling – for trade agreements around the world.
Mr. Davis: Just because of the risk that workers face on a daily basis: firing, blacklisting, pregnancy discrimination, which we mentioned, threats, beatings, murder. In Mexico there are still nine cases of trade unionist who have been killed – including an American – that are unresolved, some of these going back 10 or 15 years. Employers, whether it's in the U.S. or Mexico, know that it is quicker and cheaper to fire the union leaders and drag out the legal process rather than agreeing. And we want to change that balance – there are a lot of workers that are not just in Mexico, but in Central America and Colombia – another place with terrible labor rights record – who share that vision and that ideal until now they haven't had the tools to do it. We think we are starting to get some of those tools and we want to get to work and build it.
Additional Background on Brown’s Efforts to Implement Worker-Centered Trade Policy:
Brown released a statement earlier this month, after United States and Mexico announced a course of remediation that seeks to provide the workers of the General Motors facility in Silao, Mexico with the ability to vote on whether to approve and legitimize their collective bargaining agreement in free and democratic conditions. The action will also remediate GM’s initial denial of the right of free association and collective bargaining to workers at the facility. This first course of remediation is a result of the Brown-Wyden RRM, and reflects the shared intent of the U.S. and Mexico that trade must benefit workers.
During a Senate Finance hearing in May, Brown asked U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai about her decision to implement the first ever self-initiated labor enforcement case under the Brown-Wyden RRM in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). During their exchange, Ambassador Tai described what the use of the Brown-Wyden provision in the USMCA means for workers.
The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios MOVIMIENTO 20/32 (SNITIS), and Public Citizen filed a separate complaint under the Brown-Wyden RRM against Tridonex, an auto parts factory located in Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Together, these enforcement cases show that the Brown and Wyden provision is working as intended.