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NAFTA and Labor in North America

NAFTA and Labor in North America

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 264
  • Book Info
    NAFTA and Labor in North America
    Book Description:

    As companies increasingly look to the global market for capital, cheaper commodities and labor, and lower production costs, the impact on Mexican and American workers and labor unions is significant. National boundaries and the laws of governments that regulate social relations between laborers and management are less relevant in the era of globalization, rendering ineffective the traditional union strategies of pressuring the state for reform._x000B__x000B_Focusing especially on the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (the first international labor agreement linked to an international trade agreement), Norman Caulfield notes the waning political influence of trade unions and their disunity and divergence on crucial issues such as labor migration and workers' rights. Comparing the labor movement's fortunes in the 1970s with its current weakened condition, Caulfield notes the parallel decline in the United States' hegemonic influence in an increasingly globalized economy. As a result, organized labor has been transformed from organizations that once pressured management and the state for concessions to organizations that now request that workers concede wages, pensions, and health benefits to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09079-0
    Subjects: Business, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    On January 31, 2008, in Mexico City’s huge Zocálo plaza, tens of thousands of peasants and farmers converged from all over Mexico in convoys of tractors, motorcades, and other vehicles. Joined by labor activists from independent unions, the worker-peasant-farmer unity witnessed on that day delivered a powerful message to the Mexican government. The activists demanded the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1994. In a manifesto, protestors declared that NAFTA had caused unemployment, the destruction of agriculture, the deterioration of purchasing power and wages, and extreme poverty...

  5. 1 Labor and Global Capitalism in North America, 1850–1970
    (pp. 9-39)

    When the 1848 revolutions of Western Europe removed the remaining feudal roadblocks to economic expansion, Britain, through the use of its military and naval might, not only knocked down barriers to its expansion, but in so doing provided the basis for the expansion of capitalism in other nations. As the world’s preeminent capitalist power, Britain advocated free trade and the freeing up of labor everywhere. In North America, British investment in railroads and other capital ventures provided important traction for the growth of capitalism on the continent and with it the expansion of national and regional labor markets based on...

  6. 2 The Politics of Mexican Labor and Economic Development in Crisis
    (pp. 40-64)

    On September 1, 2006, Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled his final state of the union speech before Congress after legislators seized the podium in protest of a massive police and military mobilization against antigovernment demonstrators. For only the third time in Mexico’s volatile political history, political and social conflict prevented a sitting president from addressing the opening session of the legislature.¹

    The incident was an immediate result of Fox’s unprecedented ordering of the deployment of thousands of troops to occupy the area surrounding the Mexican Congress. Fox ordered the troops to block a demonstration by supporters of Andrés Manuel López...

  7. 3 Mexican Labor and Workers’ Rights under NAFTA and NAALC
    (pp. 65-89)

    While the NAFTA years for Mexico have reduced real wages, generated growth of the informal economy, and created conditions for massive migration of the working population to the United States, perhaps the most serious consequence of the period has been the assault on workers’ rights. In their attempt to attract foreign investment, especially in the export manufacturing sector, Mexican government authorities have worked with corporate investors and compliant leaders of official unions in maintaining a low-wage economy, reinforced by more open and brutal systems of labor control. In the process, the legacies of more than a century of struggles—that...

  8. 4 Labor Mobility and Workers’ Rights in North America
    (pp. 90-111)

    On May 1, 2006, International Workers’ Day, millions of immigrant workers, comprising an overwhelming majority of Mexicans, took to the streets in several major cities and towns across the United States. The demonstrations, both in their size and national scope, were unprecedented in U.S. history. Many who participated in these actions also went on strike and called for boycotts, despite being warned by politicians of both major political parties and President George W. Bush. Those who participated did so in the face of nationwide workplace raids by U.S. immigration authorities, threats of arrest, deportation, and even violence by extreme right-wing...

  9. 5 The Crisis of Union-Management Relations in the United States and Canada
    (pp. 112-141)

    A little more than a quarter century ago, experts, commentators, and scholars began writing about the changing environment in the world of union-management relations. Typical of this commentary was a 1981Business Weekarticle that noted: “Quietly, almost without notice, a new industrial relations system with a fundamentally different way of managing people is taking shape in the U.S.”² The new system, the article pointed out, was seeking “to end the adversarial relationship that has grown between management and labor and that now threatens the competitiveness of many industries.”³

    In 1986, a group of employment relations scholars wrote in their...

  10. 6 The North American Auto Industry: The Apex of Concessionary Bargaining
    (pp. 142-165)

    Nowhere have the pressures associated with globalization and NAFTA been more evident than in U.S.-based auto manufacturing, once considered the world’s undisputed titan of the industry. For more than a century, the auto industry had been an anchor for the U.S. economy, a trendsetter for both corporate America and the trade unions. Following World War II, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and auto management negotiated agreements that provided the industry’s workforce with wages, health benefits, and pensions that set standards for unions in steel, mining, rubber, trucking, construction, telecommunications, and other industries. The pattern of steady wage increases together with...

  11. 7 VEBA Las Vegas! Unions Play Casino Capitalism: Autoworkers Lose
    (pp. 166-188)

    The 2007 United Auto Workers (UAW) agreements with the Big Three automakers (GM, Chrysler, and Ford) represent the capstone of a three-decade-long transformation of the union. The UAW is now a business enterprise, ever more so closely integrated with Big Three management, directly profiting from the labor of the workers it ostensibly represents. The contracts that cover more than 175,000 workers effectively eradicate many of the gains made by autoworkers during the last fifty years. Once the home of the highest-paid industrial workers in the world, the U.S. auto industry is now a place where workers earn near-poverty-level wages and...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 189-196)

    In many ways, NAFTA explains much about the history of world capitalism. As an economic system that constantly seeks to push the productive forces to develop on a global scale, capitalism inevitably creates conflicts among nation-states in which the private property and the regulatory rules for accumulating wealth are legally rooted. In certain historical periods, this contradiction has been regulated and contained through the organization of the world economy under the hegemony of a single great power. Such was the case in the immediate decades following World War II when the United States exercised and managed its economic hegemony around...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-232)
  14. Index
    (pp. 233-246)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-252)