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Catherine Connolly and Julie Tennant-Burt

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The NAFTA Agreement and U.S. Labor Discrimination

Catherine Connolly and Julie Tennant-Burt provide a research note that assesses the labor provisions of NAFTA, with implications for labor policy under Clinton. NAFTA provides for the elimination of all tariffs on goods originating in Mexico, Canada, and the United States and resulted in the creation of a total market encompassing 370 million people and 6.5 trillion worth of goods. Analyzed here are the procedures established to resolve labor disputes, the status of the economies and labor disputes in the member nations, and the potential use of U.S. anti-discrimination law in conjunction with the labor provisions to alleviate worker grievances stemming from allegations of sex discrimination in the United States or involving U.S. companies. Not surprisingly, the promises made in the agreement’s preamble, such as the resolution to create new employment opportunities and to improve working conditions and living standards, appear to be illusory. There are no mechanisms for evaluating whether the goals regarding worker-related human rights are met and the language on worker rights is predominantly symbolic. In addition, U.S. anti-employment-discrimination law has not been very successful extraterritorily and does not address issues related to occupational segregation. The authors conclude that not only does the NAFTA Labor Agreement do little to enhance the lives of the workers employed in the trade-related industries of its member nations, it also appears that workers, who are predominantly female, are being fired for union organizing activities.

discrimination in employment; employment; job dismissal; labor disputes; labor law and legislation; labor market; labor standards; NAFTA; sex discrimination; women workers

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 24: 1 (1997): 148-162