In NAFTA Talks, Canada Demands US Drop Anti-Union 'Right to Work' Laws

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In NAFTA Talks, Canada Demands US Drop Anti-Union 'Right to Work' Laws

Right to work laws are "a sledgehammer that dilutes worker organization and bargaining, paving the way for lower wages and a host of labor violations"

"A total of 28 states, including three this year, have passed right-to-work legislation," writes Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

"A total of 28 states, including three this year, have passed right-to-work legislation," writes Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. (Photo: Together We Will SJ‏/Twitter)

Canada has demanded that the United States eliminate anti-union "right-to-work" laws as part of ongoing NAFTA negotiations, the Canadian Globe and Mail reported.

"A total of 28 states, including three this year, have passed right-to-work legislation."
—Christine Owens, National Employment Law Project
"One group of negotiators spent all day Sunday working on the labor file," The Globe and Mail noted. "One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request."

In addition, Canadian negotiators are reportedly pressuring both the United States and Mexico "to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does."

The reports came just ahead of Labor Day, as thousands of workers throughout the U.S. and across the globe walked out of their jobs and took to the streets demanding a living wage and the right to organize.

According to Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a "total of 28 states, including three this year, have passed right-to-work legislation, a sledgehammer that dilutes worker organization and bargaining, paving the way for lower wages and a host of labor violations."

Republicans have also introduced legislation that, if passed, would make right to work the law of the land.


Naomi Klein Block


President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has continued his war on workers by slashing the pay increases of federal employees, undoing overtime pay and worker safety rules, and appointing union-busters to the National Labor Relations Board.

Matt Bruenig, president of the People's Policy Project, laid out on Monday sample legislation that would easily meet Canada's demand by preempting right-to-work laws "in one fell swoop on the federal level."

"[R]eforming labor law to strengthen unions is not a complicated task, certainly not compared to things like overhauling the U.S. healthcare system," Bruenig notes. "With a few simple edits to the National Labor Relations Act, Congress could make it easier to join unions through majority sign-up rather than an election, easier for unions to negotiate a first contract through mandatory first contract arbitration, and harder on companies who break the law through civil fines."

Read the text of the bill:

(Image credit: The People's Policy Project)

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