"For decades, corporations have taken advantage of inadequate trade laws to offshore thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico, where worker wages and conditions have long been suppressed."
Thirty years after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, the largest U.S. autoworkers union on Friday announced the establishment of a solidarity initiative to support industry workers in Mexico "fighting for economic justice and improved working conditions."
United Auto Workers (UAW) said the new project "will provide resources to Mexican workers and independent unions in Mexico, and aims to strengthen cross-border solidarity between U.S. and Mexican workers."
"Under NAFTA, Mexico's automotive workforce has grown sevenfold, while wages, benefits, and working conditions continue to fall behind."
Signed in 1993 and taking effect the following year, NAFTA eliminated virtually all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The leaders of the three nations, including then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, promised the pact would create millions of new jobs and lift living standards.
But while U.S. trade with Mexico has more than tripled in the decades since the treaty went into effect, the income gap between the two countries is wider today than when the treaty was signed, while American and multinational corporations have profited tremendously from lower trade barriers and labor costs as production has shifted south of the border.
"Under NAFTA, Mexico's automotive workforce has grown sevenfold, while wages, benefits, and working conditions continue to fall behind," the UAW said on Friday.
Wages for U.S. workers have also suffered as automakers cite the need to remain competitive with their own Mexican operations.
"For decades, corporations have taken advantage of inadequate trade laws to offshore thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico where worker wages and conditions have long been suppressed," the UAW said.
Meanwhile, the union noted that "corporations use the threat of offshoring jobs as a cudgel to beat back worker discontent and organizing efforts in the U.S."
Cross-border solidarity was a key component of last year's six-week UAW strike at the Big Three U.S. automakers. Rank-and-file workers at General Motors' plant in Silao, Guanajuato organized to block corporate efforts to shift production to Mexico as a strikebreaking tactic.
The strike ended with the UAW and the Big Three agreeing to a new contract widely hailed by union members.