Independent unions and allied NGOs came together in Mexico City on 15 March to debate the impact of the Trump agenda on the North American labour movement.
Participants from a broad range of unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, along with the AFL-CIO from the US and Unifor from Canada, attacked Trump’s politics of hatred and exclusion. They also re-affirmed their opposition to unregulated globalization or of trade agreements which are harmful to workers, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or NAFTA.
IndustriALL director Fernando Lopes noted that – paradoxically – TPP obligations were a factor in driving Mexico’s much-needed labour law reforms last year. With the TPP now defunct, labour rights defenders will need to keep up the pressure to ensure the reforms are put into practice.
The impact on Mexico could also impact the rest of Latin America. Multinationals in key industrial sectors such as the auto and steel industries operate in the region’s three largest economies, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Currently, Mexico largely exports to the US market, while Argentina and Brasil supply the rest of Latin America. If Mexico can no longer rely on the US market for exports, it will begin competing for market share with the higher-wage industries of Brazil and Argentina, thus creating downward pressure on pay and conditions.
As well as debating the dangers of the Trump agenda, many participants also underlined the opportunities. “When one door closes, another opens”, said one. Opposition to Trump is energizing social movements and may prompt unions to play a more active role in influencing public policy.
Fernando Lopes concluded:
As unions, we need to wake up to this reality and must reflect on alternatives. IndustriALL will support efforts by the independent Mexican unions to build a socio-political movement for a fairer society, and will encourage cooperation with civil society, which also has a role to play.
The meeting was held in the framework of the IndustriALL/Unifor union-building project, which seeks to give independent unions a voice and strengthen their power.