North Carolina is guilty of breaking a NAFTA side agreement which covers labor rights. One of those rights is freedom to form a union. North Carolina has not been in compliance. Now 40+ labor groups in the continent have filed suit against the US and North Carolina.
The complaint charges that the state of North Carolina and the United States are violating the NAFTA, by denying 650,000 public employees the right to engage in collective bargaining.
From Canada's NUPGE - National Union of Public and General Employees (4/22/08):
Check out the NUPGE site to read more, and view a list of organizations involved in the suit
Labour groups charge U.S. with violating NAFTA labour standards
NUPGE one of 40 Canadian, U.S., and Mexican labour bodies filing formal charge under side agreement to international trade deal
Ottawa (22 April 2008) – The 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), along with more than 40 other labour organizations in Canada, the United States and Mexico, will file a charge Wednesday against the U.S. under the North American Agreement for Labour Cooperation (NAALC), the labour side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The complaint will be lodged formally in Ottawa on Wednesday on behalf of the labour groups by members of the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers /Association canadienne des avocats du mouvement syndical (CALL/ACAMS). (Participating organizations are listed below.)
The complaint charges that the state of North Carolina and the United States are violating the NAALC by denying 650,000 public employees the right to engage in collective bargaining.
The agreement requires the United States, Mexico and Canada to provide for “high labour standards” in their laws, and lists freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining among its core principles.
Labour ministers meeting
The complaint is being filed on the eve of a high-level political meeting in Ottawa between the labour ministers for the three countries. Members of the CALL/ACAMS will deliver the message personally to the ministers when they gather in Ottawa on Thursday April 24 for a luncheon to discuss the NAALC.
Susan Philpott, an executive board member of CALL/ACAMS, says all three NAFTA countries must take the complaint seriously.
“It is deeply troubling that the U.S. is willfully violating NAFTA labour standards,” says Philpott. “The Canadian government must seek to ensure its fellow NAFTA members honour their commitments and the rule of law, otherwise the integrity of NAFTA and the NAALC will be seriously compromised.”
NUPGE national president James Clancy is calling on Canada’s Labour Minister to step in personally and to forcefully remind his U.S. counterpart of their obligations under NAFTA.
“The government of North Carolina is trampling on NAFTA labour standards which Canada, the U.S and Mexico are obliged to respect and uphold,” says Clancy. “The Canadian government can’t turn a blind eye to such flagrant abuses. Canada must respond vigorously and at the highest levels.”
The North Carolina public employees are represented by the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union. The union, Local 150 of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), represents state and municipal employees across North Carolina. It has been pressuring the North Carolina government to respect workers’ human rights and allow public employees to bargain collectively.
Local 150 President Angaza Laughinghouse has expressed his union’s gratitude for the showing of international support.
“We are very pleased with the solidarity being extended to North Carolina public employees by unions from across the three NAFTA countries and around the globe. This shows that North Carolina’s continued denial of basic worker rights is an international disgrace. It’s an injustice and an embarrassment to this state that our elected officials must correct,” he said.
The NAALC complaint is being filed with the National Administrative Office (NAO) within Canada’s federal ministry of labour. Under NAFTA’s terms, the U.S., Canada and Mexico each established an NAO to act on complaints of violations of the NAALC.
The petitioners are asking the Canadian NAO to investigate North Carolina’s labour rights violations, and issue a report and recommendations for action. The actions requested by the labour organizations include North Carolina immediately repealing General Statute 95-98, replacing it with legislation that will guarantee public sector workers the right to organize, bargain collectively, and full freedom of association.
A similar complaint regarding the North Carolina bargaining ban was filed in October 2006 by a Mexican union, the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (Authentic Labour Front or FAT) along with 53 other labour organizations, mostly from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
In October 2007 Mexico’s NAO accepted the complaint and launched an investigation. Mexico and Canada are North Carolina’s largest international trading partners. North Carolina’s combined annual exports to Canada and Mexico total $6.5 billion. NUPGE