Worker rights have been under assault in the United States as corporations are pushing people to work more for less pay. In addition, the Labor Department is getting 20% cuts to enforce standards and “right-to-work” laws are proliferating. Unions are being attacked and the government is doing the bare minimum to protect collective bargaining rights. Farmworkers continue to not have any collective bargaining rights and abuses as grave as sexual assault and slavery continue to occur in the agricultural industry.

For trade to actually benefit working people, we must revolutionize the process from the bottom-up. Here are some recommendations to change how the US engages in trade deals so that working people are actually better off.

Democratize Trade

When you are not on the table, you are on the menu. Everytime a trade deal happens that doesn’t directly include worker participation and input from a wide variety of industries and union representation, then workers’ interests will not even have the chance to be considered. Beyond representation, workers should be central to the negotiating tables as a main priority of the negotiations should be the protection of worker rights, access to well-paying jobs, strengthening of unions, and no discrimination in the workplace. Domestic work and sex work need to be recognized by the participating governments as these workers should be protected by enforceable and strong standards. Discrimination based on race, immigration status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability must be fought against and the only way to guarantee this is that everyone gets a seat at the table in the form of popular assemblies and stakeholder meetings throughout the negotiations process.

Add Strong Labor Rules with Swift and Certain Enforcement.
The AFL-CIO is pusing for stronger labor rules that are accompanied by swift and certain enforcement. Not only is it necessary to improve the labor rules already in place, we need real enforcement mechanisms through which governments hold corporations and bosses accountable to the way workers are treated at the workplace.  Wages must be raised and all workers must be able to exercise fundamental labor rights reflected in ILO labor conventions.