NAFTA will fundamentally affect millions of workers, yet it was arrived at behind closed doors. This is reason enough for workers from the three nations to boot out the agreement.
There has been significant opposition to NAFTA from organized labor. Unionists say NAFTA harms workers both here and in Mexico by taking U.S. jobs away and intensifying the exploitation of Mexican workers.
Nearly half a million Mexicans already work in "maquiladoras" where over 1,500 mostly U.S.-owned assembly plants operate free of taxes and tariffs. Only about 10 percent are organized, compared to 25 percent of Mexican workers overall. Average pay runs from 50 cents to a dollar an hour. NAFTA will only intensify this exploitation as it lures corporations to set up runaway shops.
Yet much of the opposition to NAFTA has been drawn on narrow lines and lets the capitalist system off the hook. For example the AFL-CIO uses the slogan "Not this NAFTA." That complements the views of the Clinton administration which says it's going to see that environmental and labor reform are guaranteed before it goes along with the agreement.
But U.S. corporations are the biggest polluters of all! Studies show that thousands of communities in the U.S., especially those of color, are targeted for industrial waste dumping. Many nuclear weapons production plants, storage facilities and radioactive dump sites are located in Southern states with large Third World populations.
According to the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial justice, three out of every five African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. live in communities with major toxic-waste sites. There are 160 major sites distributed around the Caribbean.
And going to work can make you sick. A 1990 report by the National Safe Workplace Institute says more workers in the U.S. are killed on the job than in any other industrialized country.
With such utter contempt for the lives of workers in this country, is it the place of the U.S. government to demand that Mexico assure an environmentally safe NAFTA?
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