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Brown Takes To Senate Floor, Discusses Groundbreaking Worker Provisions He Secured In Renegotiated NAFTA Agreement

Senator Secured Key Labor Enforcement & Protection Provisions for Workers in Revised Trade Agreement

SB on floor - NAFTA 1.6.2020

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WASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of tomorrow’s Senate Finance Committee executive session to review the revised NAFTA agreement, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today took to the Senate floor to discuss the updated trade deal. Brown fought for and successfully secured important worker-empowering provisions as part of the agreement. President Trump’s initial proposal, introduced in 2017, did very little to protect workers. As a result, Brown worked with Sen. Wyden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the labor movement to secure stronger labor protections and enforcement provisions.

Brown, acknowledging this is not a perfect deal, announced his support for the trade agreement last month after he worked to get a better deal for American workers. The deal includes groundbreaking provisions that Brown authored and secured on behalf of workers. The new agreement will allow workers in Mexico to report when a company is violating their rights and see action within months if it is determined that workers’ rights have been violated. The U.S. can apply punitive damages when corporations stop workers from organizing and even stop goods from coming into the U.S. if anti-worker tactics continue and/or if companies are repeat offenders. 

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below: 

Floor Statement from Sen. Sherrod Brown – USMCA

January 6, 2020 

Mr./Madame President, 

Tomorrow in the Senate Finance Committee, we are going to take up the renegotiated NAFTA agreement. 

One of my proudest votes was against NAFTA, and I have voted “no” on every trade agreement since then, because they were all written by corporations to maximize profits at the expense of workers.

We’ve seen the consequences – corporate profits have soared. Executive compensation has exploded. Workers are producing more than ever before. But their wages are flat, they can’t join a union, and the middle class has shrunk. 

President Trump’s economic policies have been more of the same. Over and over again, he has betrayed workers – from his tax giveaway to corporations, to his judges that always put their thumbs on the scale for corporations over workers. 

And last year when we got an initial draft of this agreement from the administration, it was another betrayal. His fist NAFTA draft was nowhere near the good deal for workers President Trump promised – he’d negotiated another corporate trade deal. 

That meant nothing for workers, and a sellout to drug companies. 

It took us months of fighting alongside Speaker Pelosi, Senator Wyden, and unions to improve this deal, and take real and important steps toward putting workers at the center of our trade policy. 

For the first time, we have a provision in the labor chapter that says violence against workers is a violation of the agreement. That sounds obvious, but it’s never been included before.  

For the first time ever, we spell out workers’ right to strike. Again, should be obvious, but never included before.  

We’ve improved some of the legalese that, since the beginning, has been included in our trade agreements to make it nearly impossible to successfully win a case when a country violates its labor commitments. 

And most importantly, we secured our Brown-Wyden provision that amounts to the strongest-ever labor enforcement in a U.S. trade deal. 

This provision, that Senator Wyden and I wrote and fought for, is the first improvement to enforcing the labor standards in our trade agreements since we’ve been negotiating them. 

We know why companies close factories in Ohio and open them in Mexico – they can pay lower wages and take advantage of workers who don’t have rights. 

American workers can’t compete, and we get a race to the bottom on wages. The only way to stop this is by raising labor standards in every country we trade with, and making sure those standards are actually enforced. 

If corporations are forced to pay workers a living wage and treat them with dignity, no matter where those workers are located, then we take away the incentive for them to move jobs abroad.

That’s what the Brown-Wyden provision does. 

A worker in Mexico will be able to report a company violating their rights, and within months, we can determine whether workers’ rights have been violated, and take action against that company. We’ve never done it this way, and we haven’t had good results. 

We can apply punitive damages when corporations stop workers from organizing, and if they keep doing it, we can stop their goods from coming into the U.S. at all. 

When Mexican workers have the power to form real unions and negotiate for higher wages, it helps American workers. Right now, Mexican workers can be paid as little as $6.50 a day – not an hour, a day. And we’ve been asking American workers to compete with that. 

We’ve already heard some critics say Brown-Wyden will force Mexican wages to rise. That’s the entire point – to take away the incentive for companies to move American jobs to Mexico. 

Now I want to be clear, I’m always going to be straight with American workers – this is not a perfect agreement, and one trade deal that Democrats fixed will not undo the rest of President Trump’s economic policies that put corporations over workers. 

This deal isn’t going to stop outsourcing, when we have President Trump’s tax plan that gives companies a tax break to send American jobs to Mexico. 

I’m going to keep fighting President Trump’s corporate trade policies and tax policies, just like we did with this agreement. 

We still have a lot more work to do to make our trade agreements more pro-worker, but I will vote “yes” for the first time ever on a trade agreement because, by including Brown-Wyden, Democrats have made this agreement much more pro-worker, and we set an important precedent that Brown-Wyden must be included in every future trade agreement.  

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