USW Head Says Trump's NAFTA Proposals Won't Help American Workers

Jul 21, 2017

President Donald Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, one of the worst deals the U.S. has made. But the head of the country’s largest industrial union isn’t convinced his administration is doing enough to renegotiate the terms.

Leo Gerard, president of United Steelworkers International, said he doesn’t think the list of proposed changes by the U.S. Trade Representative goes far enough protect American workers.

“If there’s going to be NAFTA negotiations, we have to look at the historical debacle that it’s produced for workers,” Gerard said. “Workers in all three countries have been sort of on the short end of the deal.”

The Trump administration’s 17-page list of suggestions includes priorities for reducing the trade deficit between the U.S. and Mexico, methods for regulating digital goods and eliminating a trade dispute settlement option.

Gerard said he talks to workers who are still struggling to find well-paying jobs after the 2008 recession, when the unemployment rate jumped to nearly 10 percent, the highest in decades.

“We should have a penalty for any company that’s going to move its production out of the country so it can produce and ship back into the country and, as a result of that, throw Americans workers out of work,” Gerard said. “And at the same time, get an economic reward for doing that.”

Gerard spoke specifically about the Carrier furnace company, an Indiana-based manufacturer that recently announced it would be moving some of its operations to Mexico because labor is cheaper. The company estimates about 630 jobs will be lost in the U.S.

“Under NAFTA, they’re able to get away with that,” Gerard said. “They’re able to move production from the United States to Mexico and then have that produce made in Mexico and shipped back to America and I would come back as a trade item from Mexico.”

The three countries are participating in a month of talks. Any changes to NAFTA must be approved by the U.S. Senate.