Democratic rep says unions don't have a seat at the table in global trade

Rep. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinThe USMCA is an opportunity to keep our promises to working Americans Michigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Michigan House Democrats plan vigil for Iraqi man who died after deportation MORE (D-Mich.) said in an interview that aired Thursday on Hill.TV's "Rising" that workers do not have a seat at the table in international trade relations, citing the new deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

"The whole international trade regime that we've created is completely dominated by corporations," Levin told Hill.TV's Jamal Simmons. "Unions have hardly had a seat at the table."

"If you think about it, there's been no trade agreement that said workers of the world can all join the steelworkers, the auto workers. That's not even on the table," he continued, adding that that option should be made available to workers around the world. 

Levin's comments come as Congress prepares to consider the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

The congressman said that the new trade agreement could negatively impact protection contracts for Mexican workers. 

"Mexican workers show up to work at a place. Normally, there's already a contract in place that they don't even know is there, with a union that they never voted for," Levin said. "It's called a protection contract. It keeps wages low. The workers never have any say in it." 

"So what the new law that the Mexican regime has passed to prepare for this new NAFTA says is that those protection agreements have to go away, that Mexican workers have to have a real chance to vote on the union, and a real chance to vote on a contract like real union workers do in the United States," he said.

"Here's the problem with it. Could it really happen? Mr. Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, has said there's 700,000 protection agreements in place in Mexico, and within four years, they're all going to be re-opened, those workers have a chance to vote," he said, adding that it would be difficult for Mexican authorities to oversee thousands of new labor elections and contract openings. 

"If American workers are going to have a fair shot at real voice on the job," he said. 

— Julia Manchester