WASHINGTON (PAI) — With hearings set to start on the controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement, the AFL-CIO issued a scathing critique of the trade pact, saying it would hurt Latin American workers as well as their U.S. colleagues.

“CAFTA’s rules on labor rights are so poor they backtrack from existing U.S. laws that require Central American governments and employers to respect workers’ rights in exchange for unilateral trade preferences,” says the federation’s report, titled “The Real Record on Workers Rights in Central America.”

Currently, trade between the U.S. and the five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic, which signed CAFTA, is governed by the old, pre-World Trading Organization “Generalized System of Preferences (GSP),” the report explains.

CAFTA “lowers the standard on labor rights [which] countries are currently required to meet under GSP … and eliminates enforcement tools available” from that.

“Workers in the U.S. will be pitted against their fellow workers in Central America, causing downward pressure on U.S. wages, increasing the leverage of employers to squelch union organizing drives and destroying good jobs,” as happened under NAFTA, the AFL-CIO report says.

Central American labor federations oppose CAFTA and have led street protests against it. CAFTA will not do anything to pull people out of poverty in Central America, says AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson. That, she says, “explains why working families in the U.S. and Central America oppose CAFTA.”

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