Against Fraught NAFTA Negotiations, Worker & Immigrant Groups Tour Midwest to Discuss Shared Challenges, Break Down Silos

PRESS STATEMENT

For Immediate Release

Against Fraught NAFTA Negotiations, Worker & Immigrant Groups Tour Midwest to Discuss Shared Challenges, Break Down Silos

Friday, September 15, 2017
Sara McElmurry: 312-351-3890 or smcelmurry@alianzaamericas.org
 Cristina Garcia: 773-875-3314 or cgarcia@alianzaamericas.org

CHICAGO – September 15, 2017 – As government delegates convene in Canada to negotiate the next iteration of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Latino immigrant leaders and workers’ advocates from Mexico and Honduras will travel across the Midwest to explore the consequences of global trade for workers across the Americas. The “Good Jobs, Good Neighbors: Thriving Communities across Borders” tour, led by Chicago-based Alianza Americas, will make stops in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota from September 19-26.

“Political rhetoric pits US workers against immigrant workers. But rather than ‘competing’ for jobs, all workers are living with the consequences of a collective race to the bottom, set into motion by flawed global trade agreements and policy choices,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. “The US Midwest, still grappling with an exodus of manufacturing jobs and struggling to pay living wages in key regional industries like agriculture and food service, is an important backdrop for these conversations.”

A series of programs along 10 tour stops will explore how global trade agreements like NAFTA and its Central American extension, CAFTA, have displaced both jobs and workers across the Americas.  The tour will:

  • Explore the intersection of trade policy with other areas, such as the profoundly outdated US immigration system and increasingly weak environmental protections.
  • Facilitate transnational dialogue between stakeholders from the US Midwest and Latin America around shared challenges facing workers, families, and larger communities.
  • Support discussion around international best practices and local solutions in connecting workers with safe, secure living-wage jobs.

Post-tour, organizers will produce a briefing memo with recommendations to be shared with local and national policymakers, as well as civil society advocates.

As the Trump administration blames NAFTA for the loss of 700,000 jobs for US workers, economic indicators suggest that global trade has brought wage stagnation and growing inequality to partner nations. Since NAFTA’s implementation in 1994, Mexico’s per capita GDP has grown just 1 percent, lower than the Latin American average of 1.4 percent, and inequality has increased. Unemployment in the US is virtually unchanged from 1994, but the nature of that work has shifted, with workers moving into lower paying sectors.   Honduras’ unemployment rates have risen nearly 20 percent since 2004’s CAFTA. Honduras is now the most unequal country in Latin America and sixth most unequal country in the world.

Featured guest speakers—worker advocates Maria Luisa Regalado of the Honduran Women’s Collective in San Pedro Sula and Rita Marcela Robles of the Fray Matías Center for Human Rights in Mexico City—will add transnational perspectives to programs planned at each stop.

“The ‘good’ jobs that have left the US haven’t come to Honduras,” said Regalado. “Workers in the maquiladora industry in San Pedro Sula struggle to pay bills just like working families in the United States. There’s no silver bullet to these challenges—it’s about more than raising wages or updating immigration policies, even as both of those things are critically important. Having diverse stakeholders at the table, examining the things that connect us, is the way to start building solutions.”

“NAFTA’s architects were very intentional about leaving out provisions related to labor, immigration, and the environment back in 1994. And today, we’re all living the effects: Forced migration, stagnant wages and environmental crises—including lead poisoning—from Flint, Michigan to Monterrey, Mexico,” said Robles. “We need to examine how these issues are connected—and how they connect us—as these trade treaties get re-negotiated.”

The “Good Jobs, Good Neighbors” tour is part of a series of learning tours made possible with program support from the Ford Foundation, CAMMINA, and the WK Kellogg Foundation.  Additional funding for educational tours is provided by Oxfam America. Alianza thanks the many partner organizations and individuals supporting this effort, including Association for a Just Society, Casa de Esperanza, Chicago Jobs with Justice, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), Detroit Hispanic Development Center, Federación de Clubes Michoacános en Illinois (FEDECMI), El Centro Hispano, Emily Hunsberger, Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Micah Center/The Worker’s Center, Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition, Office of Social Justice, Sierra Club, Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, UFCW Local Union 881, University of Minnesota Humphrey’s School of Public Affairs, VOCES, Witness for Peace, and Workers United. A full tour itinerary is available here: http://www.alianzaamericas.org/2017-midwest-speaking-tour/

Alianza Americas represents a critical voice on issues that have an impact on the lives of immigrants and all families throughout the Americas. Its 45 organizational members represent more than 100,000 families across 12 states in the United States. It is the only national organization in the U.S. that is rooted in Latino/Caribbean immigrant communities and works transnationally to create an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable way of life.

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