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Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 00:28:42 -0500 (EST)
From: Scott Marshall (
Subject: PWW [Digest] *Black worker* *Wages/Profits* *NAFTA*

NAFTA's First Year of Pollution, Poverty & Corruption

By Bruce Bostick

United Steelworkers, Lorain, Ohio

(Reprinted from the February 4 issue of the People's Weekly World. For subscription information see below. All rights reserved, may be reprinted with acknowledgement)

We have now had our first full year under NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) and the results are beginning to come in. The first really comprehensive study on NAFTA's first year was published by the prestigious Institute for Policy Studies of Washington, D.C. in December, 1994. (The study can be obtained at: Institute For Policy Studies, 1601 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009.)

Far from the pro-NAFTA, big business' trumpeting of NAFTA's "great success," the real results are much different. The findings fully confirm the worst fears of labor, human rights and environmental advocates who opposed NAFTA.

First of all, on jobs, by taking the published information from USA-NAFTA, the big business pro-NAFTA lobby, the study found NAFTA had, in fact, created jobs -- a grand total of 535 nationwide (five -- that's right five -- here in Ohio).

Balancing this job "creation" was the destruction of between 12,000 and 30,000 U.S. jobs in NAFTA's first year. The Institute got these figures by calculating the U.S. workers who filed for federal transitional adjustment assistance (TAA) due to NAFTA-caused job loss. Over 30,000 filed and the department of Labor certified that 12,221 U.S. workers had lost their jobs due to NAFTA.

Under NAFTA, environmental degradation has continued along the border region and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), which was created under side agreements to deal with border pollution, has proved totally useless!

Concern for Rio Grande water quality has heightened, not lessened, as an epidemic of pollution-related brain defects have hit area infants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent subpoenas to 95 U.S. firms involved in releasing chemicals into the New River on the border. Nearly 60 of the companies failed to comply and 31 challenged the subpoenas, under new NAFTA rules, the study stated.

The study pointed to the complete futility of filing for relief under either the labor or environmental side agreements. Under both, the study explained, meeting dates were changed, locations changed, sessions were closed to the public and decisions were heavily weighted to the corporate side. Neither fired workers or environmentalists got any relief.

At the same time, the study points to a drop of real wages for Mexican workers of 31 percent, while manufacturing productivity went up 64 percent in Mexico. Labor's share of national wealth, in Mexico, fell from 30 percent in 1976, to 18 percent last year, according to the study. Far from "helping Mexican Workers," U.S. firms have lowered Mexican wages. U.S. firms paid an average of $1.75 per hour in Mexico, below the national average of $2.65. This, the study pointed out, led to dramatic increases in immigration and heightened racist backlash, as California's Proposition 187 showed.

However, there is a group that profited from NAFTA. The study documents the rise in wealth of super billionaires, both in U.S. and Mexico (while poverty increased for the majority).

This is just the preliminaries, just the first year. With GATT's passage, these trends will continue and get much worse. (The study was conducted prior to the collapse of the Mexican peso, which will make U.S. goods far more expensive in Mexico.)

This serves as an ominous warning for the upcoming implementation of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), which Ralph Nader called "NAFTA on steroids!"

GATT is hailed by the multinational corporations. It should be! It sets up an undemocratic, supra-national agency -- the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- which will have wide-ranging authority to overrule national laws and settle international trade disputes. WTO can arbitrarily rule environmental, child labor laws and farm supports, and any labor rules as "barriers to free trade."

GATT cuts import duties, while strengthening corporate rights to move plants, and in copyright and patent protection. Workers' rights, farmers' rights and protection for the environment are nowhere in the document. Labor, environmentalists and other workers' representatives had no voice in those talks.

Make no mistake about it: these trade agreements are for the benefit of corporate profits internationally, to the detriment of working people internationally and the environment worldwide. To turn this thing around is a high-stakes fight, and it will take a great deal of unity and solidarity.

But there is greater power in our solidarity than ever. This fight concerns not only directly the working class in our country -- of our different races, nationalities, ages and backgrounds -- as well as our allies in the environmental and other progressive movements; it is also of great concern to workers around the world. In the potential for such widespread solidarity is our great strength.

Bruce Bostick is a United Steelworkers local union officer in Lorain, Ohio and a member of the Sierra Club.

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