Teamsters

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Teamsters Local 416 President Testifies on NAFTA Impact on Ohio

Testimony of Nick “Sonny” Nardi Given at NAFTA Field Hearing Hosted by Marcy Kaptur

The following is the official transcript of testimony given by Teamsters Local Union 416 President Nick “Sonny” Nardi at the NAFTA Field Hearing at UAW Local 1250 on Aug. 3. The hearing was hosted by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

“Good afternoon.  My name is Sonny Nardi and I am President of Teamsters Local 416 in Cleveland.

“In May 2000, 320 Teamsters got laid off from the Mr. Coffee plant in Glenwillow, about 20 miles east of here.  Their jobs went to Mexico because of the North American [so-called] Free Trade Agreement.

“My Local, Teamsters 416, lost hundreds of jobs to NAFTA

  • 120 jobs at HOSPECO on 79th and Carnegie in Cleveland,

  • 60 jobs at Mueller Electric on Pain avenue in Cleveland

  • the Mr. Coffee Filter Division

  • 96 jobs in Bedford Heights and

  • 115 jobs at Blue Coral Car Wax in Maple Heights. 

“These were all good paying jobs with benefits Many were inner city jobs, workers couldwalk to work and had much tenure.

“Most of these guys, because their production jobs were simply shifted to Mexican plants, were eligible for some federal benefits under a narrow NAFTA program called “Trade Adjustment Assistance” -- or TAA.  Here in Ohio, under NAFTA TAA, more than 150,000 workers have been certified as having lost their jobs due to offshoring – plant relocation like Mr. Coffee – or because of increased imports from Mexico and Canada that reduce production and jobs at American companies.

“But as everybody knows the TAA totals are the tip of the iceberg because that program certifies only the manufacturing jobs that we have lost because of NAFTA – not the services jobs that depend on a strong manufacturing base.

“So when you factor in those jobs, as well as the manufacturing jobs Ohio has lost due to the U.S. trade deficit with China since it joined the WTO,  Ohio has probably lost twice the TAA numbers – probably north of 300,000 manufacturing-related jobs.

“Very few states, if any, have endured greater per capita economic harm, due to our flawed and failed so-called “free trade” policies, than Ohio.  And on a personal note as a longtime northern Ohio Teamster leader, there aren’t many Local unions that have been decimated the way 416 has by NAFTA.

“And on another point of personal privilege, I want to say that American workers, not just here in Cleveland but all over the country, have had no better friend, no greater ally, than Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. 

“Some folks here are probably too young to remember the NAFTA Accountability Act back in the mid-90s.  That was Marci Kaptur shining a legislative light on the NAFTA disaster even as the jobs were starting to flow south.

“That’s why this field hearing is so important and that’s why the renegotiation of NAFTA is an historic opportunity.

“So I want to spend a couple minutes on how we can overhaul the NAFTA to begin to repair the damage.  Specifically, I want to describe some things that must be included in a new NAFTA, new Chapters, as well as some old parts of NAFTA that must come out.

“But let me be really clear at the outset – if the Trump trade team does not renegotiate NAFTA in a thorough way that works for workers, then the US should quit the deal altogether. 

“I can’t speak for the other folks on this panel today, but the Teamsters demand a complete overhaul of the NAFTA model.  No cut-n-paste of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, no tweaking around the edges. We want a NAFTA upgrade that puts the interests of working families first and foremost.

“To achieve that goal, the top priority has to be a new Labor Rights Chapter to replace the weak and unenforceable side agreement added to NAFTA to get Congress to support ratification in 1993.

“When it comes to North American worker rights, we’ve got to level the playing field, so Mexican workers and union organizers have the same rights we take for granted up here. That will reduce the incentive for corporations to relocate jobs down there, if they can’t oppress labor or avoid collective bargaining.

“The new NAFTA must prohibit child labor and forced labor and protect the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively through independent unions.  Further, those fundamental labor rights must be enforceable by the same or better trade sanctions that protect commercial interests.

“Moreover, a truly modernized NAFTA should establish a process to determine basic living wage rates in all regions of all three countries and an enforcement mechanism to guarantee a decent standard of living, including the ability to save for retirement.

“All these basic labor rights and the sanctions that protect them and the commitment to living wage must be enforced by an independent tri-national labor secretariat that can hear labor cases and resolve them on behalf of all workers, including migrant workers.

“Last point on labor: this new NAFTA chapter will serve as a template for future negotiations, so it is crucial that America get it right this time.

“Another new chapter that must be part of the NAFTA replacement model is Currency.  One of the reasons we could not support the TPP was the previous administration refused to include enforceable disciplines against currency manipulation.

“America has learned the hard way how our trading partners manage their currencies against the dollar to increase their exports to us (and limit imports from us), which increases our trade deficits, which costs American jobs.  We’re not saying that Mexico or Canada is currently manipulating their currencies.  But we are saying that a replacement trade model that we will support must finally address the issue of currency misalignment.

“Let me finish by mentioning a couple bad NAFTA provisions that must come out during renegotiation.

“The first is Government Procurement, which is NAFTA Chapter 10. It has undermined “Buy American” laws by requiring the federal government to treat foreign bidders as if they were U.S. bidders.  To Buy American is to Hire American, that’s how it works, and we want our jobs back and our tax dollars spent at home.

“Going in to these new NAFTA talks, the U.S. should retract all procurement commitments that undermine responsible bidding standards and all domestic or local preferences.  Teamsters and taxpayers from both sides of the partisan divide, support “Buy American” -- and we don’t want the new NAFTA to weaken that economic policy, especially as we look forward to the infrastructure investment that this country needs so badly.

“The second thing that must come out is the controversial system of private corporate courts that protect foreign investors.  NAFTA’s Chapter 11 introduced so-called “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) into our “free trade” deals, giving foreign companies superior rights over U.S. firms.

“ISDS undermines the rule of law and facilitates offshoring by creating unique privileges and secretive arbitration chambers in which foreign investors, but not American firms, can challenge laws they claim will cut profits.

“A third bad provision, of particular interest to the Teamsters, is in Chapter 12, which deals with trade in services.  The old NAFTA opened up American highways to unsafe Mexican-domiciled long-haul carriers. 

“We and our allies like Advocates for Highway Safety, the Sierra Club and the Owner-Operator Independent Truckers have fought for many years, in the Congress and in the courts, to keep that provision from being fully implemented.

“The original intent of the NAFTA negotiators was to keep US interstates closed to Mexican carriers until the safety of the trucks and drivers could be certified.  “That has never happened.  Accordingly, we call on the new NAFTA RE-negotiators to end this controversy once and for all.  The new NAFTA should require Mexican domiciled trucks to transfer their loads to US trucks in the 20 mile wide border commercial zone.

“In conclusion, I have named two new chapters that must be included in NAFTA 2.0 and three bad aspects that must come out – five reforms that will keep and create middle class jobs and help America lead the way towards a new trade policy paradigm, a template for all future international commercial agreements.

“But seeing as we are enjoying the hospitality of our UAW brothers and sisters here in Local 1250, I want to mention one last NAFTA fix.

“The Rules of Origin for autos and auto parts should be beefed up.  The “regional value content” should be raised and all loopholes closed.  In order to enjoy the low tariffs and NAFTA market access, all cars and trucks that are made in the three countries should not have components that are made in other countries where wages are suppressed by companies that oppress workers and pay them less than their labor is worth.

“That solidarity is what this opportunity is all about.  Autoworkers and Steelworkers and Machinists and Teamsters, the labor unions that have had the worst experience under NAFTA and now have the greatest stake in a real overhaul in its renegotiation.  We must stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the independent unions in Canada and Mexico. And in turn, all of labor must stand in solidarity with environmental activists, consumer advocates and the family farmers.

“Together, we have been fighting NAFTA and its expansion for a generation.  Now we can work together, with our allies in Congress, to finally fix it."

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