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October 29, 2003

Bush DOL Violating NAFTA Obligations

The federal Court of International Trade-- the special court dealing with trade matters-- has blasted the Bush administration's Department of Labor for routinely violating the law in failing to investigate and grant trade adjustment funds to workers losing their job due to jobs being moved to Mexico.

These funds are a critical part of the Trade Assistance Act that was used to justify NAFTA on the theory that workers who lose out under "free trade" would at least be compensated with the funds needed to train for new careers.

But the Court is outraged that workers routinely have to appeal to the courts for help, as the DOL routinely ignores their requests for aid:

While this case is troubling enough when viewed in isolation, it is even more troubling if it is viewed in the context of other TAA and NAFTA-TAA cases appealed to this Court...There is something fundamentally wrong with the administration of the nationís trade adjustment assistance programs if, as a practical matter, workers often must appeal their cases to the courts to secure the thorough investigation that the Labor Department is obligated to conduct by law.
In this case, Ameriphone employees were responsible for inspecting, testing, repairing, and modifying communications technology produced in China and used by the hearing-impaired, deaf, and special needs communities. Ameriphone was purchased by Plantronics in 2002, and much of the work performed by Ameriphone employees in California was shifted to a Plantronics plant in Tijuana, Mexico. The DOL refused to certify them as qualifying for trade assistance, forcing them to appeal to the Trade Court.

Even as the Bush administration is trying to negotiate new trade deals, it is blatantly violating its obligations to workers who have lost out due to NAFTA.

If the administration can't enforce the few pathetic pro-worker provisions of NAFTA, they should be blocked from moving forward on any new trade deals.

Posted by Nathan at October 29, 2003 09:00 AM