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Vermont, Quebec
Unionists Object
To New ‘Free
Trade’ Scheme


More than 150 union members and others, including members of UE Locals 221, 234, 254, 258 and 267, packed one of the largest rooms in the Vermont statehouse on Saturday, April 7 to express opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the latest big business scheme to expand NAFTA. Opening the event, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) explained that "U.S. trade policy has been a disaster, and must be changed!"

The spirited crowd heard from a panel consisting of AFL-CIO Assist. Policy Director Thea Lee, Harvard Trade Union Program Dir. Elaine Bernard (who addressed the 1992 and 1997 UE Conventions), and two trade unionists from Quebec, Claire Lalande and Andre Marcoux, who were both guests at the 1999 UE Convention in Burlington. (The presence of Lalande and Marcoux was facilitated by UE International Labor Affairs Dir. Robin Alexander.)


Lee outlined the basic problems that NAFTA has caused for workers in U.S. and Mexico: loss of jobs and downward pressure on wages. She explained that the FTAA’s expansion of "free trade" to 34 countries in Americas would only make things worse.

Lalande described the "People’s Summit of the Americas" that her union, the Central de Syndicats du Quebec (CSQ), is helping to organize in Quebec City, while heads of state and corporate big-wigs from the 34 FTAA countries [met] behind walls and barbed wire. A "Hemispheric Social Alliance" of trade unionists, environmentalists, students, indigenous peoples and others from all 35 countries in the Americas (Cuba is excluded from the FTAA) will be meeting in public to build solidarity and enhance workers’ rights throughout the hemisphere.


Bernard spoke about the "Alternatives for the Americas" plan being proposed by the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a plan for economic integration that seeks to protect workers’ rights, the environment and democratic values everywhere.

Finally, Marcoux described how CISO, the Center for International Worker Solidarity in Montreal, has developed a 3-hour educational for union members about economic globalization, which they have given for thousands of trade unionists in Quebec and throughout the world.

After the panel, several of the sponsoring organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Vermont Mobilization for Global Justice, the Progressive Party and UE offered remarks. UE Local 267 Chief Steward Norma Sprague spoke about her experiences on a UE-FAT worker-to-worker exchange in Mexico, explaining how she had seen first-hand the poverty that NAFTA caused in Mexico.

UE News - 04/01

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> Article

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