To New ‘Free
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.)
FTAA: 'WOULD MAKE THINGS WORSE'
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
UE News - 04/01