America’s largest labor unions, encouraged by President Donald Trump’s intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), continue advocating for major overhaul of the Clinton-era agreement.
At least 557 groups, including the United Auto Workers and other top labor unions, filed public comments with the U.S. Trade Office ahead of a June deadline, where they eviscerated the trade deal as bad for America and its workers.
“We will do everything we can to make this a good agreement and to hold the president at this word and make sure we get a renegotiation,” Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), told reporters Monday, according to Reuters. “If it comes out that it is not a good deal, no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Trump, who regularly blasted both NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the 2016 presidential campaign, made renegotiation or elimination of the two trade deals a top priority during his first 100 days.
Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the TPP on day three of his presidency, and set his sights on NAFTA on day 11. “I don’t care if it’s a renovation of NAFTA, or a brand new NAFTA, but we do have to make it fair,” the president said Feb. 2, adding that “it’s very unfair to the American worker, and very, very unfair to companies that do business in the United States.”
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress in May that Trump intended to renegotiate NAFTA. Lighthizer said that negotiations would begin no earlier than Aug. 16, 2017.
Trump’s message of “America first” was critical in his 2016 election victory. His message on jobs, trade and the economy resonated in battleground states that turned red for the first time in decades. The president was able to take in a good number of rank and file union members that usually vote Democratic, even though many union leaders threw support behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.