Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Mexican Trucks - Score One For Living Wages and Public Safety

Hope folks caught the really significant victory for living wage jobs won by the Teamsters and their allies. The Bush Administration had proposed allowing Mexican trucks to make long hauls across the border and across country, but the Senate and House handily overturned the proposals by denying funds to implement the rules.

I was especially ticked by conventional wisdom that chided the Teamsters and the Sierra Club as protectionists and self-serving for opposing the change, and called on Congress to fulfill the promise of NAFTA by allowing long haulers to drop off goods in all three countries.

There was no real promise of NAFTA for workers in Mexico, the U.S. or Canada. On the Mexican side, such a real promise would have to included massive economic development aid and freer borders for labor to migrate. Never happened. What we got was a one sided deal, that allowed companies to place production in Mexico when it was profitable (without making long-term investment) and for U.S. imports to snuff out traditional agriculture and other native grown Mexican businesses. The other ‘promise’ of NAFTA was that their would be meaningful labor and environmental standards, so that companies couldn’t reap massive profits by simply bringing US-banned union-busting and hazardous environment practices to Mexico. Never happened.

That’s why it was so heartening to see Congress just say no to the further NAFTA-ization of the economy. If the Mexican truck rules had gone through, we would have lost one more source of good blue collar living wage jobs that are unlikely to come back. Moreover, it would be one more example where the NAFTA regime would have been allowed to over-rule decades of hard fought regulations that protected American drivers (including truckers) from accidents and poor emissions. When all the world order gives us is half-baked globalization (termed second-best globalization in a brilliant article by Daniel Rodrik), sometimes all we can do is just say no.


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