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NAFTA and Labor in North America

Norman Caulfield

Publication Year: 2010

As companies increasingly look to the global market for capital, cheaper commodities and labor, and lower production costs, the impact on Mexican and American workers and labor unions is significant. National boundaries and the laws of governments that regulate social relations between laborers and management are less relevant in the era of globalization, rendering ineffective the traditional union strategies of pressuring the state for reform._x000B_ _x000B_Focusing especially on the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (the first international labor agreement linked to an international trade agreement), Norman Caulfield notes the waning political influence of trade unions and their disunity and divergence on crucial issues such as labor migration and workers' rights. Comparing the labor movement's fortunes in the 1970s with its current weakened condition, Caulfield notes the parallel decline in the United States' hegemonic influence in an increasingly globalized economy. As a result, organized labor has been transformed from organizations that once pressured management and the state for concessions to organizations that now request that workers concede wages, pensions, and health benefits to remain competitive in the global marketplace. _x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

My interests in writing this book go back at least ten years. While making revisions on my first book, Mexican Workers and the State: From the Porfiriato to NAFTA, in preparation for publication, the late Tracy Row, then editor for Texas Christian University Press, suggested that I include a final chapter that updated materials...

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pp. 1-8

On January 31, 2008, in Mexico City’s huge Zocálo plaza, tens of thousands of peasants and farmers converged from all over Mexico in convoys of tractors, motorcades, and other vehicles. Joined by labor activists from independent unions...

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1. Labor and Global Capitalism in North America, 1850-1970

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pp. 9-39

When the 1848 revolutions of Western Europe removed the remaining feudal roadblocks to economic expansion, Britain, through the use of its military and naval might, not only knocked down barriers to its expansion, but in so doing provided the basis for the expansion of capitalism in other nations. As the world’s preeminent...

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2. The Politics of Mexican Labor and Economic Development in Crisis

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pp. 40-64

On September 1, 2006, Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled his final state of the union speech before Congress after legislators seized the podium in protest of a massive police and military mobilization against antigovernment demonstrators. For only the third time in Mexico’s volatile political history, political..

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3. Mexican Labor and Workers' Rights under NAFTA and NAALC

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pp. 65-89

While the NAFTA years for Mexico have reduced real wages, generated growth of the informal economy, and created conditions for massive migration of the working population to the United States, perhaps the most serious consequence of the period has been the assault on workers’ rights. In their attempt...

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4. Labor Mobility and Workers' Rights in North America

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pp. 90-111

On May 1, 2006, International Workers’ Day, millions of immigrant workers, comprising an overwhelming majority of Mexicans, took to the streets in several major cities and towns across the United States. The demonstrations, both in their size and national scope, were unprecedented in U.S. history. Many who...

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5. The Crisis of Union-Management Relations in teh United States and Canada

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pp. 112-141

A little more than a quarter century ago, experts, commentators, and scholars began writing about the changing environment in the world of union-management relations. Typical of this commentary was a 1981 Business Week article that...

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6. The North American Auto Industry: The Apex of Concessionary Bargaining

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pp. 142-165

Nowhere have the pressures associated with globalization and NAFTA been more evident than in U.S.-based auto manufacturing, once considered the world’s undisputed titan of the industry. For more than a century, the auto industry...

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7. VEBA Las Vegas! Unions Play Casino Capitalism: Autoworkers Lose

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pp. 166-188

The 2007 United Auto Workers (UAW) agreements with the Big Three automakers (GM, Chrysler, and Ford) represent the capstone of a three-decade-long transformation of the union. The UAW is now a business enterprise, ever more so closely integrated with Big Three management, directly profiting from the labor of the workers it ostensibly represents. The contracts that cover more...

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pp. 189-196

In many ways, NAFTA explains much about the history of world capitalism. As an economic system that constantly seeks to push the productive forces to develop on a global scale, capitalism inevitably creates conflicts among nation-states in which the private property and the regulatory rules for accumulating wealth...


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pp. 197-232


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pp. 233-251

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090790
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034923

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Working Class in American History