Right-to-Work Reversal Won’t Come From NAFTA Negotiations: Levin

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By Tyrone Richardson

Reversing the more than two dozen state right-to-work laws likely won’t occur as a result of renegotiating the NAFTA trade pact.

That was the message Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) got from meeting with negotiators working on changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Levin, a member of the House Subcommittee on Trade, joined other House members at a meeting with negotiators and other officials during the latest round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal, Canada.

“We aren’t unfortunately able to repeal right-to-work through NAFTA renegotiation,” Levin said during a Jan. 30 news conference at the Capitol. “The only way we are going to do that is to elect a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit “union security” clauses in collective bargaining agreements. The clauses require nonunion members who are covered by the CBAs to pay representation fees. Such fees are part of the lifeblood of labor unions, right-to-work opponents say.

Right-to-work laws have been enacted in 28 states. There’s also a national measure being floated in Congress.

Canadian negotiators have asked for removal of U.S. right-to-work laws as part of updating NAFTA. The trade deal between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico was enacted in 1994.

Right-to-Work Creates Uneven Trade?

Labor unions have told Bloomberg Law that right-to-work laws create an uneven playing field and could lure some Canadian employers to move production to the U.S. in states with such laws.

But the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has argued that right-to-work removal would be counteractive. The group argues the laws appropriately offer workers a choice whether they want to join a labor union.

NAFTA has been highly criticized by President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to renegotiate trade deals he dubbed unfair and that he said caused U.S. job losses.

Levin told Bloomberg Law Jan. 30 that the Trump administration likely won’t agree to removing right-to-work laws.

“I’m totally opposed to right-to-work, but in NAFTA negotiations the Trump administration isn’t going to agree to it,” Levin said. “They support right-to-work. So when Canada says right-to-work should be negotiated through NAFTA, I wish that were true, but it’s not realistic.”

A spokesman for the U.S. trade representative didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

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