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OTTAWA– More than two dozen labor organizations in Mexico, the United States and Canada, together representing several million workers, today jointly filed a charge against the United States, under the North American Agreement for Labour Cooperation (NAALC), the labor side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (Participating organizations listed below.) The complaint, formally filed today in Mexico by the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT – Authentic Labor Front) charges that North Carolina and the United States are violating NAALC and international law, by denying the right to engage in collective bargaining with their employers to 650,000 public employees in the state.

Frustration with the lack of collective bargaining and effective voice on the job has led to increasing protests by North Carolina public employees. The most recent instance was a strike by Raleigh sanitation workers on September 13 and 14.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) gives its full support to this complaint”, said Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the public sector workers in North Carolina, that are currently being denied their basic rights – such as the right to free collective bargaining,” added Moist.

The NAALC requires Canada, the United States, and Mexico to provide for “high labour standards” in their laws, and lists freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining among its core principles. North Carolina’s General Statute 95-98 prohibits collective bargaining by state and local government employees, a clear and direct violation of international law. The NAALC also require standards of due process for workers, protection of health and safety on the job, and protection against employment discrimination. The labour groups charge that North Carolina, in denying its workers the right to negotiate contracts, denies them these protections as well.

Mexico and Canada are North Carolina’s largest international trading partners. North Carolina’s combined annual exports to Canada and Mexico total $6.5 billion.

The actions requested by the labour organizations include North Carolina immediately ceasing to enforce, and moving to repeal General Statute 95-98, replacing it with legislation that will guarantee public sector workers the rights to organize, bargain collectively, and full freedom of association.

Benedicto Martinez Orozco, national coordinator of the FAT, described his organization’s reasons for acting. “I traveled to NC and was shocked at the level of discrimination and that a country that places such importance on democracy does not permit public sector workers in North Carolina to bargain collectively. We are filing this complaint to support workers in the US.”

United Electrical Local 150 President Angaza Laughinghouse expressed his union’s gratitude for the showing of international support. “We are very pleased at this showing of solidarity with North Carolina public employees by unions from across the three NAFTA countries. This shows that North Carolina’s continued denial of basic worker rights is an international disgrace, and it must be corrected.”

UE filed the first complaint under NAALC in 1994, after the Mexican government allowed General Electric to commit massive labor law violations in crushing a FAT organizing campaign at a GE plant in Juarez.

For more information please contact:

Paul Moist, CUPE national President (613) 237-1590 #224 or (613) 558-2873 - mobile

Peter Barnacle, CUPE Legal and legislative representative (306) 529 9531 - mobile

List of participating organizations

  • Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers
  • Canadian Auto Workers Union
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
  • Confédération des syndicats nacionaux (CSN)
  • Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO
  • Fédération des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (FIIQ)
  • Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)
  • Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT)
  • International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM)
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
  • Public Service International (PSI)
  • Sindicato Nacional Unico y Democrático de los Trabajadores del Banco nacional de Comercio Exterior
  • Sindicato Unico de Trabajadores del Gobierno del Distrito Federal
  • Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec (SFPQ)
  • United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE)
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
  • United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC (USW)