The election of US President Donald Trump poses a major challenge for trade unions and workers in the United States. Union density in the country was only 10.7 % in 2016 (34.4% in the public sector and 6.4% in the private sector) and most Republicans would probably like to see trade unions disappear completely.

“Republicans and right-wing politicians have long worked to bankrupt unions and weaken the labour movement, on both sides of the border,” said Mark Hancock, CUPE national president. “Now it appears the Republican majority in Congress, emboldened by the election of Donald  Trump, are pushing ahead with this attack on unions and working Americans.” Legislation has been tabled in Congress by Republican lawmakers to allow workers to opt out of union membership, but maintain their protections and benefits. Essentially, this would take resources away from the union that it would otherwise use to organize, campaign and prepare for bargaining.

TPP and NAFTA

President Trump has signed an executive order stating that his government would withdraw from negotiations for a  Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The impact of the withdrawl of the US on the deal is unclear. It is speculated that the United States will now enter into bilateral agreements with each of the 12 partners of the TPP with a view to strengthening its demands for any future Pacific trade agreement.

What is clear for Canadian workers is that the TPP threatens tens of thousands of Canadian jobs, will lead to higher prescription drug costs, and undermines our health care system.

Further the United States government has said it will move to open the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Canada must go into any NAFTA renegotiation with a strategy for creating good jobs. We need manufacturing and service jobs with decent wages, pensions and benefits. We must also protect universal and accessible public services, and public infrastructure which are critical to a strong Canadian economy.

As Canada’s largest union, it’s our responsibility to defend workers’ rights, public services, and our environment. We stand in solidarity with workers and members of civil society in the United States and Mexico. Together, we will fight for a fair agreement that supports us all.