Professor James Brudney was quoted in an article for Bloomberg Law, regarding recent updates made to the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, that ease the barriers for unions and other groups to challenge corporations over alleged labor and environmental abuse.
The changes include two significant alterations to the existing North American Free Trade Agreement that will lower the barrier for a country to bring a traditional dispute under the trilateral trade agreement and will also establish a new labor-specific enforcement mechanism that is meant to provide a faster facility-based response to allegations of labor abuse.
Allegations of labor and environmental wrongdoing have traditionally been hard to enforce under NAFTA and other trade agreements since a country bringing a dispute had to prove the activity affected trade and had to go through a lengthy dispute resolution process that could span years.
The shifting burden of proof is a substantial one, according to Fordham University labor law professor James Brudney. It could empower American unions and environmental groups to petition the U.S. government to bring more international complaints under the USMCA if it’s approved, especially those involving violence against workers.
“What’s different here is the language in the old agreement referred to ‘cases of violence’ and it also referred to a ‘sustained or recurring course of action or inaction,’” Brudney said. “And now we’re just talking about that there is either violence or a threat of violence at any moment.”