The AFL-CIO vs. Guatemala

Mary O’Grady reports on the AFL-CIO’s attempt to obstruct the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR):
Big Labor’s Yanqui Imperialism
The U.S. trade representative is trying to deny due process to Guatemala in defiance of free-trade agreement rules.

The action, according to the USTR, was born of an AFL-CIO petition—filed with six Guatemalan workers groups—which makes the same allegation. USTR says it, along with the Departments of Labor and State, analyzed the AFL-CIO claim and decided to pursue it because it “appeared” to be correct.

This is what they demand (emphasis added)

One of the U.S. demands is to add 100 labor inspectors to the government payroll immediately. Mr. Velásquez says that while Guatemala is willing to comply with the increase, the estimated cost, in the millions of dollars, is not in the current budget. Guatemala has said it will add the inspectors next year but that’s not good enough for Uncle Sam.

A second demand is to force all exporters to indemnify their workers against a company failure by buying a bond. Mr. Velásquez says that Guatemala’s constitutional court has said no to this because singling out exporters would be discriminatory. He also notes that U.S. exporters are under no such obligation.

Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, the U.S. wants Guatemala to give labor inspectors the authority to close a plant deemed to be in violation of the labor code. The trouble is, Mr. Velásquez points out, inspectors are not judges and the accused has the right to have the case heard in a court of law. Otherwise, he says, “we would turn our inspectors into emperors.” It is passing strange that the U.S. is trying to undermine Guatemala’s frail democracy in favor of the kinds of practices that occur in dictatorships.

More broadly, the AFL-CIO-inspired demands would raise costs for Guatemalan exporters and even drive them out of business.

Free trade? Not if the AFL-CIO has any say on it.

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