Clinton Won Nafta, But He Had Better Listen To Labor
In your commentary "The unions vs. pro-NAFTA Democrats: Get over it" (Top of the News, Dec. 6), I was quoted in support of the position that "union leaders must abandon efforts to stop immutable economic forces." In fact, I do not agree that labor's position against NAFTA was either inappropriate or an attempt to preserve the past. It is the responsibility of unions to do everything within their power to protect the jobs ef members, whether they are threatened by capital flight to Mexico or other economic factors.
Although the labor movement was on the losing side of the NAFTA vote, President Clinton surely is aware that 60% of the Representatives from his own party voted against him. If NAFTA was indeed a "battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party," it appears that labor was the victor. More Democrats voted against President Clinton on NAFTA than voted against George Bush when NAFTA negotiations were put on a fast track in 1991.
If President Clinton hopes to regain the confidence of unionized workers and their elected leaders, he must take the initiative by responding to their legislative priorities--including a ban on permanent replacement of strikers, reform of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, and strong protection of the right of workers to organize unions.
Richard W. Hurd
Director of Labor Studies