In a development with real implications for the upcoming Congressional debate over the corporate-friendly TransPacific Partnership (TPP), an international coalition of labor and consumer groups on Thursday filed “double-barrel,” cross-border complaints to challenge workers’ rights abuses by a Mexican retail giant in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Though the complaints are not directly tied to the 12-nation TPP agreement, how the Obama administration responds to them will offer labor and human rights groups a glimpse of its position on labor protections in international trade agreements.
“President Obama is pushing for TPP approval in the face of strong opposition from unions and others who see it as a giveaway to multinational companies that will only intensify inequality and downward pressure on jobs and wages,” said University of Maryland international labor law professor Marley Weiss, who was formerly chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on the NAFTA labor agreement. “If the administration fails to take strong action in this case, critics will see it as a signal that the United States is falling short on linking trade, investment, and labor rights.”
Led by the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770 (UFCW) union in the U.S. and the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) union in Mexico, the coalition is seeking redress from Chedraui Commercial Group under both the NAFTA labor agreement and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines.
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Chedraui is Mexico’s third-largest retail chain with 35,000 employees in more than 200 stores throughout the country; the corporation also has a majority-stake in the California-based Bodega Latina Corporation, which does business as the El Super grocery chain with 50 supermarkets employing more than 5,000 workers in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
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