Canada demands US end right-to-work laws as part of NAFTA renegotiation

The news that Canadian negotiators are demanding that the U.S. end right-to-work laws and provide a full year of paid family leave at first angered me.  If Canada wants to sap its competitiveness by forcing workers into unions and making full-time jobs a risky proposition for a business to offer, that's fine with me. Just stay out of our affairs.

But a moment's reflection changed my mood.  I realized that this is a confession of the malign economic effects of the partnership between big government and big unions.  They can't compete, and they know it.  Think of it as a cry for help.

But first, here is what we know, courtesy of Adrian Morrow of the Toronto Globe and Mail, who is in Mexico City covering the current round of talks in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Trade with the U.S. is far more important to Canada than vice versa, so Canadians are following the talks with interest.

Morrow writes:

Canadian negotiators are demanding the United States roll back so-called "right to work" laws – accused of gutting unions in some U.S. states by starving them of money – as part of the renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement. The request is part of a push by Ottawa to get the U.S. and Mexico to adopt higher labour standards under the deal.

"Higher" labor standards mean government coercion, substituting political diktat for the market, or private coercion from unions that confiscate a portion of their members' paychecks and recycle most of it back to the politicians who support regulation (and unions).

One group of negotiators spent all day Sunday working on the labour file, according to a schedule of the talks obtained by The Globe and Mail. One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request. Canada believes that lower labour standards in the United States and Mexico, including right to work, give those countries an unfair advantage in attracting jobs.

"Lower" labor standards in this case mean individual liberty.  And liberty is downright "unfair" in the eyes of a statist.

Jerry Dias, the leader of Canada's largest private-sector trade union, said Ottawa's negotiators are: pushing Mexico on its corporate-sanctioned unions, which are accused of negotiating collective agreements unfavourable to workers; agitating for both countries to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does; and targeting American right-to-work laws that allow workers in unionized shops to refuse to pay dues, draining money from unions. ...

Mr. Dias, whose union represents a broad swath of occupations from auto makers to paperworkers, met on Sunday with Canada's chief NAFTA negotiator, Steve Verheul, and members of the team working on labour matters. He argued lax labour standards in the other two NAFTA countries are bleeding jobs out of Canada.

No doubt, free competition with manufacturers elsewhere is hurting Canadian unions and their employers.  At this point, it sounds like posturing, generating talking points for the Canadian media, along with maybe bargaining chips at the table.  Mr. Dias is "doing something" for his constituents, and so is the government.  But this is mostly symbolism, at best something to be traded at low value.

In short, no way in hell.

If you experience technical problems, please write to