Unions call for rail-worker protection in new trade agreement

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WASHINGTON — Unions in the U.S. and Canada are calling for protection for rail workers as part of any new North American trade agreement.

Negotiations are ongoing between the U.S. and Canada to bring Canada into the tentative trade deal that has been reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

In a joint statement, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa and Teamsters Canada President Francois Laporte said “Canada's inclusion in any revamped trade deal is necessary if the Teamsters are ultimately going to endorse this pact.” They said the deal must include protections for workers in all three nations, based on “an agreement reached by the continent's railway unions two decades ago … that no movement of employees across borders would occur absent explicit agreement with the unions permitting it.”

The statement notes that “the exclusion of foreign rail crews that the Mexican government inserted in the original [North American Free Trade Agreement] is likely to survive into the replacement agreement and therefore we call on the U.S. and Canadian governments to similarly protect our freight rail crew members.”

The union concerns reflect, at least in part, Kansas City Southern’s recent use of Mexico-based crewmen to move trains across the border into Laredo, Texas. That practice began in July after a judge stopped a threatened strike by the Teamsters-affiliated Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. [See “KCS begins using international crews at Laredo gateway after judge blocks strike,” Trains News Wire,  July 10, 2018, and “KCS disputes union claim that cross-border crews are unsafe,” Aug. 8, 2018.]

“The threat to North American rail workers is real, “ the two union leaders said in their statement. “We urge the U.S. and Canada to make sure these workers are protected as part of a new NAFTA.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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