During the debate leading to the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), a great deal of concern focused on the effect that a trade agreement such as the NAFTA might have on workers' rights. As a condition for the ratification of the NAFTA, Congress provided that the treaty would not “enter into force until the three countries enact their own national agreement on labor cooperation.” In response to this concern, the three signatory countries negotiated the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (“NAALC” or “Labor Agreement”). The NAALC establishes a formal and elaborate procedure to settle complaints concerning workers' rights. Although the NAFTA itself has received considerable attention in the popular press, and in academic circles, the NAALC has been relatively ignored. Whether this lack of attention is just an oversight, or is due to the belief that the NAALC is substantively meaningless, is not clear. What is clear, however, is that labor organizations appear ready to utilize the procedures available under the Labor Agreement. This article presents an overview of, and examines some key issues raised, but not clearly resolved, under the NAALC. This discussion is developed within the context of four complaints filed and recently decided pursuant to the Labor Agreement.
Leonard Bierman & Rafael Gely, The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation: A New Frontier in North American Labor Relations, 10 Conn. J. Int'l L. 533 (1995)