Sign the Petition: Trump, Give Us a Real NAFTA Renegotiation

Michael Smith – Illinois – Job Offshored in 2016

Until March 23, 2016, Michael Smith worked at the Mondelez-owned Nabisco Bakery on the southwest side of Chicago. Michael’s job and that of 599 other workers were offshored to Mexico. Michael is still laid off and looking for full-time work.

If ‘being outsourced’ sounds like a painful situation, trust me: it is very much so and from numerous vantage points. My life, the life of my entire family and the lives of about 599 other workers at this bakery that has made Nabisco products for over 60 years have changed dramatically since that day. We lost good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, our self-esteem, the future plans of our children and a future secure retirement all in one fell swoop.  Those jobs we lost did not just vanish—they still exist to this day. But Mondelez, the parent of the Nabisco brands, moved those jobs to Mexico, where workers make pennies on the dollar compared to what we made making these products. Not because we were not already making great profits for the company, but because the company just wanted more profit.

Now displaced American workers see the same products made 1800 miles away, just far enough across the border in Mexico to escape U.S. employment laws and pay standards, on store shelves in our community here in Chicago. There is not a dime’s worth of difference in what the company now charges for these products even though they pay Mexican workers pennies on the dollar with respect to what I was paid.  The only thing workers like me get is $450 per week in unemployment for 26 weeks, training for jobs that, for the most part, do not exist and a future looking at a CEO that makes over $20 million per year, has a personal corporate retirement plan worth $35 million, a corporate severance package worth over $50 million and additional stock options worth tens of millions of dollars.

Bad trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement deplete U.S. economic resources, kill our communities and have dire, devastating consequences for working families. If these corporations want to move to Mexico and pay people poverty wages, they should sell their products in the economy where they are produced. Using American workers, who are also consumers, just as a means to purchase products made elsewhere, while at the same time depriving us of the opportunity to make what we consume, benefits only one group in this corporate business plan: the large investors and the corporate CEOs.

For more information on the Nabisco 600’s “Check the Label” campaign, click here.

Margarita Jimenez – Texas – Job Offshored in the 2000s

For thirty years Margarita worked in factories throughout El Paso, including a factory that made Levi jeans. Margarita’s job and that of more than 40,000 other El Paso workers, were offshored since NAFTA.

When people began to speak of free trade, they would ask something like, “What is free trade?” And everybody said it was something that was going to be beneficial for us. The problem came when we saw that because of free trade, companies began to leave. And then we didn’t like it. Still today, and I don’t understand why, people say that free trade has been beneficial for those inside the United States, and that the only people who have been hurt are those of us in the borderlands. But we in the borderlands also make up part of the United States…

My future is very unclear. Although I understand it’s hard to find work at my age, at the same time I can’t stop thinking that I eat just like everybody else, and pay bills. … I also can’t retire because I’m too young for that. But nobody gives me work because I’m very old. So all doors are completely shut to me. The only good thing that I’ve had is coming here to la Mujer Obrera …

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, for me personally, working in the factory had a tremendously good impact on me because I did a lot. Personally, I believe I achieved my American Dream: buying a house, buying a new car, traveling, and becoming a citizen. If everything is bad right now, which it is, it’s because of the system, free trade and all of that. But if all of that hadn’t come into play, we people in the borderlands probably wouldn’t be going through this. I’d be happy there [at the factory], waiting for my moment to retire with a good pension and benefits.

Margarita is a member of La Mujer Obrera, an El Paso organization dedicated to creating communities defined by women. These quotes come from an oral history interview with Margarita, recorded by Refugio Cuca Arietta and Rosa Breceda in 2008. Her story is part of La Mujer Obrera Collection at the University of Texas El Paso’s Museo Mayachen. For more information on La Mujer Obrera, click here.

Wendell “Bimbo” Rafford – Maine – Job Offshored in 2008

I was told while growing up that this is a nation of opportunity. Today, in Aroostook County, opportunities are fewer and farther between.

I’ve lived in the Masardis-Ashland area all my life. I worked at the Irving Forest Products sawmill in Nashville Plantation for 32 years. In 2008, Irving announced it was closing the mill permanently and eliminating 44 jobs. This was just another blow to our town, our county and to our Maine economy.

It was very difficult for our community to deal with these job losses, because there isn’t a lot of other opportunity in our rural area.

Since we live right near Canada, we have seen firsthand the direct impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on our community. Many sawmills moved to Canada, which cost us a lot of jobs here, and the sawmills that are left bring in wood from Canada, which means lower prices for local wood and local loggers. I have a woodlot I would like to cut and sell, but the price has dropped so low because of imports from Canada that I can’t afford to.

Since I lost my job at Irving, I have found work at another sawmill here in our area. There are still some jobs in local sawmills, but many fewer. For people who do find work, there are fewer shifts.

I think we do need to re-negotiate NAFTA so it is fair and levels the playing field for workers like me and communities like ours.

Decisions about trade agreements should be based on the interests of the people, not just greedy CEOs. Corporations can go abroad, find loopholes in our system and literally take us to the limits, while they cash in on our demise.

Bimbo shared his story with the Maine Fair Trade Campaign (MFTC). For more information on MFTC, click here.