Bama Athreya and Sandy Levin: Integrating and Enforcing Labor Rights in Trade

Bama Athreya and Sandy Levin: Integrating and Enforcing Labor Rights in Trade

I’m John Ciorciari. I’m the director of the Weiser Diplomacy Center here at the Ford School. I’m happy to welcome you to this Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation lecture. We want to thank the Towsley Foundation which was established In 2002 with a policy maker in Residence program that allows The Ford School to bring Individuals who have a wealth of Policy making experience to Campus including our own Professor Sandy Levin. And so please join me first in Thanking the towsley foundation For this wonderful program. [applause] Today we’re going to be speaking With the nexus between labor Rights and trade which, of Course, is a crucial topic as U.S. And global trade agreements Are being renegotiated. And it is a conversation between Two experts who have worked for Long periods of time to advance Workers’ rights in the context Of global trade. Dr. Bama Athreya is a visiting Policy expert here at the weiser Diplomacy center who arrived Today and who is going to Leading a number of sessions During the course of the week Including a three-part course For students on related to the Future of work and also a Session of in my class next week Of values and ethics. Dr. Athreya has worked more than Trade and labor rights. Her former organization, the International labor rights Forum, pioneered the inclusion Of a labor clause in trade Programs as an material active To protectionism with the goal Of using it as a race to the top Instead of the bottom. She is an economic and quality Fellow at the open society Foundations where she is doing Research on worker conditions in The digital economy. She is also an advisor to the Laudes foundation and most Importantly got her phd in Anthropology from um. Welcome back to dr. Athreya who Is also on the external advisory Board. Of course, most of you already Have the pleasure and privilege Of knowing professor levin. Professor of practice here at The Ford school with support From the towsley foundation for Over 35 years. Professor levin represented Residents of southeast michigan In congress. He’s been actively involved in Essentially any major debate you Can think of confronting our Nation over the recent past Including welfare reform, the Auto industry rescue, china’s Entry into the world trade o, The iran nuclear deal and a host Of key economic policy issues. He was chair of the house ways And means committee during the Passage of the afFordable care Act. He successfully fought against The privatization of social Security. And very relevant to today’s Topic, he pioneered language to Add enforceable labor and Environmental standards in trade Agreements for the first time. We’ll talk more about that in Our conversation. Born in detroit he earned a ba From the university of chicago, Ma in international relations From columbia and a jd from Harvard. Between the two of them they Have decades of expertise in the Area we’ll talk about today. They’ll begin by discussing Historical challenges to Including labor clauses in trade Agreements and to enforcing Them. And they’ll also review some of The current dynamics. Labor clauses in recent trade Deals and how they’ve been Tormented and forced — Interpreted and forced and Thinking about some of the keys To effective enforcement of These provisions going forward. One last note on format. We’ll have a few of our students Who are going to be walking Around the room later with cue Cards if you want to write down Questions. And then we will also have a few Designated questioners who will Introduce themselves and then Ask us selected questions in our Q&a session. With that, I’d like get started. The first thing that perhaps I Could start with you, Dr. Athreya, is to set the scene By sharing with us how you got Involved and importantly how you First began to intersect with Professor 11 rn as you were Working in the civil society Space and he was working in Official channels on a similar Range of issues. bama Athreya: thank you so Much. It is a pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invitation to Participate in this event today. I will say that professor levin And I are a little bit of an odd Couple up here in front of you And maybe it would help to Explain that. I really started out working on These issues of trade justice in The streets and was in the Streets of seattle in 1999 and That was in november of 1999 When tens of thousands of Activists converged on the city From around the world to protest The world trade organization Negotiations. And, you know, I start with that History because, of course, you Know, professor levin was the Insider really trying to see What could be done with the Rules. We were on the outside Pointing out all of the flaws With the rules as constructed. You know, this brings me to just A few big picture points I want To kind of put out there and Will probably keep coming back To over and over again just to Remind us of why we’re even in This discussion. And the one is, you know, there Are days when it feels like We’re in a very sort of Depressing and hopeless time. And we look around the world and We see what looks like Incredible concentration of Power. Particularly corporate capture Of governments. And so one of the things that I Would say I reflect on as I Think back about, you know, sort Of where I and my trade justice Colleagues and friends were 20 Years ago and where we are today Is that what was clear to us Then and, you know, was one of The reasons why we pushed for These changes to the trade rules Is still clear to me today. And that is this concentrated Power that corporations have With respect to governments and Rules really cannot be broken Without the counter weight of Organized labor movements. And so we have as much need Today as we did then for that Space for labor movements to Organize and be that voice and That weight to really, you know, Sort of think differently about The roles. The second big point I want to Make and I’ll keep returning to Is that trade rules are not Free. There’s no free trade. There never was free trade. I’m sure professor levin will Have his own comments on this Subject. What there is is heavily Negotiated trade with hundreds Of thousands of pages of rules. So what is important to keep in Mind — you know I think — I’ve Always been allergic to sort of This framing of free trade Versus, you know, some people Wanted to label us Anti-globalization and that was Never what it was. It was about fair rules. Rules that actually protected People and not just profit. So I want to disafuse this Entire conversation of the Notion there is free trade. What we are talking about is Whether we like the rules as They are constructed or whether We think a different set of Rules might give us better Balance in terms of the overall Benefits they convey. So, you asked me to talk a bit About sort of my own trajectory In this world and so I’ll now Pivot to that from those major Points. When we were advocating around These issues, again beginning For my organization back in the End or curtail trade between Nations. We were seeking to say, if trade Is being used, and particularly With respect to developing Countries, if it’s being used as A development tool it’s being Used as a tool to rift up Economies — lift up economies, There is no need to make a Virtue of cheap labor. So, back to my first point which Was about creating that space For workers to have some agency To negotiate for fair terms and Conditions of work. We said can these rules be Written in such a way as to Provide that, you know, not to Do it for them. And this is a third point that I Think I’ll probably end up, you Know, coming back to over and Over. Not as a magic bullet, not as a Solution. The rules are not the end. The rules are the means. Can we use the rules so that Workers as they begin to Organize have something to use As leverage to support their Efforts to make those demands. So that was the nature of what We were looking for in terms of The conditionality. What we did over the years is we Were really very practical about Looking at what we were able to Gain. And, if we look at — you know I’m sure, again, I’ll sort of Wait for professor levin to do Some explanation of some of the Instruments that we’re talking About, but whether it was trade Preference programs, Multi-lateral agreements, Bilateral agreements, we always Got what I would consider half a Loaf. But I am going to be the person Who is here to tell you that That is still better than not Having gotten anything at all, Right. And so it was incumbent upon us, And my organization, you know, Really took this as one of its Principal roles and reasons, you Know, for part of our mission Was whatever rules there were, To use them to bring cases on Behalf of worker organizations Around the world. Because we couldn’t even, you Know, really benefit from the Incremental gains in language in These agreements without the Case work behind it bringing up The cases year after year after Year. I think later in the talk we’ll Talk about some of the specific Cases add what we were able to Gain. But I am the half a loaf. And I think one of the things Just kind of quickly pivoting to The current moment that dismays Me is I think a lot of that work That was done in the 1980s and The 1990s and into the 2000s is Still there. There’s actually a body of work That took us three decades to Build up. But I think current-day human Rights and labor advocates have Forgotten those instruments are There. And at a time when we could be Doing more case work than ever I’m seeing less of it and I’m Seeing advocates really not Understand how to use the Important leverage we have built Up to work in solidarity with Those workers organizations Around the world. So I think I’ll stop on that for Now. that’s great thank you. I want to turn to professor Levin. A very big and important slice In that half of a loaf that we Do have is the language that you Introduced with colleagues in Environmental provisions in Trade agreements. I wonder if you could take us Back to 1999 when you were a few Blocks away from her in the Battle of seattle and talk about The progress over those eight Years. How did we get from seattle 1999 And the conversations around Nafta to lodging labor and Environmental provisions in Trade agreements as a normal Matter of practice? sander levin: okay, I wasn’t Sure how to proceed but maybe Seattle is a useful turning Point. We may end up talking about more Recent events. And the dean is here and we’re Honored you are here. I am honored to be here. sander levin: and I think it Is a secret because I have a Copy of what the dean wrote — I’m dating you a bit — almost Nafta. And I think everybody should Read it, including those who put Together a successor. Maybe we’ll come back to that. Let me just talk briefly about Seattle and try to frame it in Terms of how trade policy has Evolved. I’m going to try to be brief. It’s very difficult for me to be Brief about trade issues. And I’m always — I was always Teased by staff because it’s Such an invigorating and Important subject. Before seattle labor in Environmental rights really had A second place. And the reason for that was Basic trade ideology. The ideology goes back to Recardo, even to adam smith. The notion was more trade is Better. And that worked more or less When trade was between like Econ Economies. It was challenged 100 years ago When there was an effort in the ’20s, the 1920s to essentially Involve labor issues not so much Environment into the trade Dialogue. But that was washed away partly By smoot holly which washed away All discussion of trade because It was so incorrect in Temperate. And tariffs became a Historically, not anomaly, but Monster. So, there was a notion going Back to the 19th century, more Trade is basically better. And it bumped into japan. But there it was between two Economies basically that were Very much alike, right. There were labor rights in Japan. There was a market economy. Though it was a rigged one. And what happened was that japan Took advantage of our open Markets while they had a very Closed market. I was going to bring with me What I have in the office, a Universal joint that I bought For $11.40 in detroit in royal Oak, joe’s auto park main Street, of all places, and it Cost $105 in japan. The very — and we could not Export to japan our products. So that’s when it began to break Down the kind of monolithic Notion more trade is better. But there was a dialogue here to Attribute to this university. And I just want to quote. It was in 1987. And this is what clayton yoyter Who was then the ustr said. Over the past 40 years all Administrations and leaders of Both parties in congress have Shared the conviction that Expanding trade opportunities Will bring higher living Standards for all. The key two words I think are “For all.” It wasn’t much longer when — And this is forgotten — pat Buchanan challenged president Bush in the primary in 1992 over Trade. But that also was kind of washed Out and bush survived it. And then, of course, next came Nafta. So I want to say just a word About seattle and then go on. It’s an interesting history Because we began in the late 80s As a result of japan to really Say to president clinton, you Need to look at the conditions Of trade and its impact. And so after nafta he began to Shift gears. And he began to talk about the Need to level up not level down. Bill clinton had a way with Words. Level up not level down. Right. So we pressured the clinton Administration to go to seattle And set up a working group on Labor in the wto. Revolutionary. He got carried away. And while there was all this Disturbance outside of the Halls, he proposed not a working Group but enforceable labor Provisions in the wto. And we said to him, that isn’t What we were proposing. It was steps too far. And while there was all of the Turbulence outside the hall, Inside the hall there was Immense turbulence reacting to What the president said. Well seattle blew up. And we haven’t had Demonstrations about trade since Then like that. So, just a few words what Happened after that. Cafta happened afterwards. Enforce your own laws was the Standard. We came within two votes of Defeating cafta. Then, of course, what came Afterwards you refer to as may And for the first time there was Placed in trade agreements Enforceable labor and Environmental standards. And to show how bifurcated it Was, the bush administration, Which was still in place, we Were in the majority for the First time in seven and eight, They reduced to negotiate an Agreement with may 10th in it. So, essentially, two of us in The congress negotiated a free Trade agreement. It’s not a good idea. It’s not supposed to be our Function. And we did so with peru. And I will just say a word about That. Because in addition to labor Standards we included Enforceable environmental Standards. And we laid out requirements of Peru as to the amazon. And what happened in later Administrations including the Obama administration, they Failed to enforce it. They failed to enforce it. So the most recent battle has Been over u.S.-mca. I think that’s where I’ll stop So that we can have some Discussion about it. In the course that I co-taught, We didn’t talk about usmca. I have some deep feelings about What happened in a way to pick Up the threads of that forgotten Dean’s article in the law review Which I still have, dean. So, is that enough to start With? And let’s have a lot of vigorous Discussion. Because my own judgment is, is To usmca, that it is just the Opening, the opening kind of Argument about what happens when You put together a developed Country with a developing nation On its borders. On its borders. There are more automotive Workers today in mexico than in The united states. A foreign auto company, bmw, Opened up a plant not so long Ago, signed a phony agreement, And the pay there is a Dollar-and-a-half an hour. Okay. moderator: thank you for That. And I wanted to come back to This issue of the enforceable Language. Dr. Athreya, as you mentioned These are tools for people to be Able to implement in the defense Of labor rights and don’t Necessarily ensure labor rights Unless they are in fact Enforced. And I’d be grateful for your Comments on how in fact some of The provisions that Representative levin was so Influential in lodging in trade Agreements, how have those been Enforced? What are your comments on recent Developments and, in particular, With the trump administration But even in the lateral obama Years in enforcing them in key Cases like bangladesh or africa. bama Athreya: I think this is A great kvgs because Enforceability, what is Enforceability I think is really Sort of a critical question. I know one that you grappled With as a congressman for many Years. And we did as well again because We were were bringing cases. And I don’t think there’s a Fixed answer to at what point, You know, you consider something Is fully enforceable. We would have said that even the Earliest labor clauses, the ones That I mentioned in the 1980s, Which were in unilateral Programs, trade preference Programs, were enforceable but Were not enforced. And so if we look at the Trajectory from those early — You know the first labor Condition at was in a program Called — well it was in the Caribbean based initiative in That was a single phrase. The first full clause was in the Generalized system of Preferences program which is a Unilateral trade preference Program. It is a benefit we give by Reducing or eliminating tariffs On products in a unilateral Manner with developing countries And with least developed Countries. The idea being this is to give Them a leg up and ability to Sort of enter our markets and Improve their economies. And I think, you know, professor Levin raises an excellent point About what happens when you’ve Got that, you know, friction Between a highly developed Market and a really, you know, Sort of poor developing market Such as bangladesh or cambodia Countries that I worked in and Brought cases on. So, there was that labor Conditionality that was Introduced in 1984. And we tried throughout the Subsequent decade to bring Cases. And there was total discretion Because there were no rules as To what ustr needed to do with Those cases. So we saw really widely varying Responses to the cases depending On what our other equities were In the diplomatic relationship With the particular country. And it came to a point by the Early 1990s where my Organization actually sued the Bush administration, the first Bush administration, under Something called the Administrative procedures act For complete failure to enforce The law. So, fast forward then to the I think we can jump around a Bit. I might even sort of — I’ll do A quick note on cambodia and Then go straight to one of the Free trade agreements, a Bilateral agreement with more Binding stand arts after the May 10th deal that professor Looked. In the late 1990s, my Organization wrote a case on Cambodia. Cambodia had just received Benefits in 1999 under the Generalized system of Preferences program. Remember, they were coming out Of basically a long period of Conflict and had the first Democratically elected Government that had just been Stood up in that country and They really did not have a Functioning labor law. We brought a case forward in Timing is everything. The bilateral relationship with Cambodia was such that this rose To the top of the priority list In that diplomatic engagement. There was robust engagement of The cambodian government around This case. As a result of which the Cambodian government in 2001, I Believe — okay so they passed a New labor code which was not Perfect but wait an improvement Over the old french law that was The only thing on the books. They stood up and entity called The arbitration council which Could arbitrate labor disputes, And they put in place or allowed To be put in place a program Administered by the International labor Organization, the ilo, which Monitored the entire brand-new Apparel sector. Which was the major export Sector in the country just Getting off the ground in The ilo program was able to Regularly monitor and audit Labor conditions in all of Cambodia’s garment factories. That was a long time ago and Time permitting we can come back To the what’s going on lately Because there was a very Interesting — as I am sure you Saw — announcement last week That the eu is likely to suspend Its benefits to cambodia over Human rights abuses. So, be interesting to reflect on Really gain. But that was one example of very Effective use of a case to Stimulate very, very specific Things. That didn’t solve — cambodia is Not a worker’s paradise, very Poor country, but there was Specific outcomes from that Case. The labor code, the arbitration Council and the introduction of A really quite innovative ilo Program. I am going to just talk about One other case then we can do Work back and forth. That is after the agreement that Professor levin has described in The mid-2000s, one of the Bilateral free trade agreements That was passed was with jordan. The u.S.-jordan free trade Agreement. Which had a labor chapter Commiserate with the may 10th Agreement. And subsequent to the U.S.-jordan agreement being, you Know, sort of passed, adopted, a Number of u.S. Apparel Companies, you know, went to Jordan and began sourcing Apparel from jordan. And the selling point on this Agreement, one of the selling Points had been creating jobs For jordanian women. In reality, virtually all the Women in those factories were Imported migrant workers from Bangladesh, sri lanka, india, Even burma. So, here you had an industry That had been stood up, you Know, sort of in the shadow of This new shiny agreement that Had labor conditionality but all The workers wering my rabidity Workers. And a labor rights organization Exposed just a few years after The agreement had been passed, Exposed that many of these women Had been trafficked. So, they were victims of labor Trafficking. And many had been victims of Gender-based violence as well. What was interesting was that in The wake of the expose, again, Because of the existence of the Labor chapter and the agreement, There was rapid diplomatic Engagement channels of Communication between the u.S. Trade representative and the Jordanian counterparts to say, This is a problem for us, we Can’t have that. You just negotiated this Agreement with us. Arguably an issue that without That labor chapter would have Been way down at the bottom of The list for any sort of Diplomatic engagement with Jordan. Think about jordan and where it Sits, its strategic importance, Its importance as a long Standing place where we’ve had To have military engagement, Humanitarian engagement because Of referees, et cetera. All that is so important and yet This trade issue about these, You know, couple dozen, Literally a few dozen garment Factories rose to some serious Diplomatic engagement around the Issue. And I will say I didn’t say and It wasn’t in my bio but I spent The past six years working for Usa-id. And I mention that because I can Tell you — now, you know, sort Of this is getting just closer To the time when I joined aid. Although it is a little bit Before my time. That one of the very first Things that happen and I Resuscitated this from the files Was that usa-id was ordered to Come up with funding to hire a Consultant and look and see what Could be done to improve labor Rights conditions in the Factories which they did. And through the course of the Negotiations a few things Happened. One of which was a version of That same ilo program to monitor The apparel factories was stood Up in jordan. So the jordanian government Agreed to, you know, several Changes including changes in the Law that made it possible for The first time for jordanian Unions to actually represent Migrant workers. So there was a Legal change. There was an actual change Because those workers actually Then had access to Representation. And there was the introduction Of a monitoring program that Assisted and facilitated to Actually improve overall and Raise up overall conditions in Jordan’s apparel sector. So, you know I can talk more About that and, you know, sort Of where things since then, but Yeah, I would say those are a Couple of examples of, you know, You go in and as advocates we Were always really very tactical About the use of the Instruments. The case itself Wasn’t going to solve the Problem. It was important for other Actors to come in and say here Are practical things that can be Done as a result of which you Know we can accept resolution of The case. So I think I’ll stop. I’ve got lots of other Interesting cases we can talk About as we go but I’ll stop With those two for now. moderator: I do think the Cambodian case is interesting For the point thaw made about The diplomatic context and the Broader equities what are the Conditions that the u.S. Or Other major players can advocate Effectively for labor rights. My very brief time swimming in The same stream as the two of You was in the mid-2000s in the Treasury department when we were Working with cambodian Government on that and the Context of other development in Debt related negotiations. At that time 58 percent of c Cambodia’s exports went to the U.S. So there was a high degree of U.S. Leverage. There was a relationship between The government that was still — The government was not in full Control and the royalist forces Still had a major say in Government. So the dynamics were very Favorable for negotiating on That issue. I think you are right that in The early part of the 2000s, Cambodia saw the emergence of Some of the strongest labor Unions anywhere in southeast Asia as you also referenced more Recently it’s gone the other way As the government has seen them As a source of political Opposition and has carried out Targeted assassinations against Labor leaders and so forth. But for a phase when the Conditions were favorable, I Agree that it had a major impact On the conditions for workers in That country. Particularly in the garment Sector which is such a major Employer. sander levin: let me just Comment briefly on those cases. Very briefly. As to cafta and as to mexico, a Bilateral agreement can Basically work if it’s done Right. We’re in the same neighborhood. And there isn’t a way easily for Producers to shift from mexico Or central america including Dominican republic some place Else. So the challenge in a bilateral Agreement is to really make it Work. And with cafta it was totally Unworkable. Enforce your own laws as bad as They are. And I should point out I think One of the two major sources of Immigration from central America, two causes. One is violence and the other is Our economic conditions — are Economic conditions. So we paid a very heavy price in Cafta for failure to have Enforceable labor conditions. A high price. Secondly, in terms of other Countries, I think you have to Have a multi-lateral structure Contrary to the view of this Administration which wants to do Everything unilaterally or Bilaterally. Because cambodia is a perfect Example. It was the only place where the Labor movement of the united States became engaged. And they supported our agreement With cambodia. The labor movement. The date exactly. It is the only case I can Remember where the american Labor movement in those days Were supportive of a trade Agreement. The problem was that once unions Were allowed and working Conditions got better the Companies moved their production To other places, especially to Vietnam. So, while a bilateral system Will work in some cases, Contrary to the present notion Opposed to any multi-lateral Kind of structure, that was Critical as to cambodia. moderator: on similar lines It was a peeric victory for the Labor groups in 2019 got a new Law finally passed on labor Protections in cambodia and the Wages went up by something like Garment factories literally Folded and moved as you are Suggesting. So, there is a pushing the Balloon dimension to this that Merits attention. Let’s get some of your thoughts And questions. It looks like michael is going To start. Maybe introduce yourself and Share with us the first of the Audience questions. sander levin: no holds barred Right? I’m serious. Trade is such a vital and Volatile issue that unless you Say no holds barred and people Are totally frank, we kind of Talk around each other. understood. I’ll do my best to pull out the Questions. First thank you so much for Being here. Michael vice. A first year student focusing on International policy. Our first question is the u.S. Has expressed its displeasure With the lack of accountability For the wto appellate body. What do you think could be Possible reforms to correct this Problem? sander levin: let’s answer That briefly. The wto enforceable system, it Needs a basic reform. But the president is using the Lack of it to make a point. S, approve aappointments so the Infrastructure today is totally Vulnerable. There’s only one person I think And it requires three. We had lots of fights. I won’t bore you with the fights Over the wto enforcement. They went way overboard at Times. It needs to be reformed, Democratized. But the notion that you should Do without it and destroy it, Well we just used as an ask. Hopefully the day will come when Labor and environment are Part — they are internationally Enforced standards, right. Because, otherwise, companies Move. I mean look what happened in Central america. I went to a place and I figured Out how much the workers were Making. It was three women’s panties and It happened to have the price on It. And where it was going. $5. They were making a dollar an Hour. When we figured out how much Labor went into that $5, you Could double the minimum wage That those mostly women, and Many single women with children, Were making and it would have Increased the cost of the Panties at that place in the United states from $5 to $5.25 Cr Doubling the wage they were Receiving it would have increase The cost to the consumer of $0.25. So we need to have Workable structures. audience member: thank you For being here. My name is pa tasha. I am a first year dual degree Student in master of public Policy and master of science Information. I have questions — sander levin: say it loudly To everybody can hear okay. audience member: I have a Question for both speakers. The american labor movement is Often portrayed as being Insullyar. Protecting the benefits of Particular workers in a specific Industry. Is that characterization fair? What is the best way to create Solidarity between white male Blue collar union members in the U.S. And immigrants in the u.S. Working around the world. moderator: so, basically, the Question is about when are we Going to see more of what you Described in cambodia in which The u.S. Labor unions go to bat For workers rights, conditions In other parts of the world and See them as part of the same Effectively the same mission. Does either of you want to start With that? bama Athreya: I can just talk About — let me talk about a Couple of examples of, again, Uses in cases. I think it’s important to, you Know, recognize — first of all To recognize that labor Movements are large membership Based movements and accountable To their members. And that’s fine, right. That’s how democratic Institutions work. That being the case, you know, Again I feel like it’s a Situation where it depends on What you look at. If you look at what statements The labor movement, you know, And its representative Organizations the afl-cio may Have to make in a very high Profile debate about whether or Not to ratify a new trade Agreement. It’s understandable why there’s A certain political cue lus that The afl or another union might Have to make in that Circumstance. It can be very different when You look at this very granular Level at what is happening with Worker movements in particular Countries at particular times. I’m going to talk about two more Cases. The one is bangladesh. And I think if people know Nothing else about bangladesh, Most people know that there is a Very large garment sector in the Country and that it has been the Subject of some incredible Tragedies in recent years. The most well-known traffic Incident is the collapse of the Rana plaza building in 2013 Leading to the death of well Over a thousand workers. But labor groups in bangladesh Had been in touch with labor Groups in the united states for Many years. And there were solidarity Campaigns targeting some of the Big buyers of the apparel from Bangladesh. In 2013, there was a review of Bangladesh’s benefits under the Unilateral preference program, The gsp. The afl-cio for years prior to The rana plaza collapse year After year had been filing Submissions to ustr, I mean, for Many years, saying bangladesh’s Labor laws are inadequate, They’re not protecting these Workers, workers are not allowed To organize, there must be Reforms. And in 2013 that case finally Was taken up in a serious Manner. And I think professor levin had Something to do with that as Well. He may want to comment. And there was a suspension of Bangladesh’s benefits. Now that was a situation in Which the u.S. Labor movement Was very comfortable and had Been comfortable for years Pushing the u.S. Government to Enforce labor conditionality in A way that showed solidarity With groups on the ground in Bangladesh. I think, you know, there are Other recent cases, actually I’ll just talk about one other Case because people don’t know About it and it’s another great Case. But again back to my point about Cambodia, a lot of this is about Timing is everything and where We are in the diplomatic Relationship. Suazee land had trade Preferences under a program Called the africa growth and Opportunity act, agoa. Guess what sector got stood up There. Yes the apparel sector. I don’t mean to just talk about The apparel sector but seems to Be a thing that countries do When they get trade programs in Place. You know, in the early 2010s the Country is a monarchy, it’s very Autocratic, it’s very Repressive, was getting more and More so. And went as far as outlying all Civil society organizations. Right to I a shoesh yate, Freedom of assembly, wiped it Out. So that did not only affect Labor movements in suazee land. You aren’t even allowed to have A business organization because It was an association. All the human rights groups got Wiped out. Church groups got wiped out. You Know, again, afl-cio brought a Petition to ustr on behalf of Its allies in the trade union Movement. And the simple push was that the Country had to reform its law And organizations to allow a Associations, you know, allow Organizations to exist freely Once more. Very successful case. In the course of a few years — I mean, and ustr yanked the Benefits. They took away the agoa Benefits. That was controversial. People were being hurt. The union was telling us we’ll Take the pain. Something has to change. Benefits were removed. Swazee government reformed the Law. In the interval because many of Us that were working with the Swazee labor movement they were Able to survive through the Period of incredible repression And hold open that space for the Rest of civil society, the human Rights that groups that had go Go underground because they Could exist because they were in The spotlight because of this Case. So, when the law was amended and It was possible to openly Associate once more, unions were Able to, you know, it had been In the wedge in the door to open That door wider for other Organizations. Indeed I believe it was in 2018 We restored agoa benefits. So a couple examples where the Labor union was there and they Were the ones bringing the case. sander levin: just a couple Of comments about labor. The labor movement is going to Play a more substantial role in The enforcement of usmca. That’s been provided. But I think the problem is going To be the way it’s structured. Mexico is the only democracy on Earth which has the kind of Structure it now has with tens Of thousands of so-called Protection agreements that Workers have never seen, never Voted on. It’s going to be very hard to Make a dent in that. And my concern is the way the Law is constructed it will make It even more difficult because It relates to individual Locations. But let me just say a word about Bangladesh. To the credit of the european Apparel makers, when they set up After rana plaza where 1,100 People died, the european Organization included the labor Movement. But the one that was set up by American companies did not. And so while working Conditions — and you know more About this first-hand than I do; I haven’t been there for a few Years now. While the working conditions in Terms of safety have improved, The other conditions for workers I don’t think have. So if you look at your clothing, My guess is if we did it here Now probably a few of us would Have garments on that say Bangladesh. And the workers there continue To be paid close to a dollar, a Dollar and a quarter an hour. And how can you live on that? That’s what this country needs To ask. How can people live on it? And the answer is to central America they can’t. So it’s one of the reasons they Leave. audience member: that leads Into our next question which is Focused for dr. Athreya but Please jump in. Dr. Athreya you worked in the Ngo, private sector and the u.S. Government. Where do you feel most effective In protecting workers and why? bama Athreya: so, yeah, I Mean, there’s not — there’s not A choice there. There’s not really a choice. And it’s interesting because Most recently I’ve been in Government. And in government had the Opportunity to see the flip-side Of cases I had brought when I Was on the outside as an Advocate. We had some very — even over The past, you know, couple of Years, right, so we have had Some very good work by people in Public service in the various U.S. Government entities that Work on these trade cases, you Know, with integrity bringing The cases forward. But people in government can’t Do that without the outside Groups who find the facts, bring The cases forward. You know, so to put the Information forward. So this gives me an excuse to Come back to one of the early Points I made in the first few Minutes. That is I don’t think groups on The outside quite realized the Potential of what they could be Doing with these cases. And the appetite that people and Particularly people who are just Charged with enforcing the laws, Right, not the politicals, not The people who are making Policy, the people whose job it Is just to enforce the laws that We have. What they could do with more Information on more of the Conditions, you know, of what’s Really happening on labor and Environment in more of these Countries. So, you know, I won’t go on. I will just say, like, that’s Just such a necessary compliment You really can’t choose between Where you are more effective. As for the role of business, That hasn’t come up at all so Maybe an interesting moment to Take just, you know, a minute to Think about that and just as a Discussion, you know, sort of Open up a discussion. A lot of what I have observed And indeed what also when I was Working with the private sector Worked on, was standing up Systems to manage supply chain Issues. To mitigate risk in supply Chains. Reduce the risk of the exposure Of labor rights violations. And those kinds of voluntary Risk management efforts are, you Know, fine, but I feel they are A thing unto themselves and they Don’t really get at the heart of What is meant to be addressed With these labor clauses in the Various trade instruments. The reason they don’t get there Is, again, going back to another One of the points I made early On. Because really what all of those Inst Instruments do is create that Wedge, right. Wedge open that space as I Described with the swazee. Then it’s really up to workers And worker organizations. At the end of the day, who is Really going to improve Cond Conditions of those supply Chains. Workers themselves if they had The agency to do so. I think the business side Private voluntary programs, I Think professor levin you quite Rightly point out there are very Few of the accord, which is the Eu agreement that was stood up After bangladesh, is one of the Very few that actually puts Unions into the equation and, You know, considers them as a Partner. For the most part, the rest of Them are perfectly happy to work On health and safety. They’re perfectly happy to work On, you know, ending child Labor. But they will not go as far as Actually creating that space to Negotiate with workers. sander levin: to its credit The university has a committee That works with the business Community in terms of its Purchases. And I went to a meeting and I Think it would be well for the University to talk further about How it is more effective. It is a difficult issue. But, you know, if we don’t face Up to this, we’re going to have Demons Demonstrations. Institutions need to step up to The plate. If there were another rana Plaza, my guess is with all the Vitality among students at this University, you would see Activity. Rightfully so. Moment. By the way they did not want to Go into rana plaza and they were Told, if you don’t go in, you’re Fired. So that’s kind of what’s at Stake. In part. What’s next? A lot of back and forth. What’s the most controversial Issue you can think of? Most controversial question? audience member: I don’t know If this is the most Controversial, but current labor Laws in the u.S. Struggle to Adapt to new and different forms Of employment such as the Economy. How did this affect labor right Promotion both domestically and Abroad. sander levin: say that again. audience member: current Labor laws in the u.S. Struggle To adapt to new and different Forms of employment such as the Gig economy. How does this affect labor Promotion both domestically and Abroad. bama Athreya: I can start on This since I’ve started doing Some research this year on Digital economy issues. And so there’s — we don’t know. I mean, let me take a step back To people who are looking at the Changes in the economy that are Being brought as a result of our Moving into what some are Calling the fourth industrial Revolution. Which is technology, artificial Intelligence and the ways in Which it is really sort of Changing the entire global Economic landscape. We are — and one thing that I Am just going to observe and Comment on is we are locked into A conceptualization of labor Rights that dates back 100 Years. It dates back to the formation Of the international labor Organization in 1919. Just after world war I. And at a moment when governments Were scared to death of what was Happening in russia, you know, Sort of communist revolution, And workers rising up. So we needed labor standards to Deal with that world as it Looked in 1919. And so we have our current Modern day systems of industrial Relations. And we have our notion of core Labor rights which are centered Around the premise that people Have formal employment. What are core labor rights? The right to associate, the Right to bargain collectively, The right to a workplace free From discrimination, the Abolition of child labor and the Abolition of forced labor. Great, they’re all still really Important fundamental rights but We absolutely need to think About the ways in which work Itself is now being mediated Very differently. And this is the subject of Another talk. [laughter] and not this talk Today. And so, I mean, I think it is a Really interesting question Because we have to ask ourselves How do we make those rights real And meaningful in a world where Work itself is digitally Mediated. sander levin: we had a Discussion on that yesterday. That’s how contemporary this Place is. I think it was just yesterday Wasn’t it? And the economy is changing so Fast. So we need to ask questions. By the way, universities are in The center of this rather Well-known institution on the East coast is very much involved In this very issue. It isn’t quite the same issue, But it’s — these are not Industrial workers, typically. And it’s going be even more so With, I mean, what uber’s Facing, right. So that could be controversial For another session. audience member: taking a Step back and looking at History, there’s the korea-us Trade agreement that lasted Nearly ten years. Despite extensive input, Vetting, review and Congressional oversight, what is Wrong with the process that does Not take into account the Principal that both of you Present. How can we alter the process to Get such comprehensive views on The table? sander levin: why don’t you Answer that. [ laughter ] I mean, the comprehensive Issues about the broader Relationship in which this is Embedded? It’s not easy to answer that Succinctly. But I will say that a part of It — it’s related to the points That my colleagues have made About multi-lateralism. That it’s difficult to imagine Even in a highly favorable Bilateral context of diplomacy To be effective in this space if The multi-lateral machinery is Broken. Because as we all have mentioned In different points in the Conversation, most of the labor Operations that we’re discussing Are for industries that are Quite easily movable. And, therefore, will move if There are incentives to do that, To find cheaper labor with fewer Restrictions elsewhere. So I think that this is — I Guess where I would say to start Is to repair and strengthen Multi-lateral trade Institutions. Because without that no sum of Effective bilateral diplomatic Engagements is likely to resolve This problem sustainably. sander levin: we need to get Bilateral correct. But to simply think we can go it Alone, that’s another subject in A way. audience member: has the Trade war between the u.S. And China affected how labor Standards are enforced? Have any particular sectors Placed pressure in the Negotiating these deals? sander levin: I’ll just say a Brief word about that. Because when susan collins and I Put together our course trying To find two subjects which Showed the huge bridge that Needed to be built between Strong academic learning and the Challenges of implementing them, We took unemployment insurance That hasn’t been reformed since Its beginning really, and china Pntr. So, actually that could be a Very controversial issue for Those of who us worked on china Pntr and eventually help to Construct it. It was more than controversial. Labor issues were included but Only in terms of the database on Human rights, which is now the Strongest database that exists. It included labor rights. But you could ask a Controversial question: why are You so upset about labor rights In mexico when you redid usmca But not china? That’s a legitimate issue, Right? And the answer I think is Multi-fold. Number one. As is true for china, there’s a Direct impact of labor standards In mexico in terms of jobs in The united states. And that’s true as to china. Finally, economists kind of got Off the couch and some of them Decided there were two to three Million jobs in this country Lost because of china’s exports To the u.S. They’ve been less willing to Cope with mexico though it had a Clear impact in terms of the Dual weight structure in the United states which we’re just Beginning — which is now being Modified. So the honest answer is you take These step by step and where you Can really bring about change You do it. As to china it was simply very Difficult to really get at their Labor practices through pntr. There was no way to do it. So, it is a really good question And it is the kind of Controversial issue that we Should all discuss. So, I’ll leave it at that and Someone may want to pick it up. audience member: can you Speak to legislation or laws Which give individuals in unions The right not to pay dues? There’s some state laws going Into that allow people to — sander levin: about what? audience member: the right to Work and the right for Individuals in the union to have The right not to pay dues. They can be part of the new Union without paying dues. sander levin: this relates to Right to work and dues paying. bama Athreya: and also I Think the supreme court case as Well. sander levin: maybe we should Leave that to another time. I mean, it’s related but it’s — You can imagine how many of us Think how important it is. But I think this is such a juicy Subject that we don’t want to Throw in another orange. audience member: all right. Shifting gears a little bit. Please comment on the role of Labor journalists and the Unionizing of media companies on The larger question of labor and Trade. So what are the roles of labor Journalists and media companies On labor and trade? sander levin: key. No, I mean, just look what’s Going on as to labor and Everything else in this country Today. And there’s a worrisome erosion Of journalism in this country. And that’s again another subject For discussion. Very worrisome. I mean, it’s journalists who Pick out, for example, the Issues to usmca. Interestingly enough the best Journalism was done by some American reporters in mexico. There really wasn’t a very good Job done in my judgment. But they’re indispensable right. And the closing of local News Newspapers. So we can just leave It at that. It’s critical. audience member: so climate Change has played a major factor In a lot of the developing Countries. It’s affecting them the most. Now how does climate change Policy developing countries Affect the labor market, labor Laws and international trade? bama Athreya: these are all Such big questions. So I always like to kind of Speak by example. We do think there is a direct Relationship with — I’m going To go to a direct example on This and that is bangladesh. Bangladesh is is a country with An enormous coastline, has been Identified as highly vulnerable. Highly vulnerable to climate Risk and rising sea levels. And that will displace Increasing numbers of people. We know already, right we can Forecast that that displacement Will then put additional Pressure on labor markets, Particularly urban labor markets As people migrate from Vulnerable regions to cities in Search of some kind of Livelihood, economic livelihood, Which in turn will likely Depress conditions in those Labor markets even further than They’re already depressed. And it’s not obviously just Bang Bangladesh. It just happens to be a very big Populous country. It’s like a petrie dish where You can see what’s going to Happen. Arguably you will see obviously Very different but related Impacts when you look at Vulnerable communities, Particularly coastal Communities, in a number of Developing countries — Sri lanka, coastal regions of India, indonesia, philippines. We haven’t even gotten to other Regions of the world yet. And, you know, governments know This. And they know they’re already Having to start to adapt to Shifting their approach — their Urban policy and urbanization. Because they can see that They’re going to have to deal With increasing waves of what We’ll call climate refugees. I would argue we’re not paying Enough attention to climate Refugees as a cross board of Phenomenon. We haven’t talked except for a Little bit about migrant Workers. Most migrants in the World are economic migrants. They’re looking for jobs. They have been on the rise and Really exponentially on the rise Over the past decade. People moving across borders, You know, in search of economic Opportunity. With the changes, again, and Vulnerabilities and risk to Communities posed by climate Change you’re going to see Increasing levels of migration. We’re going have to deal with That as a labor market issue. So, we’re kind of off trade all Together now. So, again, you know, lots of Good topics coming up in these Questions for future lectures But I think we need to think About and we haven’t talked About what we are doing to Manage migration flows. And I mean manage. I don’t mean sort of — we’re Not talking about keeping people Out. We’re talking about the fact That people are moving. Goods move, services move. We have trade agreements. Let’s have sensible migration Agreements in place. audience member: this Question pertains to technology And labor enforcement. With the growing popularity of Using predictive analytics to Proactively enforce crimes in Various u.S. Cities, can this Technology be applied to Enforcing labor violations at Least in high income eocd Countries? Do you see any drawbacks to this Enforcement approach? bama Athreya: I’m all over This question because this was Some of the experimentation that I got to, you know, had the Great plashir of being — Pleasure with being involved With as my role at usa id. We were actually interested in Highly vulnerable and invisible Populations of workers that we Knew were at risk of very Serious violations. And one of my personal Obsessions was the young men and Boys who work on fishing vessels Around the world and who have Now been documented to, you Know, by a number of excellent Journalists to basically be Slaves at sea. They’re enslaved on fishing Vessels around the world. Many are migrants from very poor Countries. Once they’re on the vessels They’re not able to get off. We knew they were off the grid, No labor inspectors could reach Them. And and they were suffering Egregious labor and human rights Violations. So we were extremely Interested in what could be done With technology given that there Was no other way to get eyes and Ears and access to these young Men and boys. So we invested and we were not The only ones but there were Sort of a number of us that were Seized with this question of Whether we could use some Combination of vessel monitoring Technology and satellite Technology to triangulate and Identify where crew were most at Risk. So, that given limited resources In the world, you could better Pinpoint and get the resources That you do have to the people Who are most likely to be at Risk. You know, the jury is still out. Investments have been made. I think it will be interesting To see what comes of them. I actually, you know, we can Talk more about this but, you Know, I think this is an area Where there’s promise and There’s peril. And the promise again is really Finding people who are otherwise Completely invisible and making Them visible. The peril has to do with, you Know, as subject that I think More of us are becoming Increasingly aware of and that Is the nature of surveillance Technology and the information It captures that should be Protected private information. So this has come up even with Respect to some of the things We’ve done to keep crews safe on Vessels in southeast asia. Things like using biometric I.D. On crew so we know who has Gotten on the boat, who’s gotten Off the boat. It’s been pointed out there’s Really serious privacy Considerations. And potential violations and Abuses of the data that has been Collected by governments for the Purposes of keeping crews safe But anything, you know, sort of Can be used and subverted. So that’s I think a short answer To the question. Obviously I’ve got a lot more to Say on this but it’s an Interesting question. sander levin: you know, it’s More just briefly than Technology. Because in many countries I know Somewhat first-hand about those Who leave nepal. Their passports are taken. They’re just taken. And so we need — that’s why There also needs to be a Multi-lateral structure relating To these problems. Can you imagine going to work And having your passport taken So you can’t leave? It happens all the time in many Countries. In thailand, in other eastern Economies. bama Athreya: and just to Make one more point to link it Back. So, completely agree that you Can’t just have, you know, tools Are just tools you also need Systems in place that protect People. But just to tie this back to Trade. That particular — this Particular case of thailand Improving systems to, you know, There’s a long way to go but at Least track crew that are Getting on boats in thai ports Happened at all because the eu, The european union, brought a Trade case against thailand. And so it’s just, you know, Linking it all back together. Some of these little things that We might think are good ideas, You still need to create the Political space for them to be Adopted as well. And trade in that case, you Know, trade scrutiny did that. moderator: let’s take one More question then we’ll invite To you continue the conversation Outside. audience member: this is Respect to the beginning of the Conversation. How far do we know to impose Standards that we accept but are Beyond the economic capabilities Of the partner country? Basic standards such as osha may Force cultural obstacles. How do we develop a mutually Acceptable levelling up Strategy? sander levin: so how far do We go? You know, in terms of labor, There’s so much Misunderstanding. It isn’t for us to determine the Specific wage. It’s to make sure there’s a free Labor market. And there’s often a Misunderstanding of that. There is no free labor market in Mexico. They now have a progressive Government that needs to face up To that. They’re increasing the minimum Wage I think to $0.90 an hour. That’s an improvement. But we need to be honest with Ourselves and honest with Others. Essentially in that case, if I Might use it, it is a question Of our neighbor which is a Democracy now with a progressive Government, making sure that There is a free democratic labor Market. So it can then lift up. It’s setting the conditions. And the same is true of all Human rights, right. It isn’t a matter of our Dictating the results. It’s ensuring the opportunities. And that’s a very american idea Isn’t it? That is a very american idea. That’s kind of what our country Is all about, right? It isn’t results. It’s opportunity that can affect The results. And that’s really what this Issue is all about. So those who misdescribe it, no One expects the garment workers In bangladesh to be making 5, 6, $7 an hour when they’re making $1 an hour now, it’s providing The tools for people to utilize. And it’s so american — it’s so Much a part of our creed that we Need to simply be very, very Clear cut about what’s at stake Here. And I don’t know if we’re ending But, I mean, we should be proud Of what’s happened in this Country that helped create the Middle-class. It was a free labor market Wasn’t it? And so that’s really — and now In cambodia, I mean, there’s a Dictator who is destroying the Labor movement. When I was there it was Abominable. And in vietnam when we were Negotiating tpp, all we said to The obama administration was: Just insist that vietnam move Towards a free labor market. And when I went to australia and Met with the negotiator, he said To me, there will never be an Independent union in vietnam. So, and they had thrown in jail Two people we med one there who Had been in jail for four years For trying to form an Independent union. But we needed to be is very Clear cut. There had to be real change as a Condition in terms of Opportunity and in terms of Structure. So, it is a good question and in A sense it isn’t simple to Implement it but it’s simple to State it. And we need to be clear about That. And it relates to kind of Everything. You are getting me carried away. I met armstrong sushi when we Went there. And what a disappointment right. So, now you have how many Millions, hundreds of thousands Of people who have lost their Fre Freedom. And the freedom to organize in Simple terms helped make the Middle-class of this country. We should be damn proud of it. And proud to incorporate it into A realistic way in what we Propose. moderator: thank you. That’s a very nice closing Comment. And let’s thank the towsley Foundation, the weiser family And, of course, our speakers, Dr. Bama Athreya and our own Professor Sandy Levin. [applause] Now please feel free to continue The conversation outside.

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