FINAL DECLARATION

 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE CONFERENCE

AGAINST NAFTA AND PRIVATIZATIONS

 

NOVEMBER 16, 1997

 

To workers, organized and unorganized, to the organizations of the working

class, and to the peoples of the Americas and the world, we address this

declaration.

 

We are leaders and activists in trade unions and other worker organizations

from throughout the Western hemisphere. Together, our organizations

represent tens of millions of working people. We have gathered in San

Francisco, California (United States), on November 14, 15, and 16, to give

testimony to the deleterious effects the transnational corporate agenda has

had on working people throughout the hemisphere and to improve our capacity

for mutual support and solidarity in our responses to this assault upon

living and working conditions and democratic rights.

 

To our sisters and brothers in the labor movement of the United States, we

extend our congratulations and heartfelt appreciation for their successful

effort in turning back the Clinton Administration's most recent attempt to

restore "fast-track" trade agreement negotiation authority, and to extend

NAFTA from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle in the form of the Free

Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).

 

Together, we have heard the reports of delegations from throughout the

hemisphere, telling of the miserable consequences of NAFTA, Mercosur, and

the other free trade agreements which have been forced upon the people of

the Americas by the transnational corporations, aided and abetted by the

governments and international financial institutions in their service. We

have listened to the testimony of

unionists and activists from countries throughout the Americas, who have

told how capital's global agenda has wreaked havoc through deregulation,

privatization, and destruction of public services, degradation of the

environment, attacks on collective bargaining, working conditions, and labor

codes, and a frontal assault on the right of working people to be

represented by trade unions independent of governments and the employers. We

have explored the ramifications of the pending Multilateral Agreement on

Investment (MAI).

 

In mounting this assault, multinational capital seeks to undermine not only

the capacity of workers to defend themselves, but also the democratic rights

of our peoples and the very sovereignty of the laws and institutions

established over decades of struggle. In the name of "free trade," our

freedoms and rights are being systematically subverted.

 

What is the balance sheet of these free trade agreements and the concomitant

privatization and deregulation forced upon the countries of the hemisphere

by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund through its structural

adjustment plans, and by the United States itself? The details are many;

together, they paint a picture of growing misery and increasing social and

economic inequality for the mass of working people, peasants, and the poor

of our countries.

 

From each country represented at our conference, we heard examples.

 

In Canada, the universal healthcare system is being destroyed in an attempt

to impose privatization. Production is being moved to lower-wage countries,

as in the case of the Bauer Skate Company in Ontario -- bought by the

multinational Nike Corp., operated in Canada for six months, and then moved

to Malaysia, along with 500 factory jobs.

 

In Chile, a wholesale destruction of the public sector has been underway for

some time. Already, the Chilean people have had their pension system robbed

by capital, and the average workweek in the country has become one of the

longest in the hemisphere, extending to weekends and holidays.

 

In Brazil, the drive to reduce labor costs -- which, the bosses, insist, is

the only way to make the country competitive in the global market -- pits

worker against worker and union against union. When Mercedes-Benz sought to

enlarge its operations in the city of Campinas, the company demanded a

no-strike pledge from the union. Faced with the union's refusal to accept

this blackmail, Mercedes-Benz relocated its factory to another city.

Meanwhile, both GM and Ford continue to receive millions of dollars in

subsidies from the federal government and the state government of Rio Grande

do Sul, money that was redirected away from public services.

 

In Mexico, the privatization of pension funds, of the petrochemical industry

and railroads, and public education, call into question national sovereignty

and the historic conquests of the Mexican people. Privatizations are

accompanied by the militarization of the country and bring about

unprecedented levels of unemployment and misery. And along the U.S. border,

the deregulated maquiladora sector continues to expand.

 

In Ecuador, the government's attempt to privatize the electricity sector has

led to a workers' occupation of the Paute Power Works, which began in early

September. This privatization effort, though, is not limited to electricity.

The oil industry, telecommunications, social security and healthcare, ports

and docks, public education, and even drinking water and irrigation are all

coming under attack.

 

In Haïti, the policies designed to dismantle the public enterprises and

services, which is carried out by the CMEP (Council for the Modernization of

the Public Enterprises) at the behest of the World Bank, came to the end of

its first phase with the liquidation of Haïti Cement last August. Among the

consequences have been the growing foreign debt, which has increased from 4

to more than 14 billion gourdes; the quickly decling number of jobs in all sectors

of the economy; rice imports which now exceed $1 billion, whereas in 1984

the country was essentially self-sufficent; and, to top it all off, 70% of the new state

budgetÐfor the past three yearsÐis financed by international aid. Haïti has

no real national budget.

 

Peru has seen the savage application of the policies of the multinational

corporations and the international institutions that serve their interests.

Wholesale privatization of state-owned industries and public services

continues unabated. In the healthcare sector, those who can pay the most

receive the best care, while the poor masses find their access to healthcare

sharply reduced. Education and social security are the latest targets of the

privatization assault. Jobs are disappearing, and recent legislative decrees

have made it possible for corporations to lay off workers for virtually any

reason. Those jobs that remain are more and more precarious.

 

These are but a few of the examples we heard in testimony from participants

from throughout the Americas.

 

In the United States, the results of NAFTA are clear despite the vain

attempts of the Clinton Administration to cover up the facts. At least

400,000 -- and perhaps as many as 600,000 jobs -- have been lost as a direct

result of NAFTA. Employers continue to threaten plant closures and

production shifts to Mexico in the drive to lower the wages of all U.S.

workers and hamper union organizing attempts.

 

In their drive for maximum profits, global corporations pit working people,

our communities, and entire nations against one another in a downward spiral

of take-backs, concessions, and direct assaultsÐwhat has come to be known

appropriately as the "race to the bottom." They continue their disastrous

practices of racial discrimination and segregation against people of color.

 

In country after country, the workers and people have begun to rise in

struggle against these attacks.

 

This conference is an important step forward in the fight against the

employers and the international financial institutions and governments in

their service. To this wholesale assault upon the working and poor people of

the hemisphere, there can be but one response -- greater cooperation, unity,

and solidarity amoung us. In the face of global capitalism, we are

determined to build and strengthen global unionism. We have gathered

together despite our different points of views, our different political

origins, and our different traditions. We are united by our common adversary

to make a united stand in defense of the rights, working conditions, and

living standards of our peoples.

 

We have succeeded in drawing common conclusions. NAFTA and the other free

trade agreements, along with structural adjustment:

 

an assault upon our rights and upon our working and living

conditions, and stand as barriers to social progress and democracy.

elevate the transnational corporations and their interests above

those of the peoples of each country. The MAI seeks to make this

international law.

have, at their core, the aim of destroying public services,

collective bargaining, labor codes, and the capacity of peoples to resist

the drive to make them servants of global capital.

are in no way intended to broaden the opportunities for

employment. Rather, they destroy jobs for many while creating work for

only a few. A growing number of our peoples are left worse off, while a

small elite is enriched.

 

Through NAFTA and the other free trade agreements, employers and governments

seek to undermine the independence of trade unions that stand for the

defense of working people and our interests. The strategy of transnational

capital is to cripple or remove all institutions that provide working people

the capacity to resist the insatiable drive for ever greater profits.

 

In summary, NAFTA, MAI, and the other free trade agreements, along with

structural adjustment, are an affront to democracy, to the rights of

workers, to the rights of people to determine their own destiny. They

overrule ILO Conventions and UN human rights treaties.

 

What can be done? We represent an immense force, one with the capacity to

wage a vigorous fight against these attacks we have described. We have

discussed and debated, and we now call upon workers, activists, and labor

and other peoples' organizations throughout the hemisphere and the

worldÐparticularly the organizations of women, the doubly and triply

oppressedÐto expand and strengthen our communication, cooperation, and

capacity for common action.

 

We propose a common day of action against the extension of NAFTA, against

the continued privatization and destruction of our public services, and

against the continued attacks on our rights and gains. We aim to hold this

common day of action in April 1998, on the day when the heads of state from

throughout the Americas will convene in Chile to discuss the creation of the

FTAA.

 

We constitute this Conference as a Continuations Committee, under the

direction of the convenors, to implement this decision.

Ours is a call for justice and democracy, for workers1 and peoples1 rights,

for the rights of women, youth, children, and all the oppressed, for a

militant campaign to stem the tide of these vicious assaults against our

unions, our jobs, our standards of living, our rights, and all the gains we

have won in struggle. In the face of global capital, we seek to build global

unionism. Join us in building actions in every country of North America,

Central America, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

 

No to NAFTA!

No to FTAA!

No to MAI!

Stop privatizations and deregulation!

 

(396 unionists and activists from 20 countries participated in the conference)