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parsed(2024-04-23) - pubdate: 2024-04-23
pub date: 1713848400
today: 1716008400, pubdate > today = false

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The International Defense of Workers

Labor Rights, U.S. Trade Agreements, and State Sovereignty

April 23, 2024 | Hardcover
ISBN: 9780231213424
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International trade agreements have often been criticized for limited attention to the rights of workers. The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), stands out for linking labor rights provisions to a U.S. trade agreement. Kevin J. Middlebrook provides a comprehensive and systematic examination of the NAALC, assessing its efficacy in protecting workers' rights over the entire period it was in effect and demonstrating its broader significance for the role of trade and labor standards in U.S. foreign policy.

Placing the NAALC in comparative context, Middlebrook considers various ways of promoting workers' rights and how other U.S. international trade agreements have influenced labor rights abroad. He investigates the origins of the agreement; the political controversies among Canada, Mexico, and the United States over its scope; how the agreement operated in practice; and its longer-term policy legacies. Middlebrook emphasizes the tension between state sovereignty and the international promotion of labor rights in the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements, as well as how labor movements in one partner country can galvanize action in others.

Drawing on interviews with high-level officials involved in the trade negotiations and previously unexamined primary sources, The International Defense of Workers is a groundbreaking analysis of the effects of U.S. trade agreements on labor rights.

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About this Author

Kevin J. Middlebrook (1950-2022) was professor of Latin American politics at the Institute of the Americas, University College London. His books include The Paradox of Revolution: Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico (1995) and Organized Labour and Politics in Mexico: Changes, Continuities, and Contradictions (2012).

ISBN: 9780231213424
Format: Hardcover
Series: Woodrow Wilson Center
Pages: 592
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Published: 2024-04-23


Kevin J. Middlebrook skillfully weaves together the complex story of the international defense of labor rights across the levels of state sovereignty, state-to-state trade negotiations, workers' campaigns, and practical results. Through meticulous examination of original sources and interviews with direct participants, he creates a rare, balanced account of the contending positions of state and nonstate actors in the United States and Mexico. His insightful analysis illuminates this politically salient history and the continuing contestation over the international defense of workers' rights.

The International Defense of Workers is the definitive account of how unions in Mexico, Canada, and the United States have used labor provisions in NAFTA and USMCA trade agreements to advance workers' rights in North America. Middlebrook sets this narrative within a broader analysis of trade-labor linkage globally, and tensions between state sovereignty in domestic labor law systems and demands to apply international labor norms. This magisterial work will inform and inspire new generations of scholars, students, and advocates in the international labor rights field.

A thoroughly researched, clearly written, and comprehensive analysis of efforts to link labor standards to trade agreements by one of the foremost experts on Mexican labor. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the origins and content of labor provisions in North American trade agreements as well as their role in setting the agenda for U.S. trade agreements with other countries and regions.

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