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Eric Tucker (2004), "Great Expectations", Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 26 (1) : 97-150

15 février 2004

This article explores the effects that NAFTA had on collective bargaining laws in Canada and the United States, specifically whether the ’great expectation’ that NAFTA would lead to a legislative erosion of collective bargaining laws was realized or not. The first section analyzes the "Race to the Bottom" hypothesis model, which anticipates that trade liberalization will lead to increased mobility of capital and products, increasing competition between employers who will then look to produce more efficiently, making strong labor standards not attractive. This analysis examines the RTB model’s limitations such as its absence of factoring in political and economic processes that affect regulatory outcomes, and its narrow focus only private sector labor legislation. It then suggests another model of trade liberalization’s effects that takes into account mediating contextual factors such as economic complexity, internal adaptation in the collective bargaining regime, and external environments that shape government policy. The second section uses this new model to assess the trajectory of collective bargaining laws in Canada and the United States . The case studies show that though there has been a downward trajectory in both countries, it has not been as steep as many free-trade critics had predicted because of such variables as internal adaptation through the bargaining process, political and legal influences, the weakening of the effectiveness of the labor laws themselves, and civil society activism. The author also notes that U.S. collective bargaining laws were less affected by competition than Canada because of its already weakened state at the beginning of the free-trade era. The article concludes that the ’great expectation’ has been defeated, to the extent that it predicted NAFTA would lead to a dramatic legislative (as opposed to regulatory effectiveness) decline in collective bargaining laws.

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