Susan Aaronson's resulting paper Working by Design New Ideas to Empower US and European Workers in TTIP was released at a joint ILO-GWU conference held in Washington, DC on May 14, 2015. In addition to the findings and recommendations resulting from the survey, the paper captures some of the misgivings many have about the possible negative impacts the TTIP could have on workers' rights, particularly on strong labor and social welfare protections in most European Union member states. The paper also captures key differences in the US and EU approaches to labor rights in free trade agreements (See p. 7).
One of the most compelling recommendations from the survey is that labor, human and social welfare rights should be considered and incorporated throughout the text of the US-EU free trade agreement (instead of in just a single chapter) as a way to advance labor rights and increase employment (See pp. 12, 21). Aaronson points to a proposed "regulatory coherence" chapter that could have a negative impact on worker rights as its aim is to "ensure that domestic regulations, such as environmental regulations, health and safety standards or workplace regulations do not distort trade" (p. 13). She cites a 2015 ETUI policy brief written by Aida Ponce titled TTIP: fast track to deregulation and lower health and safety protection for EU workers as an example of how a US-EU free trade agreement regulatory coherence chapter might lower workplace standards in the EU. Two other proposed chapters that could have a negative impact on worker rights are the proposed services and investment chapters.
The paper also includes some other survey recommendations of note such as:
- Improvements to the labor dispute process under TTIP (p. 22);
- Periodic (every 5 years) reporting on the TTIP's impact on the realization of ILO core labor rights (p. 23);
- Specific exclusion of minimum or living wage laws, collective bargaining agreements, public procurement standards and public health and welfare regulations from the Investor-State Dispute provisions (p. 21);
- Establishment of an independent Secretariat to resolve disputes, issue reports, conduct research and engage in innovative projects to promote worker rights (p. 23); and
- Improved transparency in the TTIP negotiation process to allow the public to better understand how the agreement will expand employment and protect labor rights (p. 24).
Finally, while I enjoyed the ILO-GWU conference (and picked up some useful tidbits of updated information) where the Working by Design paper was released, I wonder if the traditional conference format of 15-minute speeches and audience questions is the best way to come up with genuinely creative ideas. In over 15 years of speaking at and attending international and comparative labor and employment conferences, only once have I attended an event that had an alternative format which captured and improved upon the ideas of the participants - the First Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment held in Orlando in 2003. At the First Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment, participants were divided into 3 groups where we worked with facilitators to discuss and develop our ideas into a final set of recommendations which were then merged together in a single document on the final day of the Forum. Maybe the next step in the Working for All work stream should be the First Global Forum on New Ideas and Innovative Strategies to Enhance Economic and Social Benefits in Trade Agreements - where the audience teaches the speakers rather than the other way around.