Press Release | Future of Work

AFL-CIO Unveils First-Ever Policy Agenda on Digital Economy and Trade

As the Biden administration continues to remake U.S. trade policy through the lens of producing good-paying jobs and empowering working people across America, the AFL-CIO released its recommendations for creating a worker-centered digital trade agenda today. This is the first comprehensive proposal for safeguarding workers’ rights in the evolving digital economy. 

“The voices of working people must be at the table in shaping the direction of digital trade policy,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “Corporations shouldn’t dictate the rules of the global digital economy with no regard for working people. Their drive to monetize data frequently violates crucial privacy rights and exploits workers. The power of technology can be harnessed to build a fairer digital economy, produce economic growth that is shared by everyone and create life-sustaining opportunities for every working person far into the future.”

The AFL-CIO proposal comes at a time when corporations are continuing to operate with little oversight on digital trade practices, having a broad, and often negative, impact on workers’ rights. Employers are increasingly using artificial intelligence technology to restrict organizing efforts and surveil workers. Companies also are using technology to foster discrimination in the hiring process, outsource good-paying jobs, erode workers’ mental health and lower wages. The proposal, jointly released with the AFL-CIO Technology Institute, is in line with the Biden administration’s worker-centered trade policy and will help inform upcoming negotiations on trade and economic agreements in key regions. 

The proposal includes recommendations on how digital trade policy can better enable governments to enforce domestic policies to regulate new technologies, protect consumer data, compel corporate transparency about the use of artificial intelligence and allow officials to open industry-wide investigations. The paper also outlines commitments governments must make to address the challenges digital transformation poses to workers’ rights, including international data regulation and the offshoring of jobs, and calls for the reinforcement of high-road labor standards, copyright protections, and accountability from state and private actors for cybercrime. 

“Digital trade rules must not block the growing efforts to rein in the digital economy’s downsides that workers face on the job and at home,” said Patrick Woodall, policy and research director of the AFL-CIO Technology Institute. “A worker-centered digital trade agenda can safeguard workers’ rights and ensure that digital technologies do not undermine workplace safety, exacerbate employment discrimination, or undermine the right to form unions.” 
Click here to read the full paper.

Contact: Danielle Noel, 202-637-5018