As companies increasingly look to the global market for capital, cheaper commodities and labor, and lower production costs, the impact on Mexican and American workers and labor unions is significant. National boundaries and the laws of governments that regulate social relations between laborers and management are less relevant in the era of globalization, rendering ineffective the traditional union strategies of pressuring the state for reform.
Focusing especially on the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (the first international labor agreement linked to an international trade agreement), Norman Caulfield notes the waning political influence of trade unions and their disunity and divergence on crucial issues such as labor migration and workers' rights. Comparing the labor movement's fortunes in the 1970s with its current weakened condition, Caulfield notes the parallel decline in the United States' hegemonic influence in an increasingly globalized economy. As a result, organized labor has been transformed from organizations that once pressured management and the state for worker concessions to organizations that now request that workers concede wages, pensions, and health benefits to remain competitive in the global marketplace.