MEXICO CITY – The governments of Mexico and the United States have announced a plan to resolve a US labor complaint about attempts to steal union votes at an auto plant in northern Mexico.
US Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said the announcement was encouraging.
The Economy Ministry pledged this week to punish any abuse of the vote and to present inspectors in a new vote at GM’s Silao plant, scheduled before August 20. The voting will take place inside the factory, not in the offices of the union that allegedly tried to destroy the ballots.
Labor Department inspectors will be able to enter the factory to avoid intimidation tactics starting next week, and monitors from the International Labor Organization will also be able to enter.
However, it was not clear whether these promises would be enough. Factory workers complained that the former Trabajadores Mexicanos union rehearsed tactics such as promises and threats in letters to union delegates or offered car recalls to win the vote.
Brown said the announcement would also address GM’s initial denial of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining for workers at the facility. This first remedial course is the result of the Worker Training provisions of Brown and Senator Ron Wyden, D.O., secured through the Rapid Response Mechanism as part of the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA), and it reflects the intent of the United States and Mexico that trade should benefit workers.
“For decades, Ohioans have seen factories shut down and their jobs shipped overseas due to trade policies that prioritize business. I wrote Brown and Eden Clause to deliver results for American workers, and this is what he does,” Brown said in a statement.
“To stop the corporate business model that shuts down factories in Ohio and moves jobs overseas, we must raise labor standards in every country we deal with.”
Brown and Wyden said they fought back and were able to secure important supplies as part of the T-MEC for the first time, allowing workers to file allegations of labor violations at the facility. The new agreement allows workers in Mexico to report when a company violates their rights and to know procedures within months if it is determined that workers’ rights have been violated. It would also apply punitive damages when companies prevent workers from organizing and prevent goods from entering the United States if these anti-labor tactics persist.
The voting complaint was filed in May under the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, after an old guard union was caught destroying ballot papers. A new union tries to overthrow the old group of factory workers. For decades, corrupt Mexican unions signed low-wage “protection contracts” behind the backs of workers.
Rapid response mechanisms under the trade agreement allow the commission to determine whether Mexico is implementing labor laws that allow workers to choose their union, vote on contracts, and union leadership. If Mexico is found to be in violation of its laws, sanctions can be resorted to, including banning certain products from entering the United States. The May complaint was the first complaint filed under the USMCA.
Mexican auto workers earn between one-eighth and one-tenth the wages of their American counterparts, which has led to massive relocation of auto factories in Mexico and job losses in the United States.
For decades, the voices of Mexico’s unions hung in the air, or never stopped. Workers in many factories in Mexico did not know they had a union until they saw the rates deducted from their wages.
As part of efforts to win over the T-MEC, which replaced the old North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico agreed to labor law reforms that mandated that all union votes be held by secret ballot and that workers in all factories in Mexico could vote to keep their union.