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Mexican farmworkers in California. Mexican farmworkers in California.

Mexico responds to GM union complaint by accusing US of violating migrants’ rights

It cited issues with illegal wages, poor Covid safety, lack of collective bargaining

The federal government responded to the United States’ request that it review alleged union abuses at a General Motors plant in Guanajuato by accusing its neighbor of not protecting migrants’ labor rights.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) said in a statement Wednesday that Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Esteban Moctezuma, has written to U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to raise concerns about the “lack of application” of labor laws in the U.S. agriculture and meatpacking industries.

Mexico’s criticism of labor conditions in the United States came just after the U.S. government announced that it had asked Mexico to examine alleged union abuses at the GM factory in Silao, Guanajuato, such as denying workers the right of free association and collective bargaining.

The SRE noted that labor rights in the U.S. protect all workers regardless of their migration situation, but in practice factors such as “lack of awareness, fear and abuse on the part of some employers prevent migrant workers from fully exercising their labor rights in some industries and states,” the SRE said.

The ministry said Moctezuma’s letter set out a range of failures on the part of some employers.

They include the failure to pay overtime and in some cases the minimum wage, to allow workers to organize and negotiate in a collective way, to give workers sufficient breaks, to follow Covid-19 health protocols and to attend to cases of violence and sexual harassment in agriculture and meatpacking.

The federal government proposed cooperation with the United States within the framework of the new North American free-trade agreement, the USMCA, in order to “fully guarantee the labor rights provided for in federal United States legislation and Chapter 23 of the USMCA,” the SRE said.

“… It’s important to take into account that the USMCA promotes the application of fundamental labor rights; it seeks to guarantee the protection of migrant workers; it promotes an agenda of cooperation that allows the application of international labor rights; and it encourages dialogue to attend to differences …” the ministry said.

President López Obrador said Thursday that provisions in the three-way trade pact are “reciprocal,” explaining that “just as they can present complaints about the situation in which employees work in our country, we too can present complaints if there are violations of rights of workers in the United States.”

The United States’ request for a review of the situation at the GM plant — where Mexico’s Labor Ministry detected “serious irregularities” in a recent vote to ratify a collective bargaining agreement — represents the first time that any of the three North American trade partners has used the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism in the USMCA, which took effect last July. The mechanism allows any of the partner countries to target worker rights violations at specific factories.

The Mexican government said on Wednesday that it was already acting on its neighbor’s request.

“Based on the request received today, Mexico is beginning the review of the case in question,” the Labor and Economy ministries said in a joint statement.

Mexico News Daily 

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