The United States government has asked Mexico to review whether workers’ rights are being violated at an auto parts plant in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, making use of a novel mechanism in the new North American free trade accord, which took effect last July.
United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh asked Wednesday for a review to determine whether workers at the Tridonex plant in the border city of Matamoros are being denied the rights of free association and collective bargaining.
Tridonex is owned by Philadelphia-based auto parts manufacturer Cardone Industries, which is controlled by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management.
Tai’s office said in a statement that the request for review “marks both the second time ever, and the second time in the past month, that the United States has requested Mexico’s review of collective bargaining rights issues under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM) in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).”
The RRM is a feature that gives member countries the ability to request the investigation of specific facilities accused of violating the labor standards outlined in the USMCA, such as workers’ rights to collective bargaining. The first time the RRM was employed was when the U.S asked Mexico to review whether workers at a General Motors facility in Silao, Guanajuato, were being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining. Mexico agreed to that review and also committed to complying with the United States’ latest request.
Cardone Industries said it would cooperate with a review but added that it believed that “the allegations are inaccurate.”
This request comes a month after the largest labor federation in the United States, the AFL-CIO, petitioned the U.S. government to lodge a complaint against Mexico in relation to workers at the Tridonex plant allegedly being denied the right to independent union representation.
Workers say they were prevented from switching to a different union after they became disgruntled with their existing one, which is controlled by Tridonex, because the union didn’t support their fight for higher wages. Many workers were fired for withdrawing their support for the SITPME union, according to the head of the union they wanted to join.
The United States Trade Representative said the Interagency Labor Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement, which is co-chaired by Tai and Walsh, reviewed the AFL-CIO’s RRM petition and determined that there was sufficient evidence that workers’ rights had been denied.
It said Mexico has 10 days to agree to conduct a review and, if it agrees, 45 days from Wednesday to remediate the situation.
“Enforcing the higher labor standards in the USMCA is a core pillar of the Biden-Harris administration’s worker-centered trade policy,” Tai said.
“The rapid response mechanism was created to quickly address labor disputes, and this announcement demonstrates our commitment to using the tools in the agreement to stand up for workers at home and abroad.”
Walsh said that “workers’ ability to exercise their fundamental human rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining without retaliation is essential to building independent unions in Mexico.”
Using the labor enforcement mechanisms in the USMCA is “a critical step in assuring that U.S. and Mexican workers share in the benefits of trade,” he said, adding that “we look forward to continuing to work closely with the government of Mexico to resolve this matter.”
Mexico News Daily