A Big Win for Mexican Workers—and a Model for the U.S.
By Roberto Kuttner
Earlier this week, I reported on how the Rapid Response mechanism under the successor to NAFTA was putting the U.S. government on the side of labor rather than capital in trade agreements. The first of the complaints under the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement was actually initiated by the U.S. government.
The complaint concerned a rigged election at a GM plant in Silao, Mexico, where workers were trying to kick out a fake union in favor of a real one. After it was discovered that the pro-employer Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) had destroyed ballots in the original vote, the remedy under Rapid Response was a new election supervised by international monitors.
Now the other shoe has dropped. Yesterday, the Mexican Labor Ministry certified that workers voted this week to nullify their collective-bargaining contract with the factory’s fake union. The company union lost by a vote of 3,214 to 2,613. This now clears the way for workers to affiliate with a real union.
This win is doubly significant because the Silao truck factory is not run by some subcontractor. The plant is owned and operated by GM. Under the Rapid Response mechanism in USMCA, if GM or the fake union tries to play cute, the exports of this factory to the U.S. can be hit with tariffs or blocked at the border by U.S. Customs.
It is the kind of hardball in trade deals that has long been used on behalf of banks and multinational corporations—but this time for workers and unions.
If you think about it, USMCA now provides to Mexican workers far stronger rights to vote for the union of their choice, free from company harassment or retaliation, than their U.S. brothers and sisters have under current U.S. labor law. In principle, USMCA could be used that way, but in practice most of the affected exports flow north.
Restoring those rights to U.S. workers will require enactment of the PRO Act, which stands for Protecting the Right to Organize. The act has passed the House. President Biden needs to make it a priority in the Senate.