The upcoming union vote for General Motors’ (GM) Mexican plant will not be “free and fair,” claimed the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the US.
Unionized-eligible workers are set to vote on Feb. 1-2 to decide which of four unions will represent more than 6,000 employees in GM’ plant in Silao, Guanajuato, during negotiations for a new contract. The vote holds large domestic and international significance, as not only is it predicted to set a precedent for labor unions in Mexico but it will shed light on the advances of the labor provisions Mexico committed to by signing the USMCA.
“The GM vote is an important example of the ability of the United States and Mexico to work together through the USMCA, but also bilaterally in the sense that the US is providing technical assistance in support of labor reforms in Mexico… it is going to be an important signal that [Mexican companies] are moving forward with these reforms,” said Earl Anthony Wayne, former US Ambassador to Mexico and current public policy fellow, Wilson Center Mexico.
One of these reforms included a US-led commitment to replace unions which have not replaced their workers for decades, as is the case with the previous union in the GM plant. This led to workers at the plant canceling their union contract last August. Its replacement is yet to be decided.
Because of GM’s high profile, the vote is largely expected to receive international attention. A week before it takes place, AFL-CIO has already called out what it believes is not a fair process. Canada’s Unifor union, the country’s largest union group, has also voiced its concern by addressing Mexican authorities through a letter sent on Jan. 18, in which they present reasons for substantial doubt regarding the vote’s fairness.
The concerns come from the addition of a chapter of CTM, Mexico’s largest syndicate, and more unions to the ballot, which plant members suspect are efforts to divide workers’ votes. One of GM’s unions, Independent Syndicate of National Workers (SINTTIA) has stated that the ballot has been interfered with by little-known syndicates, which they worry could interfere with the validity of the vote.
Due to a 2019 law led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, the vote will be held through a secret ballot. But the fairness of the results, as warned by US and Canada’s largest union groups, could still be tampered with.