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News Article

USTR First USMCA Labor Complaint in Detail

By Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 05/19/2021 - 13:47

The US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai formally asked Mexico to review whether workers at a GM facility in Silao, Guanajuato, are being denied their labor rights, particularly the ones related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. 

“Using USMCA to help protect freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in Mexico helps workers both at home and in Mexico, by stopping a race to the bottom. It also supports Mexico’s efforts to implement its recent labor law reforms. I commend the Mexican government for stepping in to suspend the vote when it became aware of voting irregularities. Today’s action will complement Mexico’s efforts to ensure that these workers can fully exercise their collective bargaining rights," said Tai during the announcement.

USTR’s claim comes after Mexican authorities ordered the General Motors Co union in Silao to repeat a worker vote. The request from Mexico’s authorities came in turn after US lawmakers pressured their counterparts south of the border, Reuters reported. Later, Mexico’s Ministry of Labor found "serious irregularities" during the voting that did not comply with Mexican labor law.

The day after the USTR made the announcement, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed the claim during his morning press briefing. “We have already responded to the complaint from the US because, in effect, a recount (of the vote) was carried out at the plant of this company to resolve the ownership of the contract and there were many irregularities in the election.” López Obrador also said that the US “is right” regarding this matter and added that “we have to restore the election process and we accept the recommendation of the US.”

The formal complaint delivered by the US explains the irregularities that happened during workers' voting on Apr. 5, 2021, highlighting the fact that "It appears that events in question involved violations of Mexican laws" and requests Mexico’s authorities to review the case. "If Mexico were to determine that there is a Denial of Rights to workers at the General Motors de México facility in Silao, Guanajuato, the US further requests, pursuant to USMCA Article 31-A.4.2, that Mexico attempt to remediate within 45 days of this request," reads the document.

Mexico has 10 days to respond. President López Obrador said the country had already done so. If the US and Mexico fail to agree on remedies, the US can request the establishment of a Rapid Response Labor Panel.

This incident comes less than a week after US unions presented to the USTR what would have become the first labor complaint addressing the alleged denial of free association rights of workers at Tridomex facilities in Matomoros. Do not miss our full analysis on this subject.

Photo by:   GM
Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst