The United States reached an agreement with Mexico on Thursday to allow workers at a General Motors plant in the country to vote on a collective agreement under “free and democratic conditions”.
It is the first step in resolving a complaint made by the Biden administration in May by introducing a new “quick reaction mechanism” in the US-Mexico-Canada agreement that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement last year. The new agreement provided factory workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico with the right to form unions and penalties for factories that violated workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
In a statement, Katherine Tai, the United States sales representative, portrayed this as a victory for the Biden government’s commitment to workers.
“The conclusion of an agreement with Mexico on a recovery plan shows the potential of the USMCA to protect workers’ rights and the benefits of a worker-centric trade policy,” said Ms. Tai. “Full implementation and enforcement of the USMCA will not only help workers there, it will also help American workers by preventing trade from becoming a race to the bottom.”
The deal comes after the Biden government asked Mexico in May to investigate labor violations at the Silao plant in central Guanajuato state. The government said it had received information suggesting “serious violations” of workers’ rights in connection with a vote on a collective agreement in April.
The redevelopment plan calls for a new vote by August 20, which will be monitored by the Mexican Department of Labor to ensure that the voting area is secure and the ballot papers are protected. If the vote does not take place, the collective agreement is terminated, but the workers retain their rights and other unions can negotiate on behalf of the workers.
Starting this week, Mexico will send federal inspectors to the plant and continue voting. 32 inspectors – five times as many as at the first vote – will be present as agreed. The International Labor Organization and the National Electoral Institute of Mexico will also send observers to monitor the vote.
The vote was stopped at the beginning of the year after allegations that the union and the plant had interfered. The Mexican Department of Labor announced in May that the vote had identified “serious irregularities” and carried out a review at the request of the US. The United States and Mexico began talks on a recovery plan on June 25.
GM said in a statement that it welcomes the deal and supports the goal of the US and Mexican governments to protect workers’ rights.
“General Motors is pleased that Mexico has completed its review of the union vote on a collective agreement at our Silao plant and that the US and Mexico agreed on a recovery plan to support a free and fair vote in August,” the company said .
The revised trade agreement required Mexico to update its labor system, and the country revised its labor laws in 2019. One of the biggest goals was to get rid of flimsy collective agreements, known as protection agreements, that are signed with employer-dominated unions. Such contracts are widespread in the country.
The United States will continue to monitor compliance with the recovery plan and take further action if necessary, the Commerce Department said.