Mexican authorities on Monday extended the deadline for the union at a General Motors Co plant in Silao, Mexico, to reopen a controversial vote in dispute that has been subject to U.S. control, warning that the plant’s collective agreement it would be terminated if the date is lost.
The union in the central city of Silao must hold the vote before August 20, the labor ministry said in a statement. The plant employs about 6,000 people.
The original union-led vote in April, in which workers voted on whether to maintain the current contract, was halved after Mexican officials detected “serious irregularities,” including the destroyed ballots.
Concerns about possible interference in the vote prompted the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to make the first request for a review of possible labor violations under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The trade pact that replaced the U.S. Free Trade Agreement was designed to defend the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and was strengthened with Mexico’s labor reform in 2019.
The law requires nationwide contract ratification votes to ensure workers are not required to sign back-to-back contracts between companies and unions.
Many traditional Mexican unions are accused by activists of putting business interests over workers ’rights.
“Support the process”
The Mexican Ministry of Labor on May 11 had ordered the GM union to hold a new vote within 30 days.
Once the deadline passed, the U.S. workers’ federation AFL-CIO said it was “deeply concerned” about the delays and U.S. lawmakers urged GM to ensure it met USMCA requirements.
GM said in a statement that it would “do everything possible to support the process,” including cooperation with the Mexican government and allowing authorized independent observers to monitor the vote. The company reiterated that it condemns violations of labor rights.
The deadline was postponed at the request of the union to ensure that there would be no logistical “impediments” for most workers to participate, the ministry said.
GM workers in Silao are represented by the union Miguel Trujillo Lopez, which is affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), one of the largest and oldest labor organizations in Mexico.
Tereso Medina, union leader Miguel Trujillo Lopez, said the request to postpone the date came from “a matter of responsibility” to ensure all workers can vote, as General Motors faces a global shortage of semiconductor chips that has forced some pauses in production.
He added that his union would not miss the August 20 deadline.
The USTR office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Enforce labor standards
However, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told UAW union members during a visit to Flint in the U.S. state of Michigan that the Biden administration would work to implement trade policies that would raise wages and expand opportunities for workers everywhere.
“At USTR we want to foster a career towards the top with higher standards and a real and quick implementation of our trade agreements,” he said. “We don’t want to create incentives for companies to relocate jobs abroad to maximize profits.”
Tai told the auto workers that the U.S. government’s decision to initiate a case against the GM facility reflected the Biden administration’s determination to fully enforce labor rules negotiated under the USMCA trade agreement. .
“We know that the protection unions in Mexico do not really represent the workers. When independent union representation is denied to workers, it is easier to suppress wages, ”he said.
The case, the first object of the USMCA’s rapid response work mechanism, could lead to tariffs on some of GM’s most profitable vehicles under the trade agreement.