Mexican authorities have ordered the General Motors (GM) union in the city of Silao to repeat a workers’ vote after pressure from U.S. lawmakers for the carmaker to address alleged abuses that could violate a new trade deal.
Mexico’s labor ministry said Tuesday it found “serious irregularities” in last month’s vote, which is required in a Mexican labor reform to ensure employees are not bound by contracts signed on their backs and to maintain their low wages.
These votes are part of Mexico’s broader effort to defend workers ’rights as part of a new free trade pact that replaces the U.S. free trade agreement or NAFTA.
Concerns about GM arise amid several complaints in recent days about Mexican abuses in the workplace, just as US activists and politicians are beginning to flex new powers to enforce labor standards south of the border collected to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The largest U.S. labor federation, the AFL-CIO, on Monday urged the U.S. government to file a USMCA complaint against Tridonex, an auto parts plant in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, where he said workers have blocked the election of an independent union.
In the case of GM, some ballots were destroyed during the union-led vote, Mexico’s labor ministry found. He also said the union, which is part of the powerful Mexican Confederation of Workers (CTM), refused to give labor inspectors documentation on the vote count.
U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee, Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, all Democrats, asked GM to answer questions about possible abuses.
The largest U.S. vehicle manufacturer “has a responsibility to protest against labor violations and human rights abuses at the GM plant in Silao,” they said in a letter to GM chief executive Mary Barra.
Lawmakers also cited informational reports indicating that GM officials had fired independent inspectors, among other staff-based intimidation tactics.
GM has denied any illegal offense and said government-approved inspectors were not prevented from entering the polling station. He also said he condemned labor rights violations and had hired a third-party company to review the matter.
The GM union is due to hold a new vote within 30 days, the ministry said, after the initial vote “violated safety and security principles.”
Hugo Varela, head of the CTM in the state of Guanajuato, where the Silao plant is located, did not respond to a request for comment on the order of the labor ministry. Earlier he said CTM pledged to comply with the law and keep jobs in Mexico.
A spokesman for the US trade representative’s office declined to comment on GM.
Defend the rights of workers
The disputed vote in Silao, which employs about 6,000 people, came several days before GM said it would invest $ 1 billion in an electric vehicle manufacturing complex in Mexico, sparking criticism from United Auto Workers.
This week, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Reuters news agency separately that he was “concerned and is holding proper debates” over Mexico’s vote.
In addition, Geneva-based Industrial Unions and Toronto-based Unifor said in letters to GM President Mark Reuss last week that the incident violated the USMCA and urged GM to protect workers.
Unifor President Jerry Dias expressed his “outrage” at the situation and said he would explore “all available avenues” to defend workers ’rights in Mexico, including USMCA dispute resolution tools .
The Biden administration prioritizes the implementation of existing commitments in trade agreements by U.S. partners. U.S. Democrats and labor unions made Mexico’s strong workers’ rules and enforcement mechanisms a key demand for gaining support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement that went into effect in July. . They were concerned that the pact that replaced the USMCA did not have such provisions.