U.S. unions on Monday submitted the first labor rights petition against Mexico under a new regional trade pact, vying to bring a complaint against an auto parts company on the border that they say has rejected workers the right to independent representation.
The petition – submitted by the biggest U.S. labor federation, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) – says that workers at Tridonex in Matamoros, across from Texas, were obstructed from electing a union of their choice.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that replaced NAFTA last year, spelled out that right as part of its intention to give more power to workers to demand better salaries. It was also meant to avoid low labor costs from leeching more U.S. jobs.
Since the 1994 NAFTA, which had few enforcement tools for labor regulations, wages in Mexico have stagnated and now rank as the lowest in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of 37 industrialized countries.
Cardone Industries said it did not agree with the AFL-CIO’s assertions, but would address any issues that could take place in the complaint process.
The current union at Tridonex, SITPME, also turned down the AFL-CIO’s allegations.
The AFL-CIO’s petition marks the first time the trade deal’s labor enforcement is being put to use and will be closely observed by others.
The AFL-CIO will send its petition to the U.S. Office of Trade and Labor Affairs, which has 30 days to evaluate the claim and determine whether to bring the case to the Mexican government for additional review.
Mexican labor officials would then work with U.S. counterparts to agree on terms of remediation. The whole process, including a final stage to figure out possible sanctions and penalty fees must be resolved under five months.
A U.S. official said President Joe Biden’s administration would evaluate cases that fall under the USMCA’s labor provisions.