Mexico and the U.S. Announce Plans to Resolve Labor Complaint
Oct 14, 2021 · 3 min read
The economic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is tight-knit and often complicated. Many American companies, including automakers like GM, have offshore production facilities that have faced issues around fair wages and labor rights.
A complaint about a skewed union vote at a GM plant in Silao, Mexico, has led to cooperation between the two countries to ensure that an upcoming revote is fair.
An important union vote in Mexico
As reported by Autoblog, Mexico has been holding votes in all unionized workplaces, allowing workers to decide whether to accept or reject their current union.
Many longstanding unions have not acted in workers' best interests, making deals behind their backs and using intimidation tactics. When the voting system isn’t anonymous, workers are often afraid to vote against powerful existing unions.
In April 2021, the union vote at the GM plant in Silao was marred by members of the established union allegedly destroying ballots, according to Autoblog. A complaint was filed in May, the first complaint under the new North American trade pact, and the Mexican government declared the vote invalid.
A new union has been pushing for change at the plant, and the old one is resisting a transfer of power.
The U.S. and Mexico work together to protect the vote
A new union vote will be held at the Silao plant before August 20. To prevent corruption, the vote will be held at the plant instead of union offices. Voting will be done by secret ballot, and government inspectors along with international observers will be allowed inside.
Under the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a panel will determine whether Mexico is enforcing the agreed-upon labor laws. Potential consequences for failing to do so could include sanctions and refusal to admit products into the U.S. If this measure is taken, it could affect availability and cost for American car buyers.
While GM maintains that it wasn't involved in the problematic April vote, it has hired an outside consultant to examine the incident.
Will this be enough to curb labor violations?
Despite the measures being taken to prevent issues with the next vote, workers have complained that the old union is still making threats and promising rewards to gain votes. Time will tell if the workers will feel free to vote as they choose, and if not, whether the USMCA will provide sufficient consequences.
As electric vehicle production ramps up, Mexican plants could make the technology more affordable. But Mexico and United States governments, along with auto manufacturers, will need to work to ensure that working conditions are improved as consumers switch to EVs.
The issues that affect the auto industry, including labor rights and international trade agreements, are complex and nuanced. It's worth paying attention to these issues to better understand the state of the industry.