U.S. Trade Deal Helps Make History for Its First Test in Mexico

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As electric vehicles become more widespread, country leaders will need to ensure that labor rights are protected in production facilities. General Motors (GM) was scrutinized recently after reports about labor violations in its Silao, Mexico, plant involving a skewed union vote.
Labor rules under a new trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), were being tested to help address the issue. The USMCA sets out consequences for factories that violate labor rights. A repeat union vote was ordered and held at a Silao plant on August 19.
According to Reuters, GM workers have ousted the union in the new vote, marking the defeat of one of the most powerful unions in Mexico.
Two people shaking hands after making a deal
How will recent events test the relationship between Mexico and the U.S.?

Background on the Mexico union vote

An initial vote was held in April to decide whether to keep the existing union. The vote was suspended after Mexico’s labor ministry found irregularities in the process, as reported by Reuters. Officials said that some ballots were destroyed and that independent inspectors were removed from the voting site.
This was the first complaint submitted under the labor enforcement mechanism of the USMCA that came into effect last year. Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said that the vote results will demonstrate the role of the rapid-response mechanism. If the labor violations aren’t resolved, the Silao plant would no longer have tariff-free access for importing goods.

What did workers decide for the new vote?

Mexican workers at the GM plant in central Mexico have scrapped their collective contract and voted to seek new representation. Union workers will keep the same pay terms and benefits while they look for new representation or form a union from scratch.
Out of 5,876 employees who voted, 3,214 workers rejected the existing bargaining agreement. Workers who voted against it said that the current union didn’t fight hard enough for better salaries despite the fact that the plant produces thousands of profitable pickup trucks.
GM said it respects the outcome and would continue production under the current contract terms until a new one takes effect. The workers voted against the Miguel Trujillo Lopez union which is part of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).
One plant employee who worked at the plant for over 25 years said that “It’s a huge peace of mind knowing we’re no longer tied to this union.”
GM workers and labor activists were happy with the results of the new vote. They said that this could inspire other workers to oust unions that have held power for a long time.

The future of labor in the auto industry

“Free and fair union votes are a critical component of freedom of association and collective bargaining and the related labor provisions of the USMCA,” Tai said. The results of the union votes showed how the new USMCA labor rules could be beneficial for labor reform.
The USMCA accomplished its goal of giving workers a voice in this vote. This is only the first step to improve workers’ rights and enforce better wages. But, many Democrats said that this shows how the trade agreement could help remove obstacles to fair treatment of workers.
In the future, another step forward would be workers being able to build an independent union that looks out for their best interests.
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