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US files 2nd labor complaint after Mexico refuses to act on union-busting by a Mexican company

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States announced Tuesday that it has filed a labor complaint after the Mexican government refused to respond to allegations of union busting by Mexican companies.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced that it has requested the establishment of a dispute resolution committee under the United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, known as USMCA.

The trade agreement established a quick resolution mechanism to guarantee the right to organize unions in Mexico. For decades, wages in Mexico were kept very low because labor unions were not allowed to organize freely.

U.S. promotes worker rights in Mexico amid booming labor market

Over the past two years, Mexico has generally agreed to about 22 requests from the United States to pressure companies to comply. But in January, Mexico refused to take action over a call center that allegedly threatened and fired union organizers.

The United States created a labor grievance commission after Mexico refused to act on allegations of union busting by Mexican companies. (Fox News)

This is the second time the United States has brought such charges. The first charges were filed in August. What’s interesting is that it’s only in the last six months that Mexico has started refusing requests.

In the call center case, the Mexican Telephone Workers Union alleged that a company called Atento Servicios threatened and fired employees who were trying to organize a new union.

Mexican authorities acknowledged abuses occurred at the call center in the central state of Hidalgo, but insisted the company had taken sufficient corrective measures. USTR said it disagrees with that assessment.

The panel of experts will take about six months to decide who is right on this issue.

In Mexico, conservative, pro-business unions often negotiated “paper” contracts behind workers’ backs. The struggle is therefore to introduce new, more democratic trade unions into the workplace.

In August, the USTR requested a Dispute Settlement Commission rule on the San Martín mine case in the northern state of Zacatecas. The mine, which produces zinc, lead, copper and silver, has been locked in a long dispute between two unions that claim to represent workers.

Mexico said the dispute dates back to 2007 and predates the USMCA, which took effect in 2020, so it should only be resolved by Mexican courts.

Mexico revised its labor law from 2012 to 2017 in order to gain approval to join the USMCA. The new law requires a secret ballot for union contracts.

Traditional unions colluding with companies often threaten workers with dismissal or loss of benefits if they choose an independent union. If a voter vote is to be held, there will also be a voter vote. When forced to participate in secret voting, the Old Guard Union sometimes stole ballot boxes if it felt it would lose.

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The U.S. government has said it hopes the labor complaints will one day bring wages in Mexico closer to those in the United States and stem the drain on manufacturing jobs.

We have a long way to go to reach that goal. For example, at an auto factory in northern Mexico, a newly elected union raised the minimum wage to about $14 a day, still less than the hourly wage of auto workers in the United States.

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