An update from representatives of Mexican and U.S. labor unions and civil society groups on major developments in the fight for workers' rights under the labor provisions of the revised North American Free Trade Agreement.
Susana Prieto Terrazas, SNITIS MOVEMENT 20/32, labor lawyer and activist
Benjamin Davis, United Steelworkers, Director of International Affairs
Rachel Micah Jones, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., Executive Director
Daniel Rangel, Public Citizen, Research Director of Global Trade Watch
Lori Wallach, Public Citizen, Director of Global Trade Watch (Moderator)
BACKGROUND: In May 2021, the first two labor rights enforcement cases were filed under the revised NAFTA’s novel Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM). The cases were initiated almost exactly two years after Mexico enacted a new reformed national labor law, which implemented 2017 Mexican constitutional labor reforms, as well as new labor obligations under the revised NAFTA. The RRM is a targeted, facility-specific enforcement mechanism unique to the USMCA that is devised to protect workers’ right to organize.
Subsequently, the Mexican government notified the United States that it intended to activate the state-state dispute settlement relating to concerns about the “lack of application” of labor laws in the U.S. agriculture and meatpacking industries, particularly with respect to migrant workers. This is not the first USMCA enforcement attempt related to the working conditions of migrant workers in the United States. On March 23, Mexican migrant workers, Maritza Perez and Adareli Ponce, and a binational coalition of groups led by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante petitioned the Mexican government requesting that it initiate a state-state enforcement claim relating to a U.S. breach of USMCA labor rules related to gender-based discrimination in the H-2 non-immigrant worker visa program.
The first RRM case filed, focusing on the continuous attempts of Tridonex – an auto parts manufacturer based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas – to prevent its workers from organizing and being represented by an independent union, highlights a key shortcoming of the Mexico’s labor reform implementation: Establishment of new labor justice bodies was postponed for years in the most industrialized and labor-troubled states of the country. Having the new institutions operational in more Mexican states is critical to ending the ongoing collusion between corporations, employer-controlled unions and government officials that has undermined Mexican workers’ rights and interests for decades.