New Lawsuit Filed Against Mexican “Tridonex” Subsidiary of U.S. Autoparts Maker Targeted in First USMCA Labor Case Brought by Unions, Public Citizen

Mexican and U.S. Unions, Civil Society Groups Call on Mexican and U.S. Governments to Redress Tridonex Labor Rights Violations in Accordance with USMCA Labor Rules

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 2021
CONTACT: Matt Groch mgroch@citizen.org (202) 454-5111

PRESS RELEASE

Public Citizen and the AFL-CIO joined a dozen independent Mexican unions in a Mexico City press conference announcing a new lawsuit filed by SNITIS’ (Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y Servicios “Movimiento 20/32”), the union whose efforts to organize the Matamoros Tridonex auto parts plant were crushed by company and state officials in violation of the labor rights guaranteed by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA.) These actions, including mass firings, refusal to recognize an independent union and imprisonment of union lawyer Susana Prieto, spurred the labor Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) complaint submitted by the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Public Citizen and SNITIS under the USMCA.

The new lawsuit, filed by SNITIS against Tridonex and the incumbent protection union SITPME (Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores en Plantas Maquiladoras y Ensambladoras de Matamoros y su Municipio) before Mexico’s Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board demands that an election be held to determine what union will have the right to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement for the plant.

“We waited without reply for more than a year for Tamaulipas’ state authorities to address SNITIS legitimate claims for an election over the control of the Tridonex collective bargaining agreement. The USMCA applies in the entire Mexican territory and if we are left in the hands of state authorities, more activists will be imprisoned and workers’ rights will continue to be denied, all in violation of the USMCA labor chapter. That is why today we filed a new lawsuit before the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board, hoping that the federal authorities grant justice,” said Mexican union leader and SNITIS legal advisor Susana Prieto Terrazas. “We hope that the resolution of the rapid response mechanism case supports this lawsuit and sets a precedent so that every independent union in Mexico can use the mechanism to defend workers’ rights.”

The inaction of the local conciliation and arbitration boards, which denied workers the opportunity to vote for the union of their choosing, is at the core of the RRM complaint. SNITIS’ lawsuit demands that federal authorities of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board conduct the requested vote and guarantee impartiality and due process. Obtaining it is decisive for Tridonex workers’ ability to exercise their rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“The General Motors, Silao remediation plan agreed by the Mexican and U.S. governments is a good sign of the intention of both governments to use the Rapid Response Mechanism as an instrument that truly guarantees labor rights. We don’t expect less from them in the Tridonex case,” said Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “In addition to providing relieve to the workers that were illegally fired and harassed, the governments must assure that labor lawyer Susana Prieto is able to return to Matamoros and engage with the workers she represents and that the Tridonex lawsuit is promptly adjudicated by the Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, given the gross malfeasance of Tamaulipas authorities.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement related to the case: “The AFL-CIO was proud to join with SEIU, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) to file the first case under the USMCA Rapid Response Mechanism on May 10 against Tridonex. We appreciate the efforts being pursued by the U.S. and Mexican governments to resolve this case in a manner that guarantees the rights of Tridonex workers to democratically choose their union without fear of reprisals against the union members or its leaders. In filing a demand for title to the Tridonex collective bargaining agreement in the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board, SNITIS is exercising its rights under the May 1, 2019 reform of the Federal Labor Law and the USMCA.  We call on the Mexican and U.S. authorities to ensure that the Tridonex workers get a free, fair, and prompt election.”

BACKGROUND: On May 10, 2021, the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, Public Citizen and SNITIS filed the first complaint under the Rapid Response Mechanism of the USMCA against Tridonex, an auto parts factory located in Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. The RRM is the first targeted, facility-specific enforcement mechanism for labor violations contained in a trade agreement. On June 9, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) formally requested Mexico to review whether workers at the Tridonex are being denied the rights of free association and collective bargaining.

The case is testing whether Mexico’s labor reforms and USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism can deliver for Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. For two years, workers at Tridonex have been harassed and fired for trying to organize with SNITIS, an independent Mexican union of their choice, to replace a corrupt “protection” union. Their lawyer, Susana Prieto Terrazas, gained international media notice after the Tamaulipas governor, who is opposed to labor reform, had her jailed for a month in a COVID-ridden state penitentiary on trumped-up charges. Prieto was only released after agreeing to internal exile in another Mexican state and a ban on appearing in labor court.

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