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State Police and “Protection” Union Thugs Patrol Workplace Targeted in USMCA Labor Case, Harass Independent Union Activists in Violation of Labor Rules

At Mexican ‘Tridonex’ Plant Targeted in USMCA Labor Enforcement Case, Repression Against Workers Escalates As New Lawsuit Is Filed by Mexican Union that Joined U.S. Unions, Public Citizen on Case 

CONTACT: Matt Groch mgroch@citizen.org (202) 454-5111


MATAMOROS, MEXICO –Protection union thugs and uniformed state police are harassing independent union representatives at the Tridonex plant targeted in the first U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response labor enforcement case and expelled them from the industrial park, in violation of the labor rights guaranteed by the agreement. Video recording of the first incident is available here.

Starting on July 27, thugs from the SITPME protection union tried to prevent Tridonex workers from receiving flyers containing information about their rights that were being distributed by representatives of the independent Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y Servicios “Movimiento 20/32” (SNITIS) union. Later that week, state police started patrolling Tridonex entrance to prevent SNITIS unionists’ activities. Photographs of the incidents are available here.

The escalating labor rights violations and harassment follows the July 16 filing by SNITIS of a lawsuit against Tridonex and the incumbent protection union SITPME (Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores en Plantas Maquiladoras y Ensambladoras de Matamoros y su Municipio) before the Mexican Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board. The lawsuit demands that an election be held to determine what union will have the right to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement for the plant. Public Citizen and the AFL-CIO joined a dozen independent Mexican unions in a Mexico City press conference announcing the lawsuit.

This filing of this lawsuit triggered a new wave of repression against SNITIS activists peacefully trying to organize workers at Tridonex plants. SNITIS’ original efforts to organize the Matamoros Tridonex auto parts plant were crushed last year by company and state officials in violation of the labor rights guaranteed by 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 this spring by the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Public Citizen and SNITIS under the USMCA.

“The recent events in Matamoros show the gravity of the repression that independent unions face in Tamaulipas and the collusion between “protection” unions, maquiladoras and local authorities to the detriment of the workers in the state of Tamaulipas,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, labor activist and legal advisor of SNITIS. “Through the USMCA rapid response labor mechanism, we expect the full support of the U.S. government to eradicate the corrupt unions that are entrenched in the political regime and to enforce freedom of association and union democracy for Mexican workers.”

“To improve working standards on both sides of the border, we have to protect the right to organize a union without interference or repression,” said U.S. Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “The targeted harassment of workers at the Tridonex plant in Matamoros shows that vigorous enforcement of labor rights is necessary to bring changes in the workplace. The U.S. and Mexico must both commit to defending workers from retaliation if they want to see positive results from the new trade agreement.”

BACKGROUND: On May 10, 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.