Factory workers in Mexico are seeing early returns from the new international agreement that governs trade between the US, Mexico, and Canada.
Enacted in 2020 by president Donald Trump as part of his broad push against free trade, the deal included new tools for speedily enforcing labor rights laws, at the behest of Democrats and US labor unions. Now, under president Joe Biden, American trade negotiators have twice deployed the “rapid response mechanism” (RRM) in the US, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA) to force better treatment of workers in Mexican factories that export goods to the US.
Last week, a General Motors factory in Silao, Mexico, was forced to hold a do-over union election after the protection union was caught stuffing ballot boxes earlier this year. Workers rejected the old union contract, a first step towards obtaining real representation.
And on Aug. 10, the US Trade Representative struck a deal with a Mexican company called Tridonex, the subsidiary of US car parts producer Cardone, to hold new elections, and pay severance and backpay to at least 154 employees who were fired for their roles in labor organizing. It will also force the company to improve how it prevents Covid-19 and treats workers who suffer from coronavirus infections.
The USCMA is forcing employers to improve labor standards
Many labor unions in Mexico are seen as being in cahoots with employers, not representing workers. These “protection unions” fail to advocate for better wages or working conditions. As well as leaving Mexican workers worse off, they also exacerbate the movement of low-skill jobs out of the US.
Past trade deals have included requirements for member countries to improve labor laws, but their enforcement mechanisms typically resulted in multi-year slogs through intra-governmental negotiations with little actual change on the ground. In contrast, RRM allows the US government to target companies directly, even blocking the goods from specific facilities from coming over the border. That creates leverage for negotiators to win concessions on a speedier timeline.
Source: El Financiero