Doing Dirty South of the Border

MATAMOROS, Mexico (PAI)—The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees, Public Citizen and an independent Mexican union filed a labor law-breaking/worker exploitation complaint under the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement (USMCA) against a Philadelphia-based, Canadian-controlled auto parts firm which is illegally trying to stop the independent union at its plant in Matamoros, Mexico. Parts plant workers make go into cars sent to the U.S.

The complaint, filed May 10, invokes the USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism to demand mediation for 85 days between the Mexican Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and the firm, Tridonex.

If mediation fails, the case promptly moves to a three-judge panel for a hearing and decisions, the USMCA says.

The entire mess came the same day Democratic President Joe Biden named a new chief of international labor affairs in the U.S. Labor Department who’s extremely familiar with the USMCA and its provisions: Thea Lee, the longtime AFL-CIO trade specialist, deputy chief of staff, and most recently head of the Economic Policy Institute.

It also comes two months after a class of Mexican working women filed a case there, declaring the U.S. condones discrimination based on sex among workers who gain H2-A and H2-B visas, which allow them to work in the U.S. in jobs ranging from farming to fisheries to chocolate candy factories.

At issue in AFL-CIO-SEIU-SINITIS case is whether under new Mexican labor laws Tridonex is illegally blocking SNITIS, whom the plant’s workers voted for. The case was filed citing a USMCA provision promoting independent unions–at the insistence of U.S. bargainers pushed by the AFL-CIO.

The complaint says that for two years, Tridonex, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries, responded to SNITIS by harassing, intimidating and firing between 600 and 717 workers and by getting the governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas to jail the union’s advocate, outspoken labor lawyer Susan Prieto Terrazas, on trumped-up charges.

Facing international pressure over her case last year, Tamaulipas’s governor freed her after a month but forced her into internal exile in another Mexican state, Chihuahua, and a ban on labor case advocacy.

And Tridonex sends withheld dues from workers’ paychecks to company-dominated “protection union,” the Union of Day Laborers and Workers of the Industrial Maquiladora in Matamoros, Prieto Terrazas says.

 

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