Supporting Freedom of Association in Mexico

MSN has been working with Mexican and international stakeholders to tackle widespread systemic barriers to workers' rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in Mexico and the failure of Mexican government institutions to protect and enforce this fundamental right at the workplace.

MSN supports Mexican workers’ efforts to organize authentic democratic unions, and collaborates with local and national labour rights organizations that provide advice, training and support to workers in garment and other export industries and advocate for institutional reforms to better guarantee the right of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

As in many other countries, workers’ rights to freedom of association and to bargain collectively are routinely violated in Mexico. In addition, there are major institutional barriers to freedom of association in Mexico that prevent workers from forming or joining a union of their free choice, including the signing of “employer protection contracts” by unrepresentative unions or lawyers without workers’ knowledge or consent, the lack of transparency of union registrations and collective bargaining agreements, and the lack of impartiality of Conciliation and Arbitration Boards that register unions and collective bargaining agreements.

MSN is analyzing and monitoring the adoption and implementation of reforms to Mexico’s labour justice system, which will replace the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards with judicial institutions that the government promises will be more independent and impartial, and could potentially increase the democratic space for workers to form or join unions of their choice and negotiate improvements in their wages and working conditions.

As part of our work, MSN engages with international apparel brands that source apparel products from Mexico to promote a positive climate for freedom of association within factories producing their goods and to challenge the use of protection contracts in their supply chains.

Some of the proactive steps international companies can take include mapping the presence of protection contracts in supplier factories, promoting worker awareness of their rights to freedom of association and to bargain collectively, improving auditing to identify and address protection contracts and other obstacles to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and encouraging their suppliers to adopt policies and practices that respect workers’ associational rights.

MSN co-chairs and acts as the secretariat for the Mexico Committee of the Americas Group, a multi-stakeholder forum made up of several international apparel brands, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the Global Union IndustriALL and MSN.

Labour Justice Reform in Mexico, A briefing paper (MSN July 2017)
MSN's new resources on freedom of association - for workers, and brands and manufacturers (MSN; July/September 2016)
Guidance tool for brands on Freedom of Association in Mexico (Mexico Committee; January 2016)
Eight brands release joint letter supporting freedom of association in Mexico (September 2015)
Comparison of Mexico's federal labour law, ILO standards, and FLA code and benchmarks (Mexico Committee; January 2015)
MSN's freedom of association tool kit (MSN; December 2014)

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