In this series of case summaries, MSN describes the process and outcomes of the first dozen complaints filed under the Rapid Response Labour Mechanism (RRLM), which allege employer violations of Mexican workers’ associational rights.
Each complaint has followed a unique path, depending on the origin and history behind the complaint, the findings and remediation plan, and the organizations and companies involved. In most of these cases, the company has complied with the remediation plan, and the case is now closed. However, in two cases the company closed the factory, the first after remediation had been achieved and the second before the remediation plan was completed.
The trinational trade agreement between Canada, United States and Mexico (known as CUSMA in Canada, and USMCA in the US) introduced a significant innovation: a facility-specific rapid response complaint mechanism outlined in Annex 23-A of the agreement.
This complaint mechanism aims to ensure that Mexican workers can fully exercise their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and democratically engage in union activities.
A distinctive feature of the RRLM is that sanctions for violations of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively apply directly to companies in traded sectors, rather than to a signatory government. These sanctions can be applied to particular workplaces, but can also affect an entire value chain, resulting in a suspension of trade benefits, and denial of access to the US and Canadian markets for repeat offenders.
Below, we provide a brief summary of each complaint, including links to external sources that offer more detailed information. We hope these case summaries offer lessons for workers, unions, and labour rights organizations on when and how to make use of this new tool to help achieve respect for Mexican workers’ associational rights. We also hope it will serve as a guide for employers on how to ensure compliance with Mexico’s new labour regulations.
Summaries of each complaint and its outcome are available below:
A series of violations of freedom of association and right to bargain collectively took place at a General Motors pickup truck factory in Silao, Guanajuato. The workers were denied the right to participate in a free and secret ballot vote on the legitimation of the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Read case summary.
The workers employed by Tridonex, an auto parts company based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, were denied their basic right to organize and negotiate better wages and working conditions. Throughout a two-year period, Tridonex workers were harassed and dismissed for trying to organize an independent union. Read case summary.
In April 2022, the National Independent Union of Industry and Service Workers (SNITIS) won the title to the collective bargaining agreement in a Panasonic factory located in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Read case summary.
After a lengthy dispute that took place over many years, in May 2022, the Federal Centre for Conciliation and Labour Registration (CFCRL) recognized the National Union of Miners, Metalworkers, Steelworkers, and Allied Trades of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) as the legitimate holder of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Teksid Hierro de Mexico. The company, nonetheless, continued recognizing and negotiating revisions to the CBA with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM)-affiliated Union of Metal Mechanic Industry Workers (STIM). Read case summary.
Throughout 2021, workers at the VU Manufacturing facility were attempting to organize an independent union affiliated with the Mexican Workers’ League (La Liga) and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Read case summary.
After the workers at VU Manufacturing, affiliated to the Mexican Workers’ League (La Liga), were able to obtain the Certificate of Representativity, company representatives adopted a strategy of delaying collective bargaining, thus denying the workers their right to a collective bargaining agreement. Read case summary.
During 2022, the workers at Saint Gobain, a glass-producing factory of French origin in Cuautla, Morelos State, participated in a legitimation vote on their existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and in a union representation election (recuento) to determine which of two unions would represent them in CBA negotiations. Read case summary.
Workers at Unique Fabricating tried to create a democratic union through an organization called Union Transformation (Transformación Sindical/TS), but faced significant obstacles en route. Their employer’s violations of their right to freedom of association included the dismissal of workers who were actively involved in the union and taking actions that favoured the existing union. Read case summary.
In November 2022, the Independent Union of Workers of the Automotive Industry (SINTTIA) filed a claim with the Federal Labour Tribunal for title to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the Fränkische auto parts company, which at that time was held by the Union of Workers of the Automotive Metal Mechanical Industry and Similar and Related Fields of the Mexican Republic (SITIMM-CTM). However, SINTTIA-affiliated workers faced employer retaliation. Read case summary.
Goodyear workers organized under the Mexican Workers Union League (La Liga) denounced the Goodyear company for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), behind the workers’ backs, with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) Miguel Trujillo López Union (SMTL) in order to skirt its responsibility to comply with the superior provisions of the sectoral agreement covering workers in the sector. Read case summary.
On March 31st, during the vote to legitimize the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Casa Obrera del Bajío (Bajío Worker Centre) reported that the Miguel Trujillo López Union, affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), obstructed the participation of third-shift workers in the vote, and engaged in antidemocratic actions (such as vote-buying) in collusion with the company Yazaki and its Human Resources department. Read case summary.
On May 12, 2023, the Authentic Labour Front (FAT) and the Union of Interior Industries (SIN) petitioned the US government, through the Interagency Labour Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement (ILC), to file a complaint under the RRLM. They alleged that the company, Interior Industries (INISA, a denim garment manufacturer), had coerced its workers into accepting proposed revisions to the company’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and had interfered in the internal affairs of the union. Read case summary.
- Lead Researcher: Daniel Cerdas-Sandí
- Editorial Team: Daniel Cerdas-Sandí, Bob Jeffcott, Rodrigo Briseño Olvera, Lynda Yanz
- Production Team: Caren Weisbart, Carrie Stengel, Leslie Pascoe Chalke
- Design: Andrea Carter, berthaclark.com
Top left: Activists hold a protest outside the General Motors' pickup truck plant as workers vote to elect a new union under a labor reform that underpins a new trade deal with Canada and the United States, in Silao, Mexico February 1, 2022 (REUTERS/Sergio Maldonado). Top right: Press conference to announce the presenation of the RRLM complaint (FAT). Middle left: Workers at the GM Silao plant (REUTERS, X80002). Middle right: La Liga Sindical Obrera Mexicana. Bottom left: Workers at Panasonic Automotive Systems in Reynosa, Tamaulipas (Foto AFP/Archivo). Bottom right: Workers at Panasonic Automotive Systems in Reynosa, Tamaulipas (El Sol de Tampico).