Panasonic, Local Authorities and a Corrupt Union Are Colluding to Impose an Illegal Collective Bargaining Agreement on Workers in Violation of USMCA Labor Rules
Washington, D.C. – The Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and Rethink Trade today filed a United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) labor complaint targeting Panasonic Automotive Systems de Mexico S.A. de C.V. Tensions have escalated at Panasonic’s auto parts factory in Reynosa over the past several weeks leading to an April 21-22 union election, as the corporation fired workers who support independent union SNITIS and tried to impose an unapproved collective bargaining agreement (CBA) made with a contested union. Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions have won recent RRM cases against General Motors and Tridonex.
In October 2021, workers rejected an existing labor contract at Panasonic’s Reynosa facilities during the USMCA-required relegitimization process. Tensions have escalated since the firm began colluding with a Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) union and local authorities to try force a new CBA on workers that they have not approved, which was negotiated by the CTM union that does not lawfully represent them. CTM is a national labor federation associated with a conservative political party that is notorious for protecting the interests of employers rather than workers.
“This complaint raises serious allegations about the actions of the employer, the CTM union, and the local labor authority that should be investigated immediately,” said Ben Davis, United Steelworkers’ Director of International Affairs.
After workers voted down the preexisting CBA last fall, Mexican independent union SNITIS filed for a certificate to represent the Panasonic employees and negotiate a new contract. More than 600 Panasonic workers signed in support of SNITIS. The CTM union, Sindicato Industrial Autónomo de Operarios en General de Maquiladoras de la República Mexicana (SIAMARM), also petitioned to represent the workers. With two unions disputing the right of representation, Mexican federal authorities called for a union election to be held on April 21 and 22, 2022.
“Fighting against the CTM means facing a titan, but there is no small adversary and independent Mexican unions grow stronger day-by-day due to workers’ rejection of corrupt unions because of their betrayal, embezzlements, robbery and exploitation,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, labor leader and member of the Mexican Congress. “Neither SNITIS nor other minority unions will rest until justice is achieved. The government of Tamaulipas cannot keep unlawfully undermining freedom of association and union democracy and we commend the U.S. government for helping us to keep in check corporations that benefit from labor rights violations in Mexico.”
In violation of its obligations under Mexico’s 2019-reformed Federal Labor Law, Panasonic has allowed SIAMARM’s staff to go into the plants and impose its delegates who have tried to bribe workers in exchange of their votes. Panasonic also started to withhold union dues for SIAMARM from its employees’ paychecks. It also circulated a new CBA signed with the CTM union, filing it with the local Conciliation and Arbitration Board and colluding with the CTM union to demand that workers sign a document endorsing this illegitimate contract.
“Bold action from the U.S. government using the Rapid Response Mechanism led to two independent unions winning elections at GM Silao and Tridonex. We are confident that the Biden administration will act accordingly in this case and work with the Mexican government to address this troubling state of affairs at Panasonic,” said Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Rethink Trade. “Since November 2021, the authority to register collective contracts lies exclusively with Mexican federal institutions. The fact that the Tamaulipas government acceded to register this fraudulent contract shows the lengths local elites are willing to go to obstruct workers’ ability to unionize independently and demand better wages and working conditions.”
Rethink Trade is a program of the American Economic Liberties Project.
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