Case Spotlights How Corrupt Incumbent Unions and Complicit Management Can Taint USMCA-Required Collective Bargaining Agreement Validation Votes, Deny Worker Rights
Washington, D.C. – Rethink Trade and the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) today filed a United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) labor complaint targeting BBB Industries de Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. This workplace was the setting of a USMCA-required union contract “legitimation” vote in early July. That vote was rigged by the incumbent Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) union in complicity with management.
The incumbent CTM union won after the total number of votes cast significantly exceeded the number of eligible workers according to a list that the incumbent union had put together. Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions have won recent RRM cases against Panasonic in Reynosa and General Motors in Silao.
“Evidence suggests that the vast majority of these union contract legitimation votes are rigged with vote tampering, misinformation, worker intimidation and outright violence. This petition highlights the need for structural fixes to make union votes fair and honest if the new labor law is to actually guarantee Mexican workers freedom of association and union democracy to better their wages and conditions,” said Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Rethink Trade who petitioned for a case to be initiated.
BBB Industries de Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. is a subsidiary of BBB Industries, LLC, an auto parts firm based in Alabama. BBB Industries remanufactures auto parts, such as starters, alternators, hydraulic steering systems, brake calipers and turbochargers for the aftermarket. The firm started manufacturing in Mexico in 1998 and now operates four plants in Reynosa, Tamaulipas with about 3,000 workers.
On July 11, 2022, a group of BBB Industries workers filed a legal challenge before the Federal Center for Conciliation and Labor Registry (FCCLR) questioning the outcome of the USMCA-required collective bargaining agreement (CBA) legitimation vote. While 2,741 individuals were qualified to vote, 3,158 votes were cast. The workers flagged more irregularities, such as workers not receiving a copy of their union contract, management threatening them if they voted against the CBA and the notary public – the actor that should ensure the legality and reliability of the proceedings – not being present in key moments of the vote.
“This petition spotlights a crucial issue with Mexico’s plans to overhaul labor relations. A key element of those plans are the legitimation votes that are supposed to guarantee that every existing CBA in Mexico is approved through a personal, direct, free and secret-ballot vote. The issue is that these legitimation votes are being conducted by the incumbent unions, most of which have sided with management to suppress wages and working conditions for decades, and the only guarantee against foul play for most of the votes is the presence of a notary public hired by the incumbent union,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, labor leader and member of the Mexican Congress. “All this constitutes an infringement of Mexico’s commitments under Chapter 23 of the USMCA and highlights the need to reform the rules issued by the FCCLR so that this entity is exclusively in charge of overseeing the votes.”
The U.S. government has now 30 days to determine if there is enough evidence to activate the Rapid Response Mechanism and then ask Mexico to review these allegations. A denial of rights determination could end up with the imposition of tariffs and sanctions on BBB Industries exports to the United States, and, eventually, to the denial of entry of these products to the U.S. market.
The petition can be found here.
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