The Mexican government has filed legislation that would substantially weaken rights for working people. In response, the AFL-CIO filed a complaint alleging that Mexico is violating the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, the NAFTA labor side deal.
Mexico’s bill would lock in low wages and poor working conditions. It also would frustrate legitimate unions' efforts to negotiate together on behalf of Mexican workers, who work the longest hours for the lowest pay among all countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Eliminate the independence of newly created entities under the Mexican constitution responsible for registering unions and collective bargaining agreements.
- Give control to employers and employer-dominated unions to continue to keep independent unions out of the workplace.
- Eliminate transparency requirements for fair union elections, including basic worker access to collective bargaining agreements and contract language.
- Introduce additional obstacles that make it even harder for independent unions to replace employer-dominated unions.
- Promote greater subcontracting by eliminating safeguards to prevent abuse—including for anti-union motives.
- Lower the compensation owed to working people who are victims of workplace accidents and injuries.
In sum, the bill is a gift to employers and employer-dominated unions—in violation of international law, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the intent of Mexico's constitutional reforms. It certainly will make it more difficult for Mexican workers to come together in union to negotiate a fair return on their work.
Since NAFTA's inception, Mexican wages, working conditions and the ability of Mexican workers to exercise their labor rights have not improved; indeed, they have, in many cases, worsened. The current legislation is a disgraceful attempt to further entrench the corporate power and corrupt practices of employer-favored unions. The bill must be withdrawn.
As negotiations commence, the United States must insist that Mexico withdraw this legislation and put in place laws to implement last year’s constitutional reforms—not undermine them. Independent unions must have a seat at the table. This legislation, and the broad violation of workers’ rights in Mexico, is also evidence that the NAFTA labor side agreement has been woefully ineffective at improving labor standards in North America. Any new agreement must include a vastly improved approach to labor rights and standards and enforcement, and it must require measurable changes in practice in Mexico before any new trading privileges are granted.