Press Release

AFL-CIO, SEIU, SNITIS And Public Citizen Announce Filing of First USMCA ‘Rapid Response Mechanism’ Labor Case to Fight for Mexican Workers Denied Independent Union Representation

The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and Public Citizen announced today that they have filed the first complaint under the Rapid Response Mechanism of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) against Tridonex, an auto parts factory located in Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

The case will test whether Mexico’s labor reforms and USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism can deliver for Mexican workers denied their fundamental right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. For two years, workers at Tridonex have been harassed and fired for trying to organize with SNITIS, an independent Mexican union of their choice, to replace a corrupt “protection” union. Their lawyer, Susana Prieto Terrazas, gained international media notice after the Tamaulipas governor, who is opposed to labor reform, had her jailed for a month in a state penitentiary that was ridden with COVID-19 on trumped-up charges. Prieto was only released after agreeing to internal exile in another Mexican state and a ban on appearing in labor court.

“USMCA requires Mexico to end the reign of protection unions and their corrupt deals with employers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The ongoing harassment of Susana Prieto and SNITIS members is a textbook violation of the labor laws Mexico has pledged to uphold.”

Workers at Tridonex, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries Inc., make auto parts, a substantial portion of which are for the U.S. market. Tridonex has refused workers’ legal demand to stop withholding their dues and transferring them to the protection union. The company has fired more than 600 supporters of the independent union, SNITIS, which formed after worker protests in 2019 forced the maquiladoras in Matamoros to raise wages.

“Tridonex workers are suffering from the abuses of a corrupt and criminal union leader, who is protected by the company so that it can continue providing precarious wages and working conditions,” said Prieto. “All of this through oppressors who harass, intimidate and beat the workers with the consent and protection of Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. We are fighting so that no one ever is afraid of freely electing the union they wish to represent them and to make history, ending several generations of modern slavery.”

Corporations’ denial of workers’ basic rights undermines the livelihoods and lives of workers across North America.

“Tridonex’s suppression of workers’ rights has cost our members in Philadelphia hundreds of good manufacturing jobs, and now they’re doing the same to workers in Matamoros,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “USMCA requires Mexico to enforce its labor laws and the Rapid Response Mechanism was designed to ensure facility-specific enforcement opportunities to help workers here at home and in Mexico who want to join together in unions, have safe workplaces, and raise their families with dignity.” 

The Tamaulipas state government has acted on the company’s behalf, blocking the workers’ demand for an election and arresting Prieto, who has led worker protest movements in both Tamaulipas and the border state of Chihuahua. Shortly after Prieto was released from jail in Tamaulipas and exiled to Chihuahua, the government there also brought bogus criminal charges against her and, even with the repeated COVID-19-related delays, seem intent on imprisoning her again.

“The glaring violations of the USMCA and of Mexico’s new labor law became evident as we worked with allies in Mexico and Texas to free Susana Prieto after she was jailed for protecting workers’ rights; and we learned more about the mass firings, the fake union’s abuses against the workers she represents at Tridonex and how the state government was entirely ignoring the obligations of the revised NAFTA,” said Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “We are honored to join with SNITIS, the AFL-CIO and SEIU on this first USMCA [Rapid Response Mechanism] case.” 

Organized labor and civil society groups working with congressional Democrats demanded and won improvements in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement initiated by President Trump, including the Rapid Response Mechanism.   

“We stand with Susana and the brave SNITIS members who are demanding respect for their right to dignity and fair wages. We are calling on Mexican authorities to hold Tridonex accountable for its illegal union-busting and to protect Susana from further harassment, intimidation and threats. Her fight for the rights of the workers at Tridonex is our fight as well, and we will work with our allies in Congress and the Biden administration to insist that Mexico fully implements its obligations under the USMCA,” said President Trumka.

Contact: Carolyn Bobb (202) 637-5018