Mexican Auto Parts Workers Win a Union of Their Own, Defeating Company Attempts to Impose One

3 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, automobile components staff in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, voted yesterday to sign up for an impartial union, defeating organization makes an attempt to usher in an employer-friendly, politically related union.

The unbiased Mexican Workers’ League (la Liga Sindical Obrera Mexicana) won 186 votes, although a union with ties to the highly effective Confederation of Mexican Staff (CTM) been given 101.

The 350 workers at Michigan-based mostly vehicle sections maker VU Producing deliver interior auto areas which includes arm rests and doorway upholstery for Nissan, Tesla, and other carmakers.

In June, the League and a local group, the Border Workers Committee (el Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, or CFO), filed a petition less than the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement’s swift-response mechanism. The criticism alleged that the corporation was interfering with VU workers’ proper to cost-free association by pushing them to affiliate with the CTM, a union infamous for signing contracts driving workers’ backs, locking in small wages and poor operating problems, and blocking workers from forming genuine unions.

The League and the CFO reported that immediately after personnel had been organizing for months to type an impartial, democratic union, administration forced personnel to sit by means of a type of captive-viewers meetings with CTM representatives. CTM officers allegedly have been authorized to indication up customers all through function time, with administration even contacting workers in for unique conferences where by they have been asked to be part of the CTM.

For the duration of a CTM presentation, a VU worker who complained about the corporation-welcoming union was escorted off the manufacturing unit premises by guards and fired.

Given that then, personnel say, the CTM has resorted to intimidation methods and bribery to gin up assistance.

Inspite of these attempts, in July the League submitted to represent VU personnel soon after signing up 30 percent of the plant, the threshold necessary less than Mexico’s new labor legislation. A next union, affiliated with the CTM, filed with 30 p.c aid times later on, placing up the election this week. Personnel at the plant were with out a union till yesterday’s vote.

The stakes have been high, in accordance to the League and the CFO, who explained the election would come to a decision “whether or not the precarity and exploitation backed by the corporatist, employer-safety unions will keep on or a path to a new product of unbiased unionism will be opened.”

‘THE CTM IS Hardly ever Going TO DO Anything at all FOR THE WORKERS’

VU employee Verónica Aracely Rivera, 45, has worked as a seamstress in overseas-owned factories—known as maquiladoras, and predominantly situated close to the border—since she was 18 many years aged. While she had only been at the company for a yr, Rivera didn’t be reluctant when asked how she was voting.

“I’ve worked in various maquiladoras and all of them have experienced the CTM,” she claimed. “I’m certain the CTM is under no circumstances heading to do just about anything for the personnel. Why? Because the firm pays the CTM. It doesn’t accumulate dues from personnel.”

One particular grievance among the employees, according to Rivera, was VU’s final decision to lessen bonuses for assembly output quotas from 1,000 pesos ($50) to 700 pesos ($35) for each individual 1,500 parts of sewed materials.

Devoid of the reward, ordinary weekly fork out is about 1,300 pesos ($65), so the bonus is an crucial portion of workers’ all round earnings. According to employees, the corporation claimed the bonus reduction was owing to inefficiencies and slowdowns in production.

Employees set in 12-hour shifts, Monday as a result of Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 10.5-hour shifts from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.


Due to the fact the launch of the arranging marketing campaign, workers say, supporters of the unbiased union have experienced their bonuses denied below bogus pretexts, including not currently being present in the course of attendance checks mainly because they were in the lavatory.

One particular of these personnel was Sonia Cristina García Bernal, 50, who has been performing at the manufacturing unit for the earlier 4 decades. Very last December she began organizing in help of the unbiased union out of annoyance that VU experienced taken absent company-backed loans and diminished the reward while growing the output needs.

Not long ago, she explained, the corporation withheld her bonus for a few weeks in retaliation for her arranging. She explained she was ultimately specified the reward only soon after threatening to gradual down her output.

Employees had been also discouraged at ailments in the plant, like the pungent smell of adhesive glue and rain pouring via damaged roofs and forming puddles of stagnant h2o. In spite of the area’s scorching warmth, with normal highs all-around 100 levels Fahrenheit in July and August, the plant doesn’t have air conditioners, and the number of supporters aren’t plenty of to retain the factory ground neat. Personnel claimed they have been also fed up with a tradition of favoritism and disrespectful supervisors.

TENSIONS Operating Large

Maria Ramírez, 51, has been doing work on the assembly line for five many years. She threw her support driving the unbiased union soon after seeing her co-employee moved arbitrarily mid-7 days from just one output line to an additional, which resulted in her dropping out on her every month production reward, given that employees have to be in the similar creation line for the complete week.

In the guide-up to the vote, independent union supporters like Ramírez kept chaotic conducting residence visits to their co-employees to inoculate them against the intimidation techniques of the CTM.

Through the dwelling visits, Ramírez explained, she was frequently asked, “What’s the League going to do for me?” She reported the politically linked CTM promised to present savings on eyeglasses, advocate for imprisoned loved ones members to shorten their sentences, and assist staff enter into a payment prepare for water bills.

“It’s all a lie,” said Ramírez, referring to instances exactly where the CTM at other vegetation has taken deductions from workers’ paychecks to cover the expenditures of funerals and hardly ever essentially included the expenses when a person has died. “We notify staff that the Workers League is here to combat for the staff, not defend the organization. We educate them on what a union is. We explain to them that the League is listed here to protect the employees, which is what a union is intended to do.”

But tensions ran high. On August 30, the past working day before the vote, League organizer Indira Solis told Labor Notes in a text information that people today with the CTM ended up threatening staff. “We are in this article to distribute flyers to remind staff that the vote is totally free and by solution ballot,” she wrote. “People are enthusiastic but also terrified.”


Rivera said the business experienced temporarily laid off about 100 staff, the majority of whom were being sympathetic to the impartial union. Several ended up in the stitching department, where by the unbiased union enjoys significant guidance.

“We interpreted the layoffs as retaliation,” claimed Rivera. “The way it is labored here in Mexico is that the organization chooses the union, which is the CTM. And for the reason that several staff weren’t heading alongside with obtaining a union imposed on them, they laid us off.”

In accordance to Mexican labor industry experts, short-term layoffs are popular and usually take place due to provide chain challenges, this kind of as the shortage of semiconductor chips that has roiled the automobile sector. Below Mexican law, employees are permanent staff members who cannot be terminated with out cause, but businesses can quickly lay off staff members and spend them lessened wages. In a unionized workplace, the union negotiates a lessened income, usually among 50 and 75 {09e594db938380acbda72fd0ffbcd1ef1c99380160786adb3aba3c50c4545157} of fork out. In workplaces like VU Producing, exactly where there is not a union nevertheless, the organization decides what to fork out at VU, laid-off employees had their wages minimize in 50 {09e594db938380acbda72fd0ffbcd1ef1c99380160786adb3aba3c50c4545157}.

Garcia Bernal was also laid off for two months. She is a one mother to two teenage daughters, and she reported the reduction in pay back was intended to inflict financial agony.

Far more than fifty percent of the plant’s workers are gals. Rivera claimed the business significantly targeted ladies who supported the unbiased union by switching their night shifts to early morning ones from 1 working day to the upcoming with quite very little see.

“They realized that during the working day, lots of of us could not deliver our kids to university, so we’d choose to stop mainly because we could not obtain an individual to supply childcare,” said Rivera.

Immediate Response

The VU situation marked the fifth time the U.S. govt has resorted to the USMCA’s immediate-response labor system. Underneath this provision, a country can ask for that yet another place assessment no matter whether staff at a facility are becoming denied their rights to flexibility of association and collective bargaining. The other region will have to entire the assessment in just 45 days and endeavor to remediate any workers’ rights issues—or else tariff rewards for the corporation or even the skill to export goods can be suspended.

In spite of the interest from U.S. and Mexican labor authorities, the League and the CFO stated in an August 29 assertion that threats, repression, and harassment of supporters of the unbiased union remained regular in the run-up to the vote. The corporations claimed that CTM supporters from somewhere else had been allowed to campaign within the plant, while the company has limited the activities of League supporters.

A Strengthen FOR Impartial UNIONS

The organizing campaign at VU has unfolded in the wake of a amount of other essential victories by independent unions in Mexico.

Mexico’s labor legislation reform of 2019 was intended to weaken the stranglehold of security unions like the CTM. The reform, put together with pressure produced by the USMCA’s speedy-reaction system and, most importantly, grassroots labor organizing, has specified a boost to impartial, democratic unions.

The most outstanding gain but was at the Standard Motors plant in Silao, Guanajuato, in February, when personnel voted overwhelmingly to sign up for the impartial National Vehicle Workers Union (SINTTIA). Staff there had voted final yr to oust a CTM affiliate headed by a wealthy federal congressman, Tereso Medina.

The militant miners union, Los Mineros, a short while ago received a large victory at the Stellantis-owned Teksid plant in Coahuila, which employs 1,500 staff building iron castings for weighty automobiles like Cummins, Volvo, and Mack vehicles. Staff experienced been battling considering the fact that 2014 to oust the CTM-affiliated union and join Los Mineros. Immediately after a grievance submitted in Could by Los Mineros and the United Automobile Workers below the USMCA system, the corporation agreed to rehire, with again fork out, 36 staff who experienced been fired in retaliation for supporting the impartial union, and to last but not least figure out Los Mineros as the union in the plant.

In July, personnel at a Panasonic plant in the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, gained a 9.5 percent income hike in the 1st contract negotiated by a new unbiased union there, just after the CTM-aligned defense union was taken out from the plant. In addition, Panasonic agreed to rehire 19 employees who had been fired for supporting the National Unbiased Union of Business and Assistance Staff, 20/32 Motion (SNITIS). The plant had also been the concentrate on of a complaint submitted less than the USMCA mechanism.

In one more situation, employees at the Tridonex car pieces plant in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, overwhelmingly voted to join SNITIS on February 28, routing the incumbent CTM affiliate 1,126 to 176. Workers there struck in 2019 as element of a wildcat strike wave that swept the metropolis, demanding a 20 percent wage increase and 32,000 peso bonus (“20/32”). The firm fired 600 supporters of the impartial union in 2020 and the point out governor had the union’s lawyer, Susana Prieto, jailed for a thirty day period and exiled. SNITIS, SEIU, the AFL-CIO, and General public Citizen introduced a criticism under the USMCA in May perhaps 2021 which led to severance and back pay as well as safeguards for workers’ right to decide their union illustration.

Jovanna García, 26, who started functioning at VU Manufacturing seven months in the past, says the victories of independent unions throughout Mexico have demonstrated that change is probable.

“The most significant issue they’ve taught us is the value and freedom a employee has to pick a union, which will allow her to protect her labor legal rights,” she mentioned. “It is crucial to emphasize that corporations never have the proper to make a decision for staff their union it is the employee who will make that final decision. Let us go for the improve!”