Mexico agrees to consider a U.S. labor rights complaint

Mexico City (AP) – The Mexican government said Tuesday it has agreed to consider a complaint about work filed by the United States under the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Pact.

A complaint filed earlier this month said workers’ rights to freely choose their union may have been violated at the Panasonic Automotive Systems plant in Reynos, across the border from McAllen, Texas.

The Mexican Department of Economy said in a statement that it would meet with the parties to the dispute to determine whether there were violations of labor codes.

Activists say that despite the fact that factory workers voted in April to join an independent union, the company continues to work with the old union.

All three U.S. labor complaints filed against Mexico so far under the trade pact include efforts by Mexican workers to replace the old guard unions, which have long signed contracts behind workers and kept wages low.

In April, Panasonic Automotive Systems workers overwhelmingly voted to be represented by the new union.

The maquiladora workers, as well-known frontier factories, have long been represented by unions affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers.

The new Independent National Industrial Union of Mobile Services won with 1,200 votes against 390 for the old union.

But the company did not respect that decision, said Susanna Prieta, a member of the Federal Congress who is a lawyer and labor activist.

“Despite their choice of union, the company continues to work with the” defense “union, which they joined against the wishes of the workers,” Prieto said.

Calls to Panasonic Mexico headquarters for comment went unanswered.

Mexico recently passed laws requiring employees to vote by secret ballot on contracts and union representation.

In February in another border town, Matamoras, employees of the U.S. Tridonex auto parts assembly plant in Matamoras, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, overwhelmingly voted to be represented by an independent union.

GM factory workers in the northern Mexican city of Silao voted to reject the old guard of the Confederation of Mexican Workers and replace it with an independent union.

Such votes, while still sparse and scarce, could eventually stop the outflow of U.S.-made jobs to Mexico as employers find it harder to guarantee low wages by signing contracts with Mexican unions of the Old Guard. Many Mexican workers receive between 10% and 15% of their wages for similar work in the United States

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