An independent union has won the representation vote at a Saint Gobain facility in Cuautla, continuing the expansion of independent unions across Mexico.
A cohort of labor associations, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers, and Sindicato Independiente de las y los Trabajadores Libres y Democráticos de Saint Gobain México, filed a labor complaint petition with the US Department of Labor in late September 2022. petition alleged that multiple labor rights were denied at Saint Gobain – an automotive glass manufacturer. Specifically, the unions claimed that the facility allowed the current union, the Confederation of Workers and Campesinos, to intimidate and threaten workers ahead of a new representation vote.
The US declined to leverage the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism in this case. Despite formal intervention, the facility held a vote for union representation, and the Mexican union petitioners won the vote. Now, negotiations related to the new collective bargaining agreement will begin, and the AFL-CIO, the Mexican government, and the US government will continue to monitor progress at Saint Gobain to ensure future votes are free from intimidation, coercion, and retaliation.
Earlier this year, workers at the VU Manufacturing facility in Coahuila, Mexico, opted for union representation for the first time. The workers elected La Liga, an independent union, to represent them in collective bargaining negotiations. This vote was preceded by a formal USMCA labor complaint. The resolution of the VU Manufacturing complaint marked the fifth remediation under the USMCA.
Mexico’s new labor law will fully enter into effect next spring. Any collective bargaining or protection agreements that are not ratified by May 2023 will be void. The dissolution of thousands of incumbent protection agreements makes Mexico’s manufacturing sector ripe for workers to organize and elect independent unions. US employers with operations in Mexico should carefully review their employment operations to ensure compliance with Mexico’s labor law and the USMCA labor chapter.
About the authors
Director, Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives, US Chamber of Commerce