A New Union, At Last? Mexican Auto Parts Workers Get to Vote, Three Years After Strike Wave

A New Union, At Last? Mexican Auto Parts Workers Get to Vote, Three Years After Strike Wave

UPDATE, March 1: Personnel at Mexico’s Tridonex vehicle pieces plant in the border metropolis of Matamoros overwhelmingly voted for an independent union on February 28. Employees cast 1,126 votes for the Nationwide Independent Union of Market and Provider Staff, 20/32 Movement (SNITIS), though 176 voted for the incumbent Industrial Union of Workers in Maquiladora and Assembly Crops (SITPME), which is affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). The election victory in Matamoros comes on the heels of a landmark victory at the starting of February for a different unbiased union among the Typical Motors workers in Silao, Guanajuato. The vote for SNITIS is a different stage forward for Mexican workers’ attempts to totally free themselves from so-identified as “defense unions,” and offers even more proof that arranged employees can defeat unions affiliated with the corrupt CTM.

Just months after vehicle personnel at Standard Motors in the central Mexican metropolis of Silao voted by a landslide to join a new impartial union, car sections personnel in the border metropolis of Matamoros are hoping to do the exact same in a vote afterwards this month.

“We want a new change, a person who certainly represents us,” stated Pablo Flores, who has labored at the Tridonex plant due to the fact 2016 as a grinding operator. [Pablo Flores is a pseudonym, which Labor Notes has used to protect the identity of a worker who may face retaliation for speaking with the press. —Editors.] Tridonex, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-centered Cardone Industries, refits next-hand motor vehicle areas for sale in the United States and Canada.

Pursuing the case in point of the GM personnel in Silao, Tridonex workers are wanting to oust an employer-pleasant union affiliated to the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), Mexico’s major labor confederation, which is carefully tied to Mexico’s lengthy-ruling Institutional Innovative Party, broadly recognised by its initials PRI. CTM affiliates have lengthy been accused of signing “protection” contracts which lock in reduced wages and reduce workers from signing up for genuine unions, to the advantage of multinational businesses and corrupt union leaders.

“We are fed up with the reality that the CTM often does what it needs with us,” Flores ongoing, adding that the latest union “only seeks its own gain and that of the enterprise.”

Voting, originally scheduled for February 21, will now consider put on February 28, with 1,632 employees suitable to solid ballots. There are two unions on the ballot: the incumbent Industrial Union of Employees in Maquiladora and Assembly Plants (SITPME), and the National Unbiased Union of Industry and Assistance Staff, 20/32 Movement (SNITIS), which has its roots in a 2019 strike wave by workers in Matamoros’s automobile areas vegetation.

500 PESOS For each VOTE

Flores is hopeful that by uniting with co-personnel to form a new union, they can strengthen their bodily grueling careers and overcome velocity-up. The organization routinely shifts staff to diverse assembly traces with no proper coaching to fulfill creation targets.

But Flores also acknowledges the worries they facial area. The rapid turnaround—the election was introduced on February 16—leaves minor time for the independent union to arrange and presents enough chance for the CTM to dig into its deep pockets to invest in votes.

Flores said that the incumbent union is giving bribes of 500 pesos per vote.

In a Fb online video, the distinguished labor law firm and federal deputy Susana Prieto mentioned personnel will only acquire the 500 pesos if they snap photos as proof of casting their ballot in favor of the CTM-affiliated SITPME, which is led by Jesús Mendoza Reyes. Staff who influence 10 or more co-employees to vote for SITPME will allegedly receive 1,500 pesos, Prieto reported.

Like the vote in Silao, employees have drawn from former arranging initiatives. The election at Tridonex arrives a few several years immediately after thousands of Matamoros workers joined a wave of wildcat strikes as section of the “20/32” movement that won a 20 {54200d265998863b76fd4ce36c7d4cb67028262ee579cdcba83d47ef416fdf44} wage hike and $1,600 bonuses.

Flores was a participant in that strike wave together with other Tridonex workers. “There had been layoffs, and I could not discuss or give an belief simply because [supervisors] would acquire it the erroneous way,” mentioned Flores about the aftermath of the 20/32 motion. The corporation and CTM-affiliated union “don’t want people today to wake up or combat for their legal rights,” he mentioned.

BORDER Factory Movement

The motion developed an independent union, SNITIS, led by Prieto. Shortly, the unbiased union turned a lightning rod for other employees fired without cause.

A single of individuals staff was Irene Baltazar Fortanelly, 44, who was fired immediately after doing the job for more than 15 several years for the medical supplies company ConVaTec in the border town of Reynosa.

When Baltazar Fortanelly and extra than 750 co-staff went to the CTM-affiliated union after becoming stripped of their seniority, she reported they refused to deal with their complaints. They turned to Prieto and SNITIS to search for representation.

“We started the procedure of transforming unions. And the ‘ringleaders,’ as they called us, they fired us all.”

Now, Baltazar Fortanelly is just one of the stalwarts of the impartial union motion in Tamaulipas, the border point out that incorporates Reynosa and Matamoros and is home to significant clusters of export-oriented producing crops.

“Today, I go plant by plant in the industrial parks, informing the employees of their legal rights and inviting them to be a part of SNITIS,” she claimed.


In 2019, Mexico’s labor legislation reform went into influence, demanding unions to hold secret-ballot votes to validate all present collective bargaining agreements by May 1, 2023. That reform, together with provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, the successor to NAFTA), incorporates provisions aimed at permitting employees to organize freely and deal collectively for greater wages and circumstances, freedoms that have lengthy eluded Mexican workers.

The reform also makes new labor courts in Mexico, housed less than the judicial department, to replace the tripartite conciliation and arbitration boards that have lengthy served to uphold the protection agreement technique. But the rollout of these courts has been gradual, especially in border states like Tamaulipas.

Under Mexico’s constitution, union contracts at auto parts plants like Tridonex are meant to be less than federal jurisdiction. Despite that, many unions have historically gotten away with submitting their contracts with condition-level labor boards controlled by their allies, who erect countless procedural hurdles to thwart impartial unions.

At Tridonex, SNITIS submitted a petition to consider above the collective bargaining arrangement with the Matamoros labor board in late 2019, which must have brought on an election. As an alternative, the area labor board dragged its ft and refused to formally accept the petition.

A team of 400 staff rallied outside the Matamoros labor board to desire that their impartial union effort be permitted to continue, according to Reuters. Tridonex fired a lot more than 600 supporters of the impartial union amongst April and October of 2020, SNITIS alleged.

Employing the “rapid-response” labor enforcement mechanism negotiated into the USMCA, SNITIS, the AFL-CIO, and SEIU filed a criticism in Could 2021 that Tridonex denied staff their legal rights of cost-free affiliation and collective bargaining. The enterprise agreed a few months later to offer severance and nine months back spend to 154 workers, totaling $600,000, or the equivalent of $4,000 per worker. It also designed a motivation to keep on being neutral in long term union elections.

Another outcome of the criticism was that the Tridonex circumstance was moved to the federal labor board, which is now overseeing the vote.


Daniel Rangel, study director at Rethink Trade at American Financial Liberties Venture, advised Labor Notes that though the circumstance of staff fighting for the independent union has improved relatively, they still have to contend with labor rights violations.

“​​Tridonex employees have been harassed, crushed by the police, illegally fired, and denied agreement gains just due to the fact they are making an attempt to toss absent a sham ‘protection’ union that has not represented their pursuits,” he said.

“Their law firm, Susana Prieto, was thrown into jail underneath bogus legal rates in retaliation for her management and even when unveiled she was banned from moving into the state of Tamaulipas.”

Subsequent the complaint beneath the USMCA trade offer, he additional that Tridonex has not lived up to its determination with the U.S. federal government to continue being neutral. “SNITIS activists have experienced a great deal of difficulty getting obtain to employees and Tridonex has not facilitated spaces for them to express their proposals to the workforce.”

Benjamin Davis, director of international affairs for the United Steelworkers and chair of the Independent Mexico Labor Expert Board, developed by Congress underneath the USMCA, explained to Labor Notes that SNITTIS has a strong foundation of assist but the odds are nevertheless formidable.

“The CTM controls entry to the plant and they have decades of experience in sustaining that command,” he said. “A whole lot will rely on whether or not [Mexico’s labor] board controls the types of violations that we usually see—workers voting twice with the identical ID, or workers becoming provided money by the CTM if they make a photo of their marked ballot. Also, the voter’s finger is supposed to be marked with indelible ink, but that does not normally take place.”

Supporters of the independent union have taken to Facebook to share images of people today alleged to be obtaining votes.


Nevertheless, employees like Baltazar Fortanelly continue to be hopeful about the space opened up by the reforms.

“The votes are of good value, mainly because in this way the scope of flexibility of association can be expanded,” explained Baltazar Fortanelly. “Workers will be capable to assert their rights by doing exercises democracy. They them selves will pick their reps, their added benefits and will also make your mind up how their union dues are utilised. Simply because the union leaders are administrators of the union dues—not the owners of them as they’ve made a follow of.”

For Flores, the vote features an prospect to fulfill what begun back again in 2019 with the 20/32 movement and “take total advantage of the chance supplied to us by the federal labor legislation and be able to freely decide on who we want to lead our collective bargaining agreement.”

If the independent union wins, he included, “we will be a position of reference for other maquiladora staff.”

Dan DiMaggio contributed to this report.

For an account of some of the obstacles that impartial unions have faced in Mexico, see the not too long ago revealed e-book Global Solidarity in Action by Robin Alexander, which facts campaigns by the United Electrical Employees and the Frente Auténtico de Trabajo. For extra on the standing of Mexico’s labor law reforms, see the July 2021 report from the Unbiased Mexico Labor Skilled Board.