Mexico Pressured to Guarantee Workers Free Choice to Bargain Collectively

Many workers in Mexico are subject to “employer protection contracts” and have no access to meaningful collective bargaining.

For decades the IAM and the labor movement worldwide have fought for truly democratic workers’ rights in Mexico and other developing nations. Unfortunately, many workers continue to suffer.

“Laws protecting the right of workers to form free and independent unions are often weak, ineffective and unenforced, permitting some employers in places like Mexico to operate with impunity,” said Owen Herrnstadt, IAM Chief of Staff to the International President and Director of the Trade and Globalization Department.

In the textile industry, and in some others, companies establish so-called “protection contracts” with sham unions that exist to protect employers instead of employees.  Workers represented by these “ghost unions” have no access to real and meaningful collective bargaining agreements and are often fired if they question their employer. In many cases, the workers have no knowledge of being represented by any union.

Efforts have accelerated to urge Mexico’s government to comply with an International Labour Organization (ILO) request to reform the country’s federal labor laws to ensure freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for workers.

As part of this effort, IndustriALL Global Union has proposed critical measures to end the pattern of protection contracts in Mexico. Among other things, IndustriALL is calling for concrete “actions and measures” to end this practice.

READ: Mexico remains under ILO’s spotlight

“If the government of Mexico doesn’t take real action on protection contracts in the textile industry, what message does that send to other industries and employers?” said Herrnstadt. “When these sham unions can enter into so-called contracts, workers have no real rights.”

Companies that employ IAM members in the U.S. and Canada are being enticed with offers of a vast and less expensive workforce in Mexico. In the last decade alone, the country’s aerospace sector has seen a growth rate of about 20 percent. Without proper reform and enforcement of labor and human rights laws, Mexico’s aerospace workers could be faced with similar protection contracts and ghost unions.

IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger is a Vice President of IndustriALL Global Union, which fights for workers’ rights around the world. Both Buffenbarger and Herrnstadt sit on its executive board.