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FACT SHEET: The USMCA Rapid Response Mechanism Delivers for Workers

The Biden-Harris Administration is enforcing labor standards through this revolutionary trade tool and securing tangible results for workers, including reinstatements, union representation, backpay and increased wages.

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s worker-centered trade policy, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has been on a mission to leverage the power of trade to lift workers up at home and around the world. Critical to this work is the groundbreaking U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) – an innovative trade agreement tool that is empowering workers in Mexico and the United States.
 

What is it and how does it work?

The RRM was key to the overwhelming bipartisan support for the passage of the USMCA in the U.S. Congress. 

The RRM provides any interested party with the opportunity to petition the U.S. government to start a case on the basis of sufficient, credible evidence that workers’ rights are being denied at a specific facility in Mexico. Those rights include the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, which are guaranteed under both Mexican law and the terms of the USMCA.

Once a petition is accepted, the United States works with Mexico to determine whether a denial of rights has occurred, a course of remediation, and other penalties as appropriate. If, through the process, a facility is found to have illegally engaged in denying workers’ rights and fails to remedy the harm, penalties can include a ban of its exports to the United States.
 
How has it empowered workers?

Since 2021, the U.S. has sought Mexico’s review under the USMCA’s RRM 19 times at facilities that span various industries, including automotive, garments, mining, and services.  
These cases have directly benefited over 27,000 workers:

  • provided millions of dollars in backpay and benefits to workers,
  • ensured wrongly terminated workers were reinstated, and
  • helped secure free and fair elections in which workers selected independent unions to represent them. 

Though some cases are still ongoing, 14 have already resulted in either comprehensive remediation plans between the U.S. and Mexico or were successfully resolved during the RRM review process.  Eight cases included backpay to workers, six included reinstatements of workers, eight resulted in independent unions representing workers at the facility, and many resulted in successful negotiation for higher wages, workers’ rights trainings, and improved policies at the facilities.

The tool has been so effective in delivering real results to workers that the U.S. has seen an uptick in petitions. The U.S. will continue to utilize the tool wherever necessary to address violations of workers’ rights.
 
Why does this matter for U.S. workers?

When Mexico’s workers are exploited, U.S. workers suffer too. Companies with the option to set up shop in both countries can play U.S. and Mexican workers off each other. If Mexico’s workers cannot be effectively represented by independent organizations and cannot advocate for themselves for better pay, benefits, and working conditions, U.S. workers will find themselves at an unfair disadvantage when negotiating terms for their employment. This results in a “race to the bottom,” where firms suppress labor costs by violating workers’ rights, producing cheap goods at the expense of the workers everywhere. 

Instead, the RRM is helping to produce a “race to the top,” preventing companies that violate workers’ rights from benefiting from the USMCA and helping ensure that companies cannot secure unfair advantages by exploiting workers.  Tools like the RRM are an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to put workers at the center of our trade policy and recraft global trade on fair terms that respect workers.

A brief summary of each facility-specific case and their outcomes can be found below, and further information on each case is available on our website.

 
GENERAL MOTORS FACILITY IN SILAO, MEXICO – May 12, 2021

RESULT OF RRM: HIGHER WAGES, LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers were being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining at the facility, specifically through the destruction of ballots in a vote on a proposed collective bargaining agreement between the facility and the union.

As a result of the RRM, workers at the facility were given a new vote to determine if they agreed with the previously proposed agreement between the existing employer-aligned union and the facility – which they rejected. They were then able to vote for a new union to represent them.  The workers elected a new, independent union, which negotiated and secured higher wages in a new agreement that the workers voted to approve.
 

TRIDONEX S. DE R.L. DE C.V. FACILITY IN MATAMOROS, MEXICO – June 9, 2021

RESULT OF RRM: SEVERANCE, BACKPAY, INCREASED SAFETY PROTOCOLS, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAINING FOR WORKERS, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers at the auto parts facility were being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining, specifically whether workers who were seeking to switch association between unions and were union-eligible were being separated from the company voluntarily or involuntarily.

To remediate the situation, the facility paid severance and six months of backpay, totaling a minimum of nine months of pay per worker (a total backpay sum of more than $600,000) for at least 154 dismissed workers. In addition, the facility agreed to support the right of their workers to determine union representation without coercion, to strengthen safety protocols around COVID-19, and to provide financial support to employees unable to report to work as a result of COVID-19 exposure or infection. Mexico also facilitated workers’ rights training for employees at the facility.
 

PANASONIC AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS DE MEXICO S.A. DE C.V. FACILITY IN REYNOSA, MEXICO – May 18, 2022

RESULT OF RRM: BACKPAY, REIMBURSEMENT, HIGHER WAGES, REINSTATEMENT OF WORKERS, LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers at the facility were being denied their freedom of association and collective bargaining rights by being coerced or forced to be represented by a union they did not select and whether they were being subject to a collective bargaining agreement between that union and the facility that the workers did not approve.

As a result of the RRM, the facility renounced the illegitimate agreement, offered reinstatement and backpay to 26 workers who had been wrongly dismissed, and reimbursed other workers for unpaid wages that resulted from a work stoppage at the facility.  The facility also reimbursed workers for dues automatically deducted on behalf of the illegitimate union. Workers were able to vote for representation, resulting in a landslide victory for a new and independent union.  The independent union then negotiated a 9.5 percent direct salary increase and a one-time bonus of 3.5 percent of each worker’s annual salary, which workers voted to approve.
 

TEKSID HIERRO DE MEXICO, S.A. DE C.V. FACILITY IN FRONTERA, MEXICO – June 6, 2022

RESULT OF RRM: BACKPAY, REINSTATEMENT OF WORKERS, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION, HIGHER WAGES

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers at the facility were being threatened or coerced into choosing a particular union, and whether workers were being subject to a state-level collective bargaining agreement that was inferior to a federal-level collective bargaining agreement.  The company was also refusing to recognize the independent union that held the right to represent workers at the facility.

As a result of the RRM, 36 workers who had been terminated for protesting the company were reinstated and given backpay, and the independent union was given access to the facility and paid dues that were previously withheld from workers’ pay.  The facility also issued a statement of neutrality on workers’ selection of a union and union activities, as well as a statement to workers that the only valid collective bargaining agreement was the one at the federal-level.  Shortly after the case was closed, the independent union withstood a challenge from a competing union and negotiated additional benefits for workers including a nine percent wage increase for workers and an increase in the overall value of workers’ non-wage benefits of 6.8 percent, as well as an increase in vacation days, bonuses, compliance with required overtime pay, and improvements to working conditions to address work-related injuries.
 

MANUFACTURAS VU FACILITY IN PIEDRAS NEGRAS, MEXICO (VU I) – July 21, 2022

RESULT OF RRM: LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers were being denied the ability to freely choose their union representation.

As a result of the RRM, workers were able to organize freely and ultimately elected a union for the first time to represent workers at the facility.  Mexico trained workers on the voting process and its implications, facilitated a statement from the facility to remain neutral in the vote, and oversaw the vote to ensure a free and fair voting process.
 

SAINT GOBAIN FACILITY IN CUAUTLA, MEXICO – September 27, 2022

RESULT OF ENGAGEMENT ON AN RRM PETITION: LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION

A Mexican union filed a rapid response petition alleging that workers were being denied their right to freely choose union representation at this automotive glass facility.

During the U.S. review process, the Mexican union petitioners secured a fair union selection vote at the facility and addressed other immediate issues with the company. Mexico remained engaged on the issue and ensured the vote took place.  As a result, workers at the facility freely and fairly chose an independent democratic union to represent them and negotiate on their behalf.
 

MANUFACTURAS VU FACILITY IN PIEDRAS NEGRAS, MEXICO (VU II) – January 30, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION, SANCTIONS

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review for the second time at this facility over concerns that the facility was showing favoritism for a union competing to oust the recently elected independent union, including by providing preferential access to that union and reprimanding workers who were supporting the incumbent union.

As a result of the RRM*, Mexico initiated sanctions proceedings against those who violated Mexican labor law in this case, and committed to ensuring that complaints about anti-union threats and violence would be investigated and addressed.  Mexico also committed to ensuring that the company would issue a statement of neutrality on union activities and abide by that statement.  The facility closed before the situation had been fully resolved.

*The U.S. statement on recent developments in this RRM matter can be found here.
 

UNIQUE FABRICATING FACILITY IN SANTIAGO DE QUERÉTARO, MEXICO – March 6, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether workers at this auto parts facility were experiencing interference with their right to organize, select, and engage with a union of their choice.

The RRM was successfully resolved, as Mexico took action to ensure workers’ rights were protected at the facility.  This included trainings of management and workers, and the issuance of a statement by the company that affirmed they would remain neutral in the workers’ selection of a union and a zero-tolerance policy toward union favoritism and discrimination.  The company also provided new and existing unions with equal access to the facility, committed to take steps to prevent potential freedom of association violations, and provide the new union with dues from its affiliates. Mexico also monitored the following union election, in which workers were able to elect a new union to represent them.
 

GOODYEAR SLP FACILITY IN SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO – May 22, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: BACKPAY, INCREASED WAGES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAININGS, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, LEGITIMATE UNION REPRESENTATION

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether this rubber manufacturing facility was denying workers the beneficial terms of a sector-wide agreement, and instead subjecting them to an inferior facility-specific agreement negotiated between the company and an incumbent, employer-aligned union.

As a result of the RRM, the Government of Mexico oversaw a free and fair vote at the facility that resulted in an independent union representing workers for purposes of bargaining and facilitation of the contrato ley. In addition to other changes, Goodyear paid 1,186 workers approximately $4.2 million U.S. dollars in back wages and benefits owed under the contrato ley. Goodyear is now applying the contrato ley at the facility, while retaining any prior wages or benefits that exceeded the terms of the contrato ley.  Goodyear also adopted and posted a neutrality statement and company guidelines on freedom of association and collective bargaining, including a zero-tolerance policy for violations, and trained all company personnel on the guidelines and neutrality commitments.
 
Mexico also publicly stated that it intends to review the application of the sector-wide agreement across the rubber industry, assuring that workers receive the benefits owed to them under such agreement while maintaining the benefits in any facility-specific agreement, as applicable, that are superior to what the sector-wide agreement requires.
 

DRAXTON FACILITY IN IRAPUATO, GUANAJUATO, MEXICO – May 31, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: ONGOING

The U.S. self-initiated a request for Mexico’s review of whether workers at this facility were being retaliated against, intimidated, threatened, and fired for partaking in union activities, and whether workers at the facility were also being denied a copy of their collective bargaining agreement.

As a result of the RRM, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a course of remediation that included reinstatement of a worker fired due to union activity as well as backpay and benefits to that worker, a commitment from the company to remain neutral and not to interfere in workers’ union activities, provision of copies of the current collective bargaining agreement to all employees, workers’ rights trainings for management and employees, and on-going monitoring of the facility by Mexico to ensure the facility continues to comply with the rights of workers.
 

INDUSTRIAS DEL INTERIOR (INISA) FACILITY IN AGUASCALIENTES, MEXICO – June 12, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAININGS

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the company was aiding workers who supported a company-proposed collective bargaining agreement, hindering the activities of workers who opposed the company proposal, and otherwise interfering in the union’s internal affairs.

As a result of the RRM, the company committed to neutrality and non-interference in union activities at the facility.  The company issued transparent guidelines to govern the conduct of personnel at the facility and created a complaint system where workers could anonymously report any experience of intimidation, coercion, or threats.  The facility also provided workers’ rights trainings to all personnel to ensure workers’ rights would not be infringed upon in the future.
 

GRUPO MÉXICO SAN MARTIN MINE IN ZACATECAS, MEXICO – June 16, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: USMCA RRM PANEL

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the mine had resumed operations during an ongoing strike and whether the company was circumventing the striking union by engaging in collective bargaining with an unauthorized coalition of workers. Mexico conducted a review, and found no ongoing denials of rights.

Given the U.S. position that there were ongoing denials of rights, the U.S. requested a dispute settlement panel under the USMCA to review and reach a determination on whether a denial of rights has occurred at the facility. The panel’s work is ongoing.
 

GRUPO YAZAKI FACILITY IN LEON, MEXICO – August 7, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAININGS

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether a union at this auto components facility spread false or misleading information to workers about the purpose of a scheduled collective bargaining agreement vote and the impact that vote was going to have on workers’ salaries and employment benefits.

Mexico intervened at the facility to resolve the matter during its review period, and the company committed to remain neutral in union activities and to safeguard its workers’ rights. The company established a hotline that workers can call into to report any concerns relating to their labor rights.  In addition, workers at the facility, as well as management and union representatives participated in workers’ rights trainings.
 

AEROTRANSPORTES MAS DE CARGA (MAS AIR) IN MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – August 30, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: BACKPAY, REINSTATEMENT OF A WORKER, SEVERANCE, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAININGS

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether pilots at the airline were being harassed, intimidated and retaliated against due to their union affiliation, and if the company denied the pilots the opportunity to vote on an accurate and appropriately presented collective bargaining agreement.

As a result of the RRM, the pilots who were unjustly dismissed from the company were offered reinstatement and backpay, or severance if they did not want to return to their former jobs.  In addition, the company adopted and posted a position of neutrality on collective bargaining, and created a hotline where workers can anonymously submit complaints about labor rights violations.  Mexico also provided workers’ rights trainings to the pilots.  The pilots were later able to vote for representation, resulting in the election of an independent union to represent them at the facility.   
 

TEKLAS AUTOMOTIVE FACILITY IN AGUASCALIENTES, MEXICO – September 25, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: ONGOING

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the auto facility is interfering in workers’ union activities, including through intervening and preventing workers from engaging with a particular union, dismissing workers who support that union, and otherwise coercing or intimidating workers into engaging with a different union.
 

ASIAWAY AUTOMOTIVE COMPONENTS MEXICO FACILITY IN SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO – October 23, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: ONGOING

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the auto components facility is interfering in workers’ union activities, including through intervening or preventing workers from engaging with a particular union, and the dismissal of a worker that supported that union.
 

TECNOLOGÍA MODIFICADA S.A. DE C.V. CATERPILLAR FACILITY IN NUEVO LAREDO, MEXICO – October 26, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: REINSTATMENT AND BACKPAY OFFERS, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAINING

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the construction and mining equipment facility is interfering in workers’ union activities, including through the dismissal of workers in retaliation for their participation in union organizing activity.

As a result of the RRM, two unlawfully dismissed workers were offered reinstatement under the same terms, conditions, and circumstances from before their termination, including full backpay and benefits.  The company issued guidelines that govern conduct of personnel at the facility and a written neutrality statement committing to respect freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, and implemented a zero-tolerance policy for violations of the neutrality statement.  Mexico also provided workers’ rights training to workers currently working, and committed to provide further trainings to workers currently on strike when they return to work.
 

AUTOLIV STEERING WHEELS FACILITY IN QUERÉTARO, MEXICO – November 20, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: REINSTATEMENT OF WORKERS, BACKPAY, SEVERANCE, IMPROVED FACILITY POLICIES, WORKERS’ RIGHTS TRAININGS

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether this steering wheel production facility is denying workers their rights by interfering in workers’ union activities, including through the dismissal of approximately 19 workers who were engaged in union activity. The U.S. is also concerned that management is coercing workers into selecting a specific union for representation and denying union representatives and government officials from accessing the facility to provide information to workers.

As a result of the RRM, three unlawfully dismissed workers were reinstated under the same terms, conditions, and circumstance from before their termination, including full backpay and benefits.  Seven more workers who were unjustly dismissed, but chose not to return to the facility, were paid full severance.  The company posted and disseminated a neutrality statement and related guidelines at the facility, affirming its commitment to safeguarding the right to freedom of association.  Mexico also delivered trainings on freedom of association and collective bargaining rights at the facility for workers and company representatives.

FUJIKURA AUTOMOTIVE MEXICO FACILITY IN COAHUILA, MEXICO – December 14, 2023

RESULT OF RRM: ONGOING

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the auto components facility is blacklisting or otherwise retaliating against workers because of union activity at their prior employer, Manufacturas VU.

ATENTO SERVICIOS S.A. de C.V. FACILITIES IN HIDALGO, MEXICO – January 19, 2024

RESULT OF RRM: ONGOING

The U.S. requested Mexico’s review of whether the call center facilities are denying workers their rights by interfering in workers’ union activities, including through the dismissal of workers. The U.S. is also concerned that management is coercing workers into selecting a specific union for representation.
 

This fact sheet is up to date as of February 9, 2024.
 

 

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