United States Seeks Mexico's Review of Alleged Worker's Rights Denial at Auto Manufacturing Facility

May 12, 2021

Action by USTR marks the first use of the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism
WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today announced that the United States has asked Mexico to review whether workers at a General Motors (GM) facility are being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining.  The request is the first time any country has used the novel Rapid Response Labor Mechanism in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USTR and the Department of Labor received information appearing to indicate serious violations of these workers’ rights in Silao, State of Guanajuato in connection with a recent worker vote, organized by the existing union, to approve their collective bargaining agreement. 
“Today’s action shows the Biden-Harris Administration’s serious commitment to workers and a worker-centered trade policy.” said Ambassador Katherine Tai announcing the action. “Using USMCA to help protect freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in Mexico helps workers both at home and in Mexico, by stopping a race to the bottom.  It also supports Mexico’s efforts to implement its recent labor law reforms.  I commend the Mexican government for stepping in to suspend the vote when it became aware of voting irregularities.  Today’s action will complement Mexico’s efforts to ensure that these workers can fully exercise their collective bargaining rights.”
“All workers – in Mexico, the United States, and around the world – deserve a genuine, democratic voice at work,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.  “The Department of Labor is committed to working with our counterparts in Mexico to support compliance with the labor commitments of USMCA and legitimate collective bargaining supported by workers.  In requesting this review, the United States clearly sends the message that worker rights must be respected.”
In connection with the U.S. request, Ambassador Tai has directed the Secretary of the Treasury to suspend the final settlement of customs accounts related to entries of goods from GM’s Silao facility.  Under USMCA Article 31-A.4.3, liquidation will resume once there is an agreement by the Parties that there is no Denial of Rights or a finding by a panel that there is no Denial of Rights.  
USMCA’s Labor Chapter contains a bilateral annex that requires Mexico to have specific laws necessary for the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.   The annex mirrors key provisions of Mexico’s historic 2019 labor law reform.  The first-of-its-kind Rapid Response Labor Mechanism provides for expedited enforcement of collective bargaining and free association rights at the facility level.
Under the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism, the first step is for the United States to submit a request that Mexico review whether there is a denial of rights and attempt to remediate any issues it finds.  If the United States and Mexico are subsequently not able to agree that the issue has been resolved, the United States may request the establishment of a Rapid Response Labor Panel to determine whether there has been a denial of collective bargaining rights.

A copy of the request for review can be found here.

A copy of the letter to the Secretary of the Treasury can be found here.