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U.S. Government
Backs Labor Alliance
In Complaint on
Mexican Unionbusting

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Upholding a complaint filed by UE and the Echlin Workers’ Alliance, the United States government finds that the management at an Echlin auto-parts plant in Mexico allowed thugs from a government-controlled union to disrupt a vote for an independent union last September.

The National Administrative Office (NAO), the federal agency responsible for hearing complaints under the labor side agreement to NAFTA, concludes that the Mexican government failed to enforce its own laws protecting worker rights.

In its report released on Aug. 3, the NAO calls for cabinet-level talks between the U.S. and Mexican governments on labor rights and working conditions in Mexico.


The NAO report on Echlin is also the first to involve allegations of health and safety problems.

Mexican workers and health and safety experts presented testimony here in March that documented routine exposure to asbestos and solvents, malfunctioning machinery and other dangerous conditions at auto-parts plants owned by Connecticut-based Echlin Inc.

Under the labor side agreement, allegations that a national government fails to enforce freedom of association laws can lead to top-level talks among NAFTA labor ministers while a pattern of persistent failure to enforce health and safety laws can ultimately lead to fines or loss of NAFTA benefits.

The NAO acted on a complaint filed by a coalition of nine U.S. and Canadian unions — UE, Teamsters, Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT), Steelworkers (in both the U.S. and Canada), UAW, Canadian Auto Workers, Machinists, Paper Workers, IUE and UNITE!. The petitioning unions had the support of the AFL-CIO, the Canadian Labor Congress and the UNT, a Mexican labor federation.

The unions’ petition received backing from dozens of U.S., Mexican and Canadian organizations, among them Jobs with Justice, Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild, Global Exchange and the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

This case marks the first time in which major labor federations and human rights organizations from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have joined in support of a complaint filed under the NAFTA labor side accord.


UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley termed the NAO ruling "an indictment of Echlin, the Mexican government and the largest of the official unions in Mexico," as well as "a victory for workers in all three NAFTA countries.

"We call on Echlin and its new parent Dana to correct the violations cited by the NAO by offering immediate and unconditional reinstatement to the fired workers, recognizing STIMAHCS as the workers’ representative, cleaning up the plant and providing conditions where workers’ rights are respected."

As reported in the Sept. 21, 1997 UE NEWS, Echlin Inc. allowed nearly 200 gang members to enter its ITAPSA plant in Mexico on the eve of a representation election and terrify workers. Itapsa workers had been organizing with STIMAHCS, the metalworkers’ union affiliated with the FAT. For weeks prior to this incident, the company had fired dozens of STIMAHCS supporters.

The election itself consisted of a voice vote in front of the company and officials from the government-dominated CTM union, as well as the armed thugs.

Eight ITAPSA workers were later attacked and beaten by thugs outside another Echlin-owned plant. Police called to the factory took no action and the Mexican government agency responsible for protecting workers’ rights sided with the government-dominated union.

The NAO report says, "Workers who attempted to exercise their right to freedom of association were subjected to retaliation by their employer and the established union in the workplace... Workers engaged in lawful organizational and informational activities outside a workplace were subjected to physical attack by persons associated with the established union at the plant and in the presence of company officials."

The report adds: "While Mexico’s Constitution and federal labor law protect workers’ freedom of association, appears that they were not afforded the protections to which they were entitled."

UE News - 08/98

Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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