Backs Labor Alliance
In Complaint on
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.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
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.
VICTORY FOR WORKERS
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
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
The report adds: "While Mexicos Constitution and federal labor
law protect workers freedom of association, ...it appears that they were not
afforded the protections to which they were entitled."