Since the labor reform established the obligation of unions to legitimize their Collective Bargaining Agreements (CCTs) through the personal, free, secret and direct vote of their affiliates, one of the great challenges of collective democracy also started, particularly if it is taken into consideration that more than 85% of all companies in Mexico had protection agreements. A proof of this is the low level of ratification of these agreements that, to date, and according to information from the Federal Center, reach a little over 14,000 CCTS, which barely reaches a little above 10% of those that are reported as being registered.
However, the most interesting thing about this new reality, is understanding the behavior of workers’ voting as well as what is going through people’s heads when they exercise their collective right to the legitimation of their CCT, the ratification of a revision or the election of a union committee, given that these are decisive elements in the future of the union movement in our country and the sustainability of companies. One thing that is truly clear is that we are going to need a high level of awareness in unionized workers when participating in these processes.
In analyzing this consciousness, the number of failed legitimations reported by the Federal Center for Labor Conciliation and Registration is very revealing, showing that, as of March of 2023, 244 collective bargaining agreements were terminated as the result of a process of negative voting by the workers. According to the Labor Engineering report generated by De la Vega & Martínez Rojas, the sectors with the highest number of agreements that were terminated due to unsuccessful legitimations are the Automotive and auto parts sector, with 13% of the total of 244 CCTs that were not legitimated, followed by Retail, with 12%, the sector of Mass consumption of food and beverages with 8%, the sector of Metals and raw materials with 8% and, lastly Tourism with 7%. Likewise, the maquila sector appears with 5% of this total of terminated agreements.
Three trends are laid out in the above reports. For their part, in the automotive and maquila sectors, the termination of CCTs in failed legitimation events have been due to the pressure of independent unions through social media campaigns or in campaigns conducted directly inside of the companies in which, through the invitation for issuing negative votes, they are able to enter organizations by means of the certificate of representativity and, thus, generate a new revision of the agreement, generating advance of very high salary increases, within the framework of a conflictive collective bargaining negotiation and using strikes as a lever to exert pressure.
The second trend, in retail and in some mass consumption companies, reveals that this high number of terminated CCTs, that reaches almost 2% of the sector, corresponds to their having a short union tradition, as it is a sector that is dominated by white unions, which would indicate that those companies in which union life was less active presented a greater challenge for unions to be able to convince workers of affiliating and even of paying union dues. In light of the coming voting processes in CCT revisions, for example, there will surely be significant uncertainty in regard to the actual support of the workers toward their union representatives.
The third trend involves the metals and raw materials sector, on the one hand, and the hotel sector on the other. These sectors have had some tradition of union participation; nevertheless, they begin to rise these days among the sectors with the most failed legitimations, we see in them that the workers are clearly tired of their unions and the need for renovating their collective representation. This also appears as a general trend, in which the traditional union federations are the biggest losers, accounting for the majority of the failed legitimations out of these 244.
It will be necessary to maintain continuous monitoring with trustworthy data, which will allow the advanced reading of union trends by sector, state of the republic and union federation, to ensure that the labor strategy has a solid foundation to face the challenges of the new freedom of association in Mexico.