They see shortcomings in the USMCA mechanism for defending unions

A little over two years after the first complaint was processed under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism, lawyers believe that there have been excesses in the use of this tool and, therefore, legislation is needed for regulating this procedure.

Note published on August 13 in El Economista, Empresas [Companies] Section by María del Pilar Martínez.



Two years after its application, the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRLM), which is part of Chapter 23 of the Mexico-United States-Canada Treaty (USMCA), presents legal loopholes in the case of Mexico, in addition to the fact that certain union organizations have abused its use, agreed labor specialists in their participation in the Collective Bargaining Law Seminar of the Federal School of Judicial Training.

During his participation, Pablo Franco, representative in Mexico of the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW Network), explained that the RRLM presents a problem “from the side of the Mexican State, we have an institutional weakness, we do not have a regulatory framework for its implementation. The United States has a board of experts that provide follow-up on the development of Chapter and Annex 23-A, and this often leaves us reacting rather than proacting when faced with complaints.”

Oscar de la Vega, founding partner of De la Vega & Martínez Rojas, explained that, in the process and development of the complaints, the company never knows or is provided with the information that supports said complaints and must submit to a reparation of the harm done, despite the fact that this, he said, interferes with Mexican laws.

For his part, Franco said that this mechanism, new in trade agreements, “is a mechanism that already has been sought to be used excessively, (lawyers) believe that each work center is a covered facility (that is, those related to the export sector). There have been denunciations made by decentralized public entities that have presented complaints and that is not possible.”

He pointed out that every one of the complaints that have been presented, of the 12 existing ones, has brought new experiences, without forgetting that complaints can even be followed up on officiously, as were the cases at the General Motors plant (which was the first one to be an object of a labor complaint in May 2021) and the Yazaki plant.

Different measures and penalizations.

Specialists talked about different criteria in the actions taken by the United States government so far. On the one hand, penalization for the VU Manufacturing company, which has already faced two complaints, has not been strong enough, while in the case of Yazaki, (where they consider that the complaint does not apply) provisional and immediate penalizations were applied in relation to the suspension of customs payments, They explained that in these processes the weaknesses and a legislative vacuum have been made evident, as there are no established local penalizations for the denial of labor rights.

Franco pointed out that the Federal Center for Conciliation and Labor Registration has determined what the denial of union rights consist of and what the penalizations would be in the case of the VU Manufacturing plant, but they “have informed that they cannot apply them within their legal framework and, therefore, the mechanism becomes important.”

“In the end, the mechanism is an auxiliary and deterring element. If businessmen do not want to be subject to this, it would be sufficient for them to assume a neutral position in the exercise of union freedom and to act in good faith in the development of collective bargaining. But it is very difficult to put an end to the culture of unilaterality in the world of labor, as it has developed over the last 40 years”, Franco emphasized. De la Vega said that the topic of “true” collective bargaining is indispensable; there are, however, risks of calls to strike and it is necessary that an option must be included for workers to be able to decide whether or not they want to belong to a union.

Shortcomings of the RRLM:

  • Mexico does not have a local protocol for addressing labor complaints under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism.
  • Regulations have not defined in which cases negotiation tables (with the company) must be called once the complaint has been filed.
  • The Regulatory framework of the Federal Center for Conciliation and Labor Registration does not establish a procedure for penalization in the case of infringement of union freedom and collective bargaining hiring.
  • Penalizations, up to this moment, are subject to those that trade partners impose.

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