GM Mexico union vote begins this week with significant implications for labor
MEXICO CITY — More than 6,000 General Engines Mexican workers will elect a new union this week as an upstart group backed by international activists aims to beat one of Mexico’s biggest labor organizations which has held the contract for 25 years.
The vote is one of the first in a labor reform that underpins a new trade deal with Canada and the United States and aims to help improve wages by breaking the stranglehold of unions which, according to critics, have signed agreements with companies behind the backs of workers.
GM’s vote, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the pickup plant in the central city of Silao, comes after workers in August terminate their contract with the Confederation of Mexican Workers. The vote was monitored by US officials, who threatened to impose tariffs on GMO exports under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal if the automaker failed to protect workers’ rights.
The US government is once again monitoring Silao.
The vote of nearly 6,300 workers could set the tone for GM’s other Mexican plants and the entire Mexican auto industry, which is largely dominated by unions that experts say have a reputation for protecting the interests business and drive down wages.
GM said it “recognizes the importance of this exercise for our workers” and will work with the winning group.
Many workers want to kick out CTM, which has held the Silao contract since the plant opened in 1995 and is aligned with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that has ruled Mexico for decades.
The CTM union disbanded last year has given way to a separate faction of the CTM that is calling on workers to be open-minded.
“They are satanizing the CTM because the last union didn’t do things the way they should have,” said CTM member David Limon.
The rival independent union SINTTIA, which many workers want to replace the CTM, grew out of a movement that urged workers to reject their contract last year, gaining a large following that boosted its chances of victory.
Two other unions are also in competition.
Mexico’s labor reform calls for contract ratification votes to be held by May 2023 and opens the door to new unions.
Yet out of more than 3,000 votes so far, workers have rejected only 25 contracts, underscoring the difficulty of changing an entrenched system, experts say.
The Washington-based Solidarity Center, which is allied with the American labor federation AFL-CIO, and the Canadian union Unifor are supporting SINTTIA, which has visited workers’ neighborhoods, stuck flyers on telephone poles and circulated text messages.
“CTM only looks out for its personal interests,” SINTTIA told his followers via WhatsApp.