American unions organizing labor south of the border

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — As of May 1 of last year, workers in Mexico have been allowed to join any labor union even if it has ties to the United States.

This is the result of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Labor leaders south of the border say unions from the U.S. are already recruiting in the interior of Mexico and that it’s only a matter of time before they show up in border states such as Baja California.

“Any time now they’ll be at the border, but no one seems to remember what happened with the last trade agreement that led to strikes and work stoppages supported by American unions, they were the primary sponsors of this labor unrest,” said Mario Madrigal Magaña, general secretary for one of Baja’s largest unions.

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He said 30 percent of workers in 1,800 maquiladoras based in Baja California are currently represented by local unions, although the new trade agreement allows them to switch representation.

Madrigal Magaña believes most business leaders would oppose such a move.

“There is resistance among the public sector already, imagine how much resistance there will be among heads of industry,” he said.

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Madrigal Magaña said workers can switch to American unions if they are employed by a company that exports goods or products to Canada or the U.S., but only if the company has failed to comply with labor agreements in place with Mexican unions.

He fears this could open the door for recruitment since 80 percent of factories in Baja California have American interests.

Madrigal Magaña says if U.S.-based unions such as the Teamsters or United Auto Workers set up shop south of the border, it will lead to a lot of labor unrest resulting in disruption of product flow north of the border.

Last year, Mexico’s Labor Minister Luisa Alcalde told Reuters the competition among unions to represent workers will be good for employees largely because many labor deals have been designed to protect companies’ interests and not the workers.

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“This is historic because we will finally manage to rid the labor market of pretend contracts and fake unions,” Alcalde said. “This is all about having good representatives to defend worker rights and obtain better benefits and salaries.”

According to the Reuters report, 400 labor contracts in Mexico have been struck down since May 1, 2023.

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