Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 27, 2012. Today President Obama meets with President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who will take office on December 1. Both leaders have expressed interest in strengthening the partnership between the two countries by, among other things, increasing economic competitiveness, promoting regional development, advancing bilateral efforts to develop a secure and efficient 21st century border and addressing common security challenges. Mr. Peña Nieto has also emphasized the importance to both countries of comprehensive immigration process reform.
While the AFL-CIO shares these concerns, we would like to see the priorities of working people on both sides of the border better reflected in this discussion. In our view, the fundamental right of workers to democratically organize and bargain with their employers is central to achieving “economic competitiveness.” The Mexican government’s continuing attacks on these rights greatly reduces protections for Mexico’s most vulnerable workers and is of grave concern.
The following concerns related to workers’ rights should be addressed at the upcoming meeting:
- On November 13, the Mexican Congress approved labor law reform legislation that actually reduces protections for Mexican workers. The law limits seniority, weakens remedies for unjust dismissal and promotes subcontracting, temporary contracts and payment by the hour. This legislation reflects an overly simplistic view of “economic competitiveness” as simply the reduction of labor costs, without regard to social consequences or workforce development. An additional ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court greatly weakens the right to strike. These reforms are likely to increase poverty and marginalization and force more workers to emigrate and seek precarious work.
- Over the past few months, the National Union of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) has documented increased use of repression through direct use of security forces to undermine workers’ organizing campaigns. Despite rulings from five separate appeals courts, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the elected leader of the SNTMMSSRM, continues to live in exile.
- The Government of Mexico is opposing an October 9 appellate court ruling in favor of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) and more than 44,000 of its members, who were summarily dismissed three years ago when the Central Light and Power Company (LFC) was dissolved by decree. The court ruled that both the workers’ individual labor relationships and the union’s collective bargaining agreement with LFC continue in effect and apply to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) as LFC’s successor employer.
All of these examples, along with many more well-documented cases, demonstrate that Mexico is continuing to pursue a path of low-wage development. Far from achieving competitiveness, security or respect for the rule of law, this path is exacerbating economic marginalization and insecurity for a large part of the workforce while systematically violating international labor standards. The accession of Mexico to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations based on this low-road model will do little to improve the economic reality for Mexico’s workers.
Our relationship with Mexico is enormously important for all Americans, and we must therefore pursue a common agenda that includes comprehensive immigration process reform, security based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, and measures to grow the middle class while protecting the poor.