Three U.S. lawmakers asked General Motors Co. to address reports of labor violations at a truck plant in central Mexico that was dragged into a workers’ rights dispute after authorities found irregularities in an employees’ vote on a union contract.
The three Democrats including House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey on Tuesday wrote to GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, asking her for details on the auto company’s role in what happened and whether the manufacturer will commit to ensuring future votes are independently verified.
Hours after the U.S. lawmakers’ letter was released, Mexico said it will have the union redo the labor vote and pledged to guarantee proper conditions for a free and secret election.
“GM has a responsibility to speak out against violations of labor and human-rights abuses at the Silao GM plant, and has an overarching responsibility to ensure that workers at its facilities throughout Mexico who exercise their rights in the workplace do so free from threats or retaliation,” the lawmakers wrote.
Mexico’s Labor Ministry in April said it shut down the union-led vote at the Silao, Guanajuato, plant after discovering unused ballots had been destroyed. When it asked the union to deliver for inspection the votes that had already been cast—about half of the 6,494 unionized workers had voted—the syndicate refused, according to a preliminary report by the ministry.
Late Tuesday, the ministry said it would reinforce observation mechanisms and other measures to impede the company, the union, or outside personnel from meddling in the vote. The ministry said it filed a complaint with state prosecutors against legal violations during the previous election in April.
GM respects and supports the rights of its employees to make a personal choice about union representation, and will cooperate with the U.S. government and the Mexican Labor Ministry protect the integrity of the process, the company said in an emailed response to questions.
“GM condemns violations of labor rights and actions to restrict collective bargaining,” the company said. “We do not believe there was any GM involvement in the alleged violations or that any government-approved inspectors were denied access to the facility, and have retained a third-party firm to conduct an independent and thorough review.”
The Biden administration is prioritizing the enforcement of existing commitments in trade agreements by the U.S.’s partners. Democrats and American labor unions made strong worker rules and enforcement mechanisms for Mexico a key demand to win their support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that went into force in July. They were concerned that the pact the USMCA replaced was lacking on these provisions.
Pascrell—with colleagues Dan Kildee of Michigan and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon—asked Barra to respond within two weeks.
They wrote Barra that the reported acts at Silao “appear to violate the USMCA, and we expect the U.S. government to aggressively investigate and use all available remedies under the USMCA to effectively address violations and demonstrate publicly that labor rights will be protected.”
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