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Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Bureau of International Labor Affairs

ILAB Press Release: Labor Department to Review New Freedom of Association Complaint Against Mexico [01/30/1998]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373

The Labor Department's National Administrative Office (NAO) today agreed to review allegations that Mexico failed to enforce its laws protecting the right of workers to organize unions at a U.S. subsidiary's plant in Ciudad de los Reyes. The submission was filed under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), often referred to as the labor side agreement to NAFTA.

"This submission makes serious allegations concerning the protection of freedom of association in Mexico," said NAO Secretary Irasema Garza. "Freedom of association is the first of 11 labor principles to which the NAFTA signatory countries commit themselves, and we intend to conduct a thorough review."

The events giving rise to the submission occurred at the ITAPSA export processing plant in Ciudad de los Reyes in the State of Mexico. The submitters allege that when workers at the facility attempted to organize an independent union, they faced intimidation and harassment from the company and the existing union, the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), including threats of physical violence and job loss. Workers at the plant were concerned about poor safety and health conditions. Approximately 50 workers reportedly have been fired for supporting the union.

At a representation election held on Sept. 9, 1997, the submitters allege that the company brought in approximately 170 armed thugs to intimidate the workers. It is claimed that one worker was beaten, others were physically threatened and women workers were threatened with rape. Also, the submitters allege that access to voting was denied to many supporters of the independent union, the credentials of CTM supporters were not examined and the vote was by open rather than secret ballots. According to the submitters, the Conciliation and Arbitration Board (CAB), which was overseeing the election, refused to suspend the election in spite of the clear atmosphere of intimidation and other irregularities.

According to the information in the submission, ITAPSA is a subsidiary of Echlin Inc., a U.S. corporation with headquarters in Bradford, Conn. Echlin has 10 plants in Mexico, including the ITAPSA plant. The ITAPSA facility manufactures auto parts and employs approximately 350 people. It exports parts to the United States, Canada, Europe and South America.

The submission, designated 9703, was filed by the Echlin Workers Alliance, a group of unions from the United States and Canada, which includes the Teamsters; the Canadian Auto Workers; the Union of Needletrades and Industrial Textile Employees (UNITE); the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America; the United Paperworkers International Union; and the United Steelworkers of America. Twenty-four other organizations, including non-governmental organizations, human rights groups and labor unions from the three NAFTA countries are cited as concerned organizations in the submission.

This is the ninth submission against Mexico that has been filed under the labor side agreement. The NAO has up to 180 days to review the case and issue a public report.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Bureau of International Labor Affairs
January 30, 1998
Media Contact: David Roberts
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