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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Bureau of International Labor Affairs

ILAB Press Release: Statement by Irasema Garza Secretary of the U.S. National Administrative Office Public Hearing on Allegations that Mexico Failed to Enforce its Labor Laws at Plant of U.S. Subsidiary Corporation in Mexico [03/23/1998]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373

Good morning and thank you for being here so early in the morning.

I am Irasema Garza, Secretary of the U.S. National Administrative Office, and I will conduct today's hearing.

The purpose of the hearing is to gather information for the NAO's review of a complaint concerning lack of enforcement of labor laws in Mexico. The events giving rise to the submission occurred at the ITAPSA export processing plant in Ciudad de los Reyes in the State of Mexico. ITAPSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Echlin Inc. of Branford, Conn. 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.

Specifically, the submission alleges that Mexico failed to enforce its laws protecting the right of workers to organize unions and ensuring workers' safety and health. The submission was filed under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), often referred to as the labor supplemental agreement to NAFTA.

Under the NAALC, the United States, Canada and Mexico commit themselves to the enforcement of their own labor laws and agree to promote 11 fundamental labor principles, including freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively and the prevention of occupational illnesses and injuries.

This is the ninth submission the U.S. NAO has accepted for review.

The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation ensures that labor rights and enforcement of those rights is an obligation under an international trade agreement. This is the first time the United States has executed an international trade agreement which includes core labor standards.

The NAALC does not provide for the adjudication of individual cases. None of the three signatory countries surrendered any sovereignty under the agreement, and the agreement does not supersede domestic labor law. This review process, however, does provide oversight for monitoring enforcement of labor laws in each country, which leads to public debate, international scrutiny and transparency. Your presence here today and the overall media coverage of NAO activities attest to that.

In regard to Mexico, the NAO review process under the agreement has contributed to an unprecedented level of scrutiny of Mexican labor law and has added significantly to debates already occurring within Mexican society. Since the agreement went into effect, there have been a number of significant developments on labor issues in Mexico:

  • Two Mexican Supreme Court decisions and one Appeals Court decision have been issued which should favor the right of workers in Mexico to organize into the unions of their choice.
  • Policy guidelines adopted by the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare have been issued to improve implementation of labor law in Mexico.
  • The Government of Mexico has earmarked significant additional financial resources to labor law enforcement activities.
  • International public scrutiny can provide a bully pulpit. The U.S. NAO has information that a number of labor disputes in Mexico have been settled because the companies involved did not want to be subjected to the publicity resulting from a review.

In short, the NAO process is working.

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

Agency
Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Date
March 23, 1998
Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number