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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Bureau of International Labor Affairs

ILAB Press Release: U.S. and Mexican Labor Secretaries to Consult on Pregnancy Discrimination [10/26/1998]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373 ext. 4

Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman and Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare Jos‚ Antonio Gonzlez Fernndez have agreed to carry out ministerial consultations on labor law dealing with women in the workplace in the United States and Mexico. Canadian Minister of Labour Lawrence A. MacAulay endorsed the agreement and commited Canada to participate in the consultations process.

"My discussions with Secretary Gonzlez were very constructive," Secretary Herman said. "I am pleased that we share a commitment to enforce the rights of women workers. I am confident that we will make meaningful progress in these ministerial consultations."

The call for ministerial consultations resulted from a review of allegations submitted under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), often referred to as the NAFTA labor side agreement. The allegations were filed in 1997 by three human rights groups -- Human Rights Watch, the International Labor Rights Fund and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers of Mexico. They contend that maquiladora employers in Mexico frequently require pregnancy tests for female job applicants; that some employers mistreat or discharge pregnant employees; and that Mexico does not enforce its own laws or provide access to labor tribunals or recourse to other protections.

The U.S. National Administrative Office (NAO), which oversees the NAALC, conducted public hearings on the case in 1997 and issued a report early in 1998 recommending that ministerial consultations be held to address the issue. The agreement on consultations was negotiated earlier this month during a recent meeting of the three labor secretaries in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and signed on Oct. 21 while the three were attending a meeting of hemispheric labor ministers in Vi¤a del Mar, Chile.

The consultations agreement commits the parties to designate representatives to meet and confer on the issues raised in the submission and to conduct a conference, open to the public, on government mechanisms in the three countries that protect the rights of working women. The U.S. and Mexico also agreed to conduct information and outreach sessions near the U.S. - Mexico border to disseminate information on the rights and protections afforded women workers of both countries.

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

Bureau of International Labor Affairs
October 26, 1998
Media Contact: David Roberts
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