Mexican laborers’ vote on future of collective bargaining agreement at Silao General Motors’ plant is a win for labor protections
WASHINGTON, DC – On Aug. 18, workers at the General Motors’ Silao plant in Mexico voted to reject a proposed collective bargaining agreement, an action heralded as a win for the labor protections built into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The vote comes as a result of a first-of-its-kind comprehensive plan to remediate a past denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for the workers at the plant, when irregularities were identified in an April 2021 collective bargaining legitimization vote.
A result of the first self-initiated petition under USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism, the plan laid out steps to ensure workers at the facility were able to participate in a vote on their collective bargaining agreement free of interference. Mexican labor inspectors and observers from the International Labor Organization were at GM’s facilities in Silao two weeks prior to the vote and during the vote itself to ensure a fair process.
The Rapid Response Mechanism under the USMCA allows the U.S. to take expedited enforcement actions based on the actions of individual factories in Mexico that fail to comply with domestic freedom of association and collective bargaining laws.
“Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh fought hard for this result. Now, thanks to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement labor protections, the workers at the General Motors’ Silao plant are able to exercise their voice in determining the future of their collective bargaining agreement,” said Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee. “This is an example of successful collaboration between the department, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the government of Mexico. The U.S. government remains committed to working with the Mexican government to make sure our trade policies work for workers.”
Nearly 6,000 workers voted during a period of 34 hours, and 2,623 voted yes for the collective bargaining agreement while 3,214 voted no. The “no" vote winning the majority of support means the current collective bargaining agreement will be nullified, and there will likely be a process set into motion for workers to choose the union they would like to represent them. The Mexican labor inspectorate now has 20 working days to review and certify results.
The second phase of Mexico’s historic labor reform starts on Oct. 1 in 13 states, including Guanajuato, which contains GM’s Silao facility. Unions in Mexico need to legitimize all collective bargaining agreements by May 2023. Given the enormity of this task and importance to advancing union democracy, the GM Silao process serves as a good case study and provides critical information for Mexico to strengthen policies like the collective bargaining agreement legitimation protocol that are key to elevating worker voices.