With Biden, greater pressure and surveillance on the Mexican labor market are foreseen

Note published in Factor Capital Humano, Leyes y Gobierno [Laws and Government] section by Gerardo Hernández and Blanca Juárez.
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A government headed by the Democrats in the United States would place a greater emphasis on the surveillance of compliance with the labor commitments assumed by Mexico within the framework of the USMCA.

The possible arrival of Joe Biden to the White House will have implications for Mexico, and the world of labor will not be the exception. Specialists believe that, with the Democrat as President of the United States, the Mexican labor market will be under greater pressure and surveillance in regard to compliance with the commitments acquired as part of the USMCA.

The Democratic party, which now has Joe Bidden with one foot in the presidency of the American Union, was the main driver of the labor agenda within the trade agreement. The increases to the minimum wage, the labor reform (including union democracy and the new justice system), the eradication of forced labor and the fight against discrimination and violence are some of the points demanded by US congressmen in the signing of the Agreement.

And, although the virtual change of command in the United States government would not bring with it greater commitments from Mexico in labor matters, a scenario of greater vigilance of the new rules signed by the country could be expected, specialists agree.

“The trade agreement is of vital importance for them, and they will surely be tightening the screws on the topic of compliance with labor agreements in our country. There may be a strengthening of the labor policy in terms of vigilance”, in the opinion of Manuel Fuentes Muñiz, an academic at the Universidad Autónoma de México (UAM).

The labor lawyer is confident that surveillance by the neighboring country in regard to compliance with the new labor rules will also cover the maquila industry. “They have been absent from compliance with labor regulations.”

Trade agreements must be complied with regardless of who governs, because they are commitments made between States, says Juan Carlos Calleros, a specialist in Foreign Policy at the Universidad La Salle’s Law School. The academic discards the possibility of a demand to increase the commitments; however, monitoring and supervision mechanisms could be strengthened.

“A greater emphasis on tracking and the enforcement of specific chapters of the agreement or a certain emphasis on monitoring, applying pressure if necessary, for the stricter compliance of others could be expected”, states Calleros.

In 2019, the Democrats, with their majority in the House of Representatives, were very emphatic that, without a labor reform in Mexico, there would be no USMCA. Subsequently, and during its implementation, they have specifically focused on compliance with the new rules of union democracy and labor justice.

Surveillance in national territory

In order to ensure that Mexico complies with its commitments on labor matters, the United States will have five labor attachés at their embassy in our country.

This matter caused controversy at first, because the concept of these officials was not agreed upon in the USMCA and was only based on a local law of the neighboring country. The Mexican government rejected that the officials, also known as “labor inspectors”, were to have the power to act in the country. In the end, the United States will have the labor attachés, but they will not have the power to carry out inspections in companies,

Alfonso Bouzas, researcher at the Institute of Economic Research at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), believes that a Democratic government in the United States will not mean more “padlocks” on labor matters for Mexico.

“I do not foresee that it will either worsen or benefit by it, we are in the process of transforming labor relationships, with an important role in the definition by the United States upon the signature of the USMCA. The scenario, in that regard is very similar”, states Bouzas , who is also coordinator of the Citizen Observatory of the Labor Reform

The pressure has always existed, underlines Alfonso Bouzas. “Pressure has been at its maximum ever since the USMCA was made conditional to the labor reform; there has been permanent surveillance since then. In that regard, they could not apply more pressure. The surveillance mechanisms are already in place and in operation” added the coordinator of the Citizen Observatory of the Labor Reform.

Pressure on unions

With the virtual triumph of Joe Biden, the labor issue in Mexico will be a recurrent theme, says Oscar de la Vega, legal advisor to various multinational companies. “We must not forget that Kamala Harris, who will be the Vice-president, voted against the USMCA and wants the labor agreements to be reopened,” recalls the specialist in labor law.

The change of administration in the United States will not only activate the labor issue for the Mexican government, but also for the unions in our country. De la Vega predicts greater pressure “than the one we were placed under in the past” in regard to union democratization; in other words, union groups in Mexico “will have to be truly representative. Protection unions are finished”.

Unions are very important for the Democratic party in the American Union, as they have been important promoters of votes, he recalls. These union groups carried great weight in the negotiation of Chapter 23 and its annex, as well as in Chapter 31, which deals with conflict solutions.

What we will see, he says, is a strengthening of the “already heavy” infrastructure of the labor panels. And a greater activity of the US unions in Mexico, particularly in industries that are important to them: automotive, auto parts, call centers, electronics. mining and aluminum, among others.