The end of “charro” unionism

Note published on August 26 in Efekto 10, Opinión [Opinion] Section by Ricardo Morales.
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A key decision in the life of unionism in Mexico went by almost completely unnoticed; however, it will be fundamental in the life of workers in our country.

Last August 18 an unprecedented vote was conducted by the Miguel Trujillo López union, which lost the certification for handling the collective bargaining agreement of the General Motors automotive plant, registering 55 percent votes against; a process that is a sign of the new union reality.

It should not go unnoticed by anyone that the workers from the General Motors automotive plant in Silao, Guanajuato, voted for the first time in a personal, direct and secret manner, as required by the 2019 labor reform and the chapter on labor of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and rejected the collective bargaining agreement led by the “Miguel Trujillo López” Union, affiliated to the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).

This hard setback against the CTM must be translated as the beginning of the end of “charro” [protection] unionism, which has always been at the service of the companies, and not of the workers, and it marks a milestone in the subject of freedom of association, included in the Constitution, but which was made effective very few times in reality.

It is worth noting that the voting process lasted for 34 continuous hours and took place peacefully; 2 thousand 623 workers voted “yes” compared to 3 thousand 214 who voted “no” and there were 39 null votes, “as a result of  which the collective bargaining agreement will be terminated, I reiterate, a hard blow against the CTM and its “charro”  and “agachón” unionism [protection and white unionism].

It must be noted that the  process was monitored at all times by personnel from the Department of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), observers from the National Electoral Institute (INE) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) as part of the Remediation agreement as a result of to the complaint filed by the United States government against Mexico under the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism, delivered on May 11 and June 21.

The foregoing due to the irregularities detected in the first voting process held in April of this year, in which the CTM Union headed by Tereso Medina did not guarantee the freedom of the workers to issue their vote and comply with the legitimation of the agreement as established in the Federal Labor Law, the term for which ends in May, 2023.

General Motors announced in a communication that “[it] reiterates that it will respect the result of this process and that the benefits and perks of the workers will remain in force. Therefore, GM Silao will continue its operations under the conditions of the collective bargaining agreement while a new one is negotiated and approved by a majority of votes.”

After this event, several analysts like Germán de la Garza de Vecchi, partner of Labor Services at Deloitte México, said that “this vote is a sample of what collective labor relationships will be like in the country and they reflect a new reality, in which it is clear that workers will be the ones to decide.” What comes next, explained Óscar de la Vega, founding partner of the D&M Abogados Firm, is that once the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board notifies the dissolution of the collective bargaining agreement, interested unions may call to strike in order to be certified for entering into the agreement

The result obtained at Silao is particularly relevant for unions that belong to the CTM, but it also raises alarms in other companies, as workers that are unsatisfied with the organization that represents them in negotiations with the companies may now resort to the American or Canadian authorities to report abuse. Also on Wednesday 18 of this month, in an independent event, the Volkswagen automotive company agreed, with the Puebla union, to a salary increase of 5.5 percent and an increase of 1% to its contributions to its workers’ savings fund.

The Silao case is the second case of inconformity by the Administration of President Joe Biden, which has increased tension between the two countries in relation to the USMCA. The Tridonex company, in Matamoros (Tamaulipas), was forced to indemnify 154 workers that were terminated as well as to guarantee freedom of association for workers, among other actions, after the United States denounced corruption and abuse by the union. The Department of Economy has expressed, for its part, unconformity with the interpretation that the United States is making of the rules of origin negotiated in 2018.

Labor rules in Mexico have simply changed as a result of Silao and of the workers of General Motors de México.

As the old saying goes: “Forewarned is forearmed.” Whoever understood, understood.