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April 02, 2003

Mexican Labor Law Reform- Two Visions

As this special issue of Mexican Labor News & Analysis details, Mexico is debating two radical labor law reform directions.

Long dominated by old corrupt government unions tied to the former PRI establishment, workers in Mexico had little freedom to organize and advocate on their own behalf.

President Vincente Fox, former CEO of Coca Cola in Mexico, and his PAN party is putting forth one reform that would just institutionalize that suffocation of independent unions and worker power, while introducing pro-business "flexibility" into the workplace. So you'd end up with no real right to organize but even greater corporate power to exploit Mexican workers.

But the leftwing PRD is putting forth another alternative:

The most profound structural changes strike at the heart of the corporativist system and entail the elimination of the Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration and their replacement with federal labor judges, the creation of an independent public registry of labor unions and contracts (along the lines of the electoral commission) with responsibility for conducting elections, and a prohibition that unions may not "require their members to join or leave any party or political group or to pressure them to vote for a particular candidate in the public elections."

The proposal also includes detailed provisions designed to protect the right of workers to associate freely, providing for a secret ballot in all representation matters and union procedures (i.e., on contracts and in union elections); prohibiting both employer and government intervention in union affairs; freeing unions to determine what types of workers should be included in the union; requiring employers to make visible in the workplace and to distribute the text of collective bargaining agreements as well as wage tables to counter the practice of protection contracts; requiring unions to make the same information available, as well as financial information; and prohibiting employers from firing or disciplining workers for exercising their labor rights including voting for or against contract ratification or for any union during a representation election

I urge people to read this article in depth. The harms of NAFTA are largely driven by the fact that weak labor rights on both sides of the border allow companies to pit workers against one another.

A strengthening of labor rights in Mexico (as would be true with better laws in the US) is key to making trade between our countries a force for bettering the lives of workers, not just padding the profits of multinationals.

Posted by Nathan at April 2, 2003 12:33 PM

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Nathan, perhaps you could give some context about the requirement that unions not "pressure their members to vote for one political party or another". After all, we keep beating back paycheck protection initiatives in the States so that we can *organize* our membership to vote for one candidate over another. I have some anecdotal knowledge about the uselessness of PRI unions, and I trust the PRD more than them, but as a unionist first and a Dem second (or fifth), I need some reassurance that a few steps down the road, this doesn't weaken unions overall.

Posted by: Josh at April 2, 2003 03:53 PM

That provision is a legacy of one-party state control and the corporatist workplace structures in Mexico. "Pressure" in this context does not mean doing persistent phone calling to union members-- it means threatening them with loss of their jobs if they don't vote the company/union line in a local or national election.

Paycheck protection is a whole separate issue from controlling actual voting. Only in the US, where corporations use billions of unwilling consumer and shareholder funds for political activity, would so much focus be on labor union political spending.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at April 2, 2003 04:08 PM

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