Senior Manager, Employment Policy
August 16, 2021
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)announcedon August 10, 2021, that the U.S. and Tridonex agreed to a course of remediation in response to a labor complaint filed against the auto parts manufacturer in May. This is the second labor complaint to be remediated using the United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM).
The petition was initially filed by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Public Citizen, andSindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS), a Mexican autoworkers union. As detailed in aprevious post, the groups alleged that the facility’s workers were denied their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Following the petition, the U.S. triggered the RRM and requested that Mexico review the complaint. Mexico then responded to the U.S. on July 24, 2021, but that response has yet to be made public.
The agreement requires Tridonex toProvide at least $600,000 worth of severance and back pay to more than 154 workers who previously worked for the facility but were allegedly fired for attempting to unionize with SNITIS. The agreement also stipulates that Tridonex remain neutral in any future union elections. Under Mexican labor law, neutrality can simply refer to the employer not supporting one union over another when two are competing for representation. It is not currently clear if the neutrality agreement refers to Mexico’s definition, or the much stricter understanding of the term as it is used in the United States, where an employer agrees to not campaign against a union at all.
Additional provisions of the agreement include that Tridonex ensure union votes can take place without harassment or coercion, train employees on their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and maintain a hotline for workers to report any future violation of rights. The agreement also mandates that Tridonex prioritize workers’ safety by strengthening COVID-19 safety protocols and financially supporting employees who are unable to work if they are exposed to or diagnosed with the virus. Finally, Mexico agreed to monitor future votes at the facility and investigate any future claims of violations of rights.
Cardone, Tridonex’s parent company which is based in the U.S., released a statement following the USTR’s announcement. Cardone endorsed the agreement and committed to protecting labor rights. Importantly, the company reiterated that agreeing to the remediation was not an admission of fault or liability and maintains that the company does not believe a denial of rights occurred.
The utilization of the RRM continues to be precedent-setting. So far, the courses of remediation focus on ensuring that workers can exercise their right to organize while employers remain neutral. It also seems that the prominent remediation is a direct response to the initial allegation, whether it be a new union vote or monetary compensation. While not yet used, incredibly severe ramifications for labor violations are still possible, such as steep tariffs or the denial of entry of goods. The GM and Tridonex remedies are onerous, no doubt, but perhaps the avoidance of an RRM panel for the second time is a silver lining.