GM workers in Mexico choose an independent union, a test case for a trade deal.

Workers at one of General Motors’ largest plants in Mexico voted on Thursday to adopt an independent union in what was seen as an import...

Workers at one of General Motors’ largest plants in Mexico voted on Thursday to adopt an independent union in what was seen as an important test of whether new North American trade rules can improve working conditions and eradicate corruption in the Mexican labor system.

The union, called the Independent National Union of Auto Workers, won 78% of the votes cast at the Silao plant, where more than 6,000 workers assemble Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. The vote ousted the Confederation of Mexican Workers, which had held the contract for 25 years.

Workers at the Silao factory initially earn less than $9 a day, and described harsh working conditions. Employees said they were often denied breaks and rarely offered raises.

Mexico has pledged to make sweeping changes to its labor laws and legal system under the new U.S.-Canada agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement. The new agreement was intended to make it easier for independent unions to challenge incumbents and required companies operating in Mexico to review hundreds of thousands of existing contracts in independent elections.

Democrats hailed the reforms as one of the pact’s most significant changes, saying they would help level the playing field between workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Union leaders hoped the vote at the GM plant would presage changes at other plants in Mexico, where existing unions have been accused of colluding with company management to keep wages low.

Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO President, said in a statement that the election “set a hard-earned precedent and only came after workers voted to reject a previous contract that had weak benefits and been negotiated without the contribution of the workers”.

“Workers overcame crude intimidation and election interference, and their triumph is an example of what happens when workers stand together. This vote represents a rejection of the past and a new era for the right of Mexican workers to associate freely,” she said.

US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh released a statement expressing support for the vote.

“As workers, we are stronger when we can speak with one voice – and we are stronger when our colleagues around the world can do the same,” he said. “The work of defending freedom of association never stops, but this historic election shows us that we can make progress towards the right of all workers to associate freely when we work together.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: GM workers in Mexico choose an independent union, a test case for a trade deal.
GM workers in Mexico choose an independent union, a test case for a trade deal.
Newsrust - US Top News
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