Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Pascrell, Levin Call for Fair Mexican Labor Elections

Nov 28, 2018
Press Release
Letter to Lighthizer and Acosta highlights the importance of Mexican labor rights to any renegotiated NAFTA

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), the Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, and Representative Sander Levin (D-MI-09) wrote a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging the Trump administration to push the Mexican government to protect the rights of organized labor in Mexico.

“We write as strong advocates for raising working standards in Mexico and using the NAFTA renegotiation to effectively address these issues,” Pascrell and Levin write, in stressing the relationship of Mexican labor rights to depressed wages here in America.

On November 29, 2,741 Mexican workers at the Arneses y Accesorios de plants in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila will vote on union representation. The Pascrell-Levin letter emphasizes the importance of a free and fair election at the plants, in line with the labor reforms being proposed in Mexico.

The plants, owned by PKC Group, supply wiring harnesses to major U.S. automotive manufacturers, and workers there have been fighting to establish a democratic union for more than a decade.  Previous attempts to unionize have been thwarted by PKC colluding with a sham union, the Confederation of Workers of Mexico, or CTM; interfering with union elections; and retaliation against employees attempting to unionize.

“This case is emblematic of Mexico’s longstanding failure to afford workers the democratic right to choose their representatives. Effective enforcement is the key to ensuring the objectives for labor reform in the renegotiated NAFTA or USMCA lead to real change on the ground in Mexico,” the members write, noting that this “is a critical opportunity for Mexico to show that it is serious about guaranteeing the right of Mexican workers to participate in free and fair elections beyond agreeing to or changing words on a page.”

PKC has continued an aggressive anti-union campaign, including the diffusion of anti-union propaganda during working hours, threats to close the plants if independent Los Mineros wins the election, and offers of economic incentives to workers who oppose Los Mineros, in violation of Mexican labor law.

“We ask that you work with the Mexican labor authorities to underscore the importance of this particular election and highlight the critical importance of effectively enforcing workers’ rights to the success of a renegotiated NAFTA,” the members’ letter concludes.

The full letter can be viewed here.

Reps. Pascrell and Levin have been leaders in Congress championing the importance of recognizing Mexican labor to any new NAFTA deal. In February 2018, after the Mexican Labor Minister downplayed Mexican labor issues to NAFTA renegotiation, Pascrell and Levin issued a strong rebuttal, calling Mexican labor rights a “central issue that must be addressed in any rewrite of NAFTA.” They further stated that “[f]ailure by Mexico to stop suppressing its workers’ wages will not only be an obstacle for a new NAFTA, it will be a death knell for any deal passing Congress.”

In January 2018, Reps. Pascrell, Levin, and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) led 180 members of Congress in writing to the Trade Representative demanding that “any new NAFTA must have strong, clear and binding provisions that address Mexico’s labor conditions.”

Rep. Pascrell has long argued that suppressed Mexican wages, created in part by weak labor rights in Mexico, have harmed American workers and driven down wages here in the United States, and called resolution of this problem central to any comprehensive reforming of NAFTA.