The Biden administration on Wednesday asked Mexico to evaluate alleged labor rights violations at a General Motors pickup truck factory in the country, a move that could lead to tariffs on some of the automaker’s most profitable vehicles under the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that her agency and the U.S. Department of Labor have got “information appearing to indicate serious violations” of worker rights in an April union contract vote at the automaker’s Silao factory in central Mexico.
The request for review marks the first time any nation has used the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism in USMCA, which permits countries to target labor rights violations at particular factories. Tai helped negotiate the labor enforcement mechanism on behalf of Democrats in the U.S. Congress.
Mexico’s labor ministry on Tuesday said it discovered serious irregularities in the union-led worker vote at the automaker’s factory and ordered a new vote to be held under 30 days.
The Mexican ministry’s decision followed pressure from U.S. lawmakers on GM after some Mexican officials had said some ballots were destructed during the vote, which was aimed for the Silao plant’s 6,000 union workers to ratify their labor contract.
A key U.S. goal for the USMCA, negotiated by the Trump administration, was to strengthen Mexican unions to help drive up wages and slow the migration of U.S. auto production to Mexico. GM won major changes to USMCA that enabled it to continue to build hundreds of thousands of high-profit pickups in Mexico for export to the United States yearly.
In a statement, Tai praised Mexico “for stepping in to suspend the vote when it became aware of voting irregularities” and said the American action will complement the country’s efforts to ensure that these employees can fully exercise their collective bargaining rights.
Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat and staunch union advocate, has praised the Biden administration for quickly acting on “reported acts of bullying” of workers at the automaker’s plant.