Mexico, U.S. close VU Manufacturing complaint in fifth USMCA labor probe

Business

Mexico and the United States have resolved the latest in a series of labor complaints under a regional trade pact, saying on Wednesday that workers at auto-parts plant VU Manufacturing in northern Mexico were able to elect the union of their choice.

U.S. officials in July called for a probe under the 2020 United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the fifth such case aiming to improve workplace conditions in Mexico, after activists alleged the company interfered in workers’ efforts to select their union.

Michigan-based VU Manufacturing, whose factory in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras produces interior car parts including arm-rests and door upholstery, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

U.S. labor officials said the Mexican government educated workers and trained management to ensure a fair union election on Aug. 31, including asking the company to issue a statement vowing to stay neutral.

The Mexican government also requested vote observers from Mexico’s electoral institute and the United Nations-backed International Labor Organization.

Workers ultimately elected an independent union, La Liga Sindical Obrera Mexicana, which will negotiate the plant’s first collective contract, covering some 400 people.

“Workers at Manufacturas VU Auto Components facility now have a union – chosen through a fair election – with whom they are consulting as they prepare for negotiations,” U.S. Labor Minister Marty Walsh said in a statement.

Their rights to free association and collective bargaining had previously been denied, the statement added.

Mexico’s economy and labor ministries said the peaceful vote ensured workers could elect the group they believed would best represent their interests, and officials would continue monitoring worker rights at the factory.

Previous USMCA labor complaints led to probes at Mexican plants owned by companies including carmakers General Motors and Stellantis.