Reuters | 4 September 2020
AFL-CIO chief says union to file labor complaint under USMCA this month
by David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The AFL-CIO is planning to file labor complaints against Mexico this month under the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement’s labor enforcement mechanism, the U.S. union’s president said on Thursday.
Richard Trumka, speaking during a virtual event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said one of the cases would come under the “Facility-Specific Rapid Response Labor Mechanism” that could halt exports from individual factories found in violation of labor rights provisions.
He said the AFL-CIO is working with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office on the complaints and is gathering information about the arrest and detention of Mexican labor attorney and activist Susana Prieto in the northern industrial state of Tamaulipas and harassment of other labor organizers.
Prieto, who last year helped organize unprecedented strikes at several dozen manufacturing plants, was arrested in the border city of Matamoros in June and charged with threats, inciting a riot, coercion and crimes against public servants.
She denied the charges and was released on July 1, the day the USMCA took effect. But a judge banned her from entering Tamaulipas, home to dozens of factories in the U.S.-Mexico supply chain.
Trumka said the ban for Prieto, along with harassment of other labor organizers in the same state, shows that complying with USMCA labor standards “is not going to be easy.”
“We have tremendous concerns with Mexico’s ability to enforce their laws,” Trumka said.
He did not provide details on the specific claims to be made in the cases, which would likely be the first under the agreement’s new mechanism.
“We think when we do the rapid response (case) and if we’re able to block products from coming in, it will get their attention real fast and they will understand that they will have to change and comply with the law,” Trumka said.
A USTR spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Trumka’s remarks.
Trumka also said he was concerned that U.S. Labor Department has been slow to disburse funds agreed upon in the USMCA deal to help Mexico strengthen its labor enforcement capacity.
The tougher labor enforcement standards were demanded by Democrats in the U.S. Congress in late 2019 to secure approval of the trade deal, which replaced the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.