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Mexican Union Threatens Strike at Home Depot

The union says they were inspired to take action after the USMCA negotiations

Brian Young's picture
Jan 17, 2020

One of the reasons that labor groups like the AFL-CIO supported the USMCA trade deal was because of the strong labor standards in the agreement. At the time AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka touted the historic “enforceable labor standards-including a process that allows for the inspections of factories and facilities that are not living up to their standards.”

In the deal, a major sticking point was labor rights in Mexico. While wages in the United States and Canada are similar, US companies in Mexico were paying significantly less. Provisions establishing a wage floor for automobile parts made in Mexico and greater oversight for unions and labor groups allowed Democrats like Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown to support the deal.

Now workers in Mexico say that they are inspired by the labor provisions and are threatening to strike unless a major US retailer becomes USMCA compliant. The union, Revolutionary Confederation of Laborers and Farmworkers, or CROC are threatening to strike next week unless Home Depot increases wages by 20%, and begins providing benefits such as 20 annual vacation days and more contributions towards transportation, school supplies, food and savings funds. The union is also demanding an end to discrimination, sexual harassment, and unfair dismissals. According to CROC, there are 6,200 workers at Home Depot that are working under a union contract. At Home Depot, CROC has 40 collective bargaining agreements and represents workers in 18 of the country’s 32 states.

“We called for a strike due to worker rights violations and to review the collective labor contract,” CROC Secretary-General Isaias Gonzalez told Reuters. Gonzalez went on to tell Reuters that their demands were similar to the ones the CROC gave to Walmart last March. CROC and Walmart reached a deal to avert a strike.

“Now is the time to act, because we now have the new labor law, we have USMCA, and we can’t be held to the terms of companies that resist,” Gonzalez said. “They’re used to protection contracts. But that ended with the new labor law.”

In Mexico many businesses are union-workplaces, but most have cozy relationships between management and the union. Some reports have even found that as many as 9 in 10 workplaces have “unions” formed by employers, not the workers. These unions exist only on paper and sign a “collective” contract that benefits the bosses. "They are paper unions - ghosts - because legally they exist, they cover all the legal requisites, but the workers aren't included in the process," labor expert Maria Xelhuantzi Lopez said in an interview with Al-Jazeera. "Experts agree that 90 percent of the unions in the country (follow this model).”

CROC hopes that through their advocacy and through new protections in the USMCA, workers will become more militant and willing to stand up for their rights in the workplace, ending the decades of employer-unions.

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