GM’s Giant Pickup Factory in Mexico Embroiled in Labor Fight

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General Motors Co.’s truck factory in central Mexico has been dragged into a labor dispute after authorities found irregularities in a workers’ vote on a union contract.

Mexico’s Labor Ministry said it shut down the union-led vote at the Silao, Guanajuato, plant after discovering unused ballots had been destroyed. When it asked the union to deliver for inspection the votes that had already been cast -- about half of the 6,494 unionized workers had voted -- the syndicate refused, according to a preliminary report by the ministry.

The automotive union said in a statement the vote was canceled after authorities couldn’t guarantee appropriate conditions.

GM “regrets the situation, and reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the voting process at the hour or day indicated by the authorities and the union,” according to a company statement.

In negotiating a revised North American free trade accord known as USMCA, Mexico pledged that it would require all unions to hold in-person votes by secret ballot to ensure employees chose their labor contracts freely. Most contracts in Mexico are struck between firms and unions that cozy up to them, without the workers’ knowledge, which has helped keep wages suppressed.

GM’s Mexico-manufactured trucks generate a big chunk of its profits. The labor contract vote brought scrutiny from the United Steelworkers in the U.S., which backed a 40-day strike at GM in 2019, and the U.S. government is watching union votes at Mexico auto plants to see if they comply with the USMCA.

Mexico’s labor minister, Luisa Maria Alcalde, called out the labor union at the GM plant on Friday.

“What happened in Silao? There’s resistance,” she said during a press briefing with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “There are people who don’t understand that they have to respect the rights of workers.”

This is the first time a vote to legitimize a labor contract has been canceled since Mexico passed a labor reform requiring it in 2019, according to the ministry.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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