Trade unions in Mexico filed the first case against a garment factory through the US-Mexico Rapid Response Labor Mechanism for alleged freedom of association and collective bargaining violations. Previous complaints have all involved the auto and mining sectors.
About the case
- On 12 June, the US Government requested the Government of Mexico to investigate a complaint related to alleged freedom of association and collective bargaining violations at the INISA 2000 Aguascalientes garment factory in Mexico.
- The case was raised under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Rapid Response Labor Mechanism. The Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (the Mechanism) is a grievance mechanism within the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that allows either the US or Mexico to raise a complaint if they believe that workers are being denied the rights of free association or collective bargaining at a facility in either country.
- The case was initially brought to the US Government by trade unions Frente Auténtico del Trabajo and the Sindicato de Industrias del Interior. The case alleges that the garment factory:
- Intervened in internal union activities
- Discouraged workers from attending union assemblies
- Coerced workers to accept the terms of a collective bargaining agreement proposed by the company.
- Following the filing of the trade union complaint, the US Government conducted an investigation and found enough credible evidence of coercion and interference by the company to invoke the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism. The Government of Mexico has 10 days to decide whether to conduct a review and 45 days to investigate the claims and present its findings.
- The INISA 2000 Aguascalientes facility is a sewing operator that is part of a larger production chain for denim. Approximately 95 % of its production is exported to the US and the facility employs approximately 700 workers. It is a wholly owned family business based out of Kentucky, US. The factory is not listed on Open Supply Hub.
About the USMCA
- The USMCA is a trade agreement ratified in 2020 between the United States, Mexico and Canada that includes enforceable labour obligations. It requires parties to adopt and implement labour rights standards in-line with the ILO Declaration on Rights at Work, including the right to freedom of association. It also contains an Annex on-Worker Representation in Collective Bargaining in Mexico, that outlines legislative measures to ensure this right.
- The Rapid Response Labor Mechanism is a grievance mechanism within the trade agreement specifically focused on the rights to freedom of association or collective bargaining. If a complaint is raised against a facility through the mechanism, the government that raised the complaint can delay final settlement of customs accounts for the import of goods from the facility.
- Complaints filed under the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism have a track record of being successfully resolved. Previous cases were all resolved within months of being filed and, where applicable, contained financial compensation covering back pay and severance pay.
- This is the tenth case to be filed under the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism since the trade agreement came into force in 2020.
- Six out of a total of 11 cases under the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism have been in 2023. We can expect civil society organisations to increasingly use these mechanisms going forward.