Mexico Labor upsurge in the auto sector: The top-down ignition point or when structural and institutional power resources act with labor’s limited associational and societal ones.

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Bordeaux (2024)

Abstract:

In Mexico, with the Labor Law Reform of 2019 and the USMCA’ labor chapter of 2020, there have been an unusual upsurge of labor union activities. To understand the meaning of this, it is necessary to keep in mind that in the last half a century the labor movement has become a subdued voice and labor unions have meant a good deal of corruption and manipulation for most workers. That has left a legacy of quite limited associational and societal power resources for labor.

As a result, today’s labor upsurge is not reflected in strikes and stoppages. In contemporary Mexico, and especially throughout this century, strikes have been scant. In the Federal jurisdiction, where the main industries are (including the automobile industry), in 2006 they achieved their peak at 55.[1] Then they were descending until 2014-2015 when they hit zero. In 2022 strikes rose to 12 after hitting 2 in 2021.[2] In the local jurisdiction, in 2021, there were 9 strikes, 10 less than in 2021.[3]

The upsurge of labor in the country comes from the actions taken from above by North American governments under the frame of economic integration and USMCA rules. It has evolved during the legitimation process of collective bargaining agreements (CBA) and the labor complaints placed in the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism -RRLM. Commanded by the NLL to take place over a four-year period, the legitimation process required unions to submit CBA to the review and eventual approval of workers through personal, secret, direct, and free vote.

Under the RRLM has been presented 21 cases (18 in the auto sector) for labor rights violations, particularly for actions affecting labor’s freedom of association and negotiations.

In brief, the labor upsurge in Mexico revolves around institutional and structural power resources.  They have created a window of opportunity for advancing the workers’ agenda.  This paper uses labor’s power resources theory to propose that such labor upsurge in the automotive sector is a mediated one. While it holds the potential to change power dynamics at the workplace level, a mediated labor movement is constrained by its high dependency upon institutional and political factors.

 

[1] It was the result of the state-lead/corporate unionism whose objective was to trade-off control workers and sign protection contracts for money and political positions.

[2] Data from Inegi. “Huelgas estalladas de jurisdicción federal, por entidad federativa de 1999 a 2022.” https://www.inegi.org.mx/app/tabulados/interactivos/?pxq=Laborales_Labor....

[3] This reflects the historical lower strike propensity that remains in Mexico as a distinctive feature of its industrial and labor relations regime. Data from Inegi (junio 2023) “Estadísticas sobre Relaciones Laborales de Jurisdicción Local.” https://www.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/saladeprensa/boletines/2023/RLJL/RLJL2022.pdf

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