Labor reform and T-MEC, the reagents after the new union effervescence in the country

It is not that before there were no trade union movements for democratization or emancipation, it is that most were extinguished at the first spark. Researchers and union leaders agree on this idea and that the labor reform reactivated the union effervescence in recent years.

Since 2019, the formation of new unions, the fall of old leaders, the possibility of strikes in unthinkable sectors, as well as increased international surveillance, mainly from the United States, have been constant. Although not all leaders agree that the new model of labor and trade union justice be the best.

The Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC), which is actually the antecedent of the reform, is also influencing Mexican trade unionism. The sample is the three labor complaints filed in less than a year by the United States for possible violation of the rights of free union association at the General Motors plants in Silao, Guanajuato; from Tridonex, in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and from Panasonic, in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, all of them from the automotive sector.

We are living in “unprecedented times,” Luisa María Alcalde Luján, head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), said a few days ago on a tour of Nuevo León. The reform revolutionized the relationship between unions, workers Y governmenthe pointed.

But in this new scenario there are those who do not know where to stand. “At least in General Motors (GM) Silao, it is the company that is having a hard time adapting and negotiating, now yes, with the workers”, says Alejandra Morales, leader of the National Independent Union of Workers of the Automotive Industry (SYNTHIA).

That organization emerged after the reform. They began by rejecting the legitimacy of their Collective Labor Agreement (CCT), whose ownership was in a union affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). Such a process did not exist and not all unions are passing the test.

SINTTIA is now the contract holder in Silao, in April it was about to go on strike, but in the end it achieved most of its petition sheet.

“The GM Silao thing was more political,” says Ángel Celorio Guevara, national legal coordinator of the CTM. Since Donald Trump’s administration, a movement arose so that capital would stay in the United States and not come to Mexico, and it was pointed out that “here unions They don’t protect workers.

In Silao, the staff repudiated their local union “because of the poison they spread everywhere against the CTM.” The same thing happened in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, “with the 20/30 Movement,” he says.

In Matamoros, in 2019, after strikes in several maquilas, the Independent National Union of Industrial and Service Workers (SNITIS) was formed. In addition to the plant Tridonexalready won the ownership of the collective agreement at Panasonic.

Last Wednesday, the Labor and Social Welfare Commission of the Chamber of Deputies approved a reform ruling to sanction companies that hinder the formation of minority or independent unions. The proposal is from Deputy Susana Prieto (Morena), a lawyer and co-founder of SNITIS.

The challenge of the new unions

The “work peace” that the PRI governments presumed hid the repression, says Cirila Quintero, an academic at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Colef) and a student of labor movements. But the maquiladoras, the automotive, mining and railway industries, among others, formed a great resistance against the control of the State and the companies, she emphasizes.

“At the end of the 1980s, with the neoliberal project, the influence of the State decreased and that of capital increased. The competitive advantage for the country was the cheap labor and the unions could not prevent it. That and the lack of democracy detracted from the image” of the trade union organizations, says Francisco Hernández Juárez, general secretary of the Telephone Operators Union of the Mexican Republic (STRM) since 1976.

The pandemic arrived and “the unions sank into inactivity,” considers Pedro Villegas, director of the National Center for Social Promotion (Cenpros). This association is dedicated to union training.

They had been dealing with the labor reform of a year before, so, in the crisis, “they were contributors to the situation. They couldn’t win new rights”, but moderately preserve the cattle and, above all, maintain the sources of employment, he adds.

With the reform to Federal Labor Law (LFT) of 2019, “workers have more tools to choose which union we want to represent us or form a new one,” says Alejandra Morales, general secretary of SINTTIA.

“Right now, unions they are more necessary and if they do not exist, they must be founded”, points out Pedro Villegas. But if they want to distinguish themselves and survive, they must “develop class consciousness and political consciousness, moving away from the old system. Only those who inform, train and organize will be successful”.

But for Cirila Quintero, “the labor reform was built from above, so, “the balance is still in favor of the employers.” The young organizations are facing old structures and interests and “not all the leaders have experience or do not have grassroots work. How will they add those who wanted to be with the old union?

By generalizing the act of unions your achievements have been deleted; worse, she has pushed people away, says Cirila Quintero. “You can not make a clean slate, what is needed is to reconfigure the current system, which has been very leaders.”

“If credibility is not recovered, it will be difficult to increase membership and it will not be possible to strengthen trade unionism,” says Francisco Hernández Juárez. currently only one in 10 working people is affiliated to a union, according to the Dignified Work Observatory, for which the majority is in a greater labor defenselessness.

The professionals of the morning, as Ángel Celorio qualifies them, have left them “a terrible reputation”. Although “I cannot deny that some (cetemist leaders) engage in evil, selling license plates and extorting companies.”

But because of the CTM, and other centers, “there is the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), Infonavit, collective agreements with decent salaries, and even the fact that the conciliation and arbitration boards were tripartite, something with which the labor reform ended”.

Guild relays in sight

The labor reform of 2019 It has been “the best of the last 100 years,” says Francisco Hernández. It was promoted in the government of Enrique Peña “for the interest of entering the Trans-Pacific Agreement for Economic Cooperation”, which in the end was frustrated, and for the T-MEC. “If it weren’t for the fact that the people voted for this government” the reform would not have been completed, he considers.

“The new federal government respects trade unionism, it has no preference, at least clearly,” says CETEMist Ángel Celorio. However, he does not agree that the reform was the best because it was not continued with the tripartite sense.

“The guardianship of the worker passed to the Judiciary as it is the one that resolves the controversies.” With the progressive disappearance of the conciliation boards and the new model of conciliation centers, the unions are left out, he laments.

For Pedro Villegas, the reform by itself will not create democracy, but “it sets the tone for consolidating a struggle in social movements. It will be the organization of the workers that will do the rest.”

“I am absolutely convinced that the trade union strengthening involves fully applying democratic practices. I have too much time in the leadership, it is time for a change. There are enough cadres and it won’t be difficult to replace me”, admits Francisco Hernández.

The labour reform It prohibits the leaders from eternalizing themselves in the position. But the 46 years that he has been in the general secretariat, he affirms, “have been by universal and secret vote, the colleagues have given me their support because I have fulfilled the mission entrusted to me.”

A few weeks ago, the STRM was about to start a strike, it hasn’t done so since 1985. One way to measure the leaders is how many abuses have been prevented from the companies, what salaries and benefits have been achieved, he says. “Telephone operators have one of the best collective contracts, one of the best pensions, the highest salary averages.”

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