Labor reform, migration and T-MEC, the themes of Julie Su’s visit to Mexico

San Luis Potosi, SLP. The daughter of immigrants, as a lawyer, she is an activist, and she managed to get her government to create important protection mechanisms for migrant victims of labor trafficking. Now Julie Su is on the other side, she is the Deputy Secretary of Labor for the United States, the country that remains the greatest world power. And she from that position she came to observe the implementation of the labour reformbut also to report what the administration of which it is a part is doing to defend the rights of laborers and day laborers of Mexico in their fields.

“I’m here for the workers rights”, he says in an interview with El Economista. It is the third day of his tour and the last with public activities. He has met with Luisa María Alcalde Luján, secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, and other federal and local officials of this entity and has heard business representatives, unions and human rights defenders.

It has been enough to point out that the labour reform advances, but also to ponder: “We are not going with the illusion that this will be easy”. The change to the labor justice system that took more than a century and a series of new rules to democratize union life were a condition for signing the Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada (USMCA).

And “what we have seen in all our meetings is that, in order to truly fulfill and materialize the T-MEC promisesWe’re going to need everyone to get to work.”

The possibility that working people in Mexico have access to Collective negotiation, he states, “is a very high priority for the Biden-Harris administration. We see it as something very important, not only for the well-being of workers, but also for the economic vitality of both countries and for the issues around the supply chain that were discussed and are well known.”

During his visit, he announced a new investment of $29 million to continue with the implementation of the labor reform. Only the US Department of Labor has sent Mexico 139 million dollars for this purpose, 98 million come from the funds for the T-MEC, he specifies.

The investments they have made, he explains, reflect the need to develop the capacity for collective organization so that independent unions exist. “We are committed to offering support and seeing that this effort materializes, which is historic and important.”

Promises surveillance of the H2 visa program

Between 2011 and 2018, Julie Su was a labor commissioner for the California government. Prior to that public position, she was recognized for her defense of the labor and civil rights. As litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, she was the lead attorney on the El Monte case in 1995.

In the late 1980s, a group of workers were recruited in Thailand to work in the Clothing making in United States. Most were women, the lawyer recalls. “They were forced to work against their will behind a chain link fence, with armed guards, and were paid less than a dollar an hour,” she describes.

The clandestine factory was located in Mount, Calif.. They worked up to 22 hours a day and charged them for food and everything they needed. To prevent them from escaping, they threatened to harm their family in Thailand. In August 1995, 72 workers were finally rescued from there, but not released. The local government kept them for nine days in an immigration detention center.

“I had the privilege of being his attorney. A lawsuit was filed not only against the captors, but also against the companies they did the work for,” she explains. The team led by Julie Su achieved compensation of 4 million dollars and, later, the creation of the T Visa, so that victims of human trafficking can stay in the United States.

“The human trafficking It has no regional or ethnic limitations. I must also point out that the vast majority were women, and the problems of working women and their welfare is something that is clearly at the center of the discussion of the Department of Labor and the American government, which even came up in one of the meetings here in Mexico”.

In 2021, two Mexican migrant workers asked the STPS to file a labor complaint, via the T-MEC, against the United States for discrimination and sexual abuse against women in the H2A and H2B temporary employment visa program. In her meeting with women rights defenders, they asked her to follow up on this case.

-—For a long time, activists have called for a change in the structure of this program. Is the United States government analyzing reforming the rules to prevent the violation of labor human rights of migrants?

-—The protections for workers with H2A (for agricultural employment) and H2B (for unskilled employment) visas, are incredibly important. We, in the Department of Labor, will try to comply with the workers rights in the United States who are under these visas.

Last week the number of H2B visas increased by 30,000, compared to January. We want to be sure that these workers have the protection of labor laws.

It is not only a question of justice for workers. It is recognizing that no group of workers can be treated as second class, because that is not good for the economy, nor for employers.

So one thing that was included in the increase was increased scrutiny for employers who commit systemic violations of the law. This is an example of how we are trying to strengthen the worker protection that they enter with that type of visa”.

—And about the migration of people who depart from Central American countries in search of a job in the United States, was it discussed with the Mexican federal authorities?

—There is an obvious recognition, both for us and for the Mexican government, that addressing the root cause of migration is of the utmost importance.

It did talk about how good jobs are the key strategy for this challenge. Help ensure that workers have the option to work with dignityearn a decent wage, be represented by a union of your choice, and do it from where you come from.

We definitely share that recognition that this strategy has.

The responsibility of companies

The Undersecretary of Labor of the United States highlights the importance of having an entire system that protects labor rights.

For example, she details, if the workers of El Monte “had had a way to assert their voice and a form of protection, obviously that would not have happened. It is something that we also come to discuss here, perhaps it happens here to a lesser extent because of the collective bargaining agreements”, but must be watched.

Also, the companies They must assume their responsibility, he points out. “The companies that are at the top of the industrial chain are responsible for the conditions in which clothing is made, crops are planted or whatever the turn.”

root out abuse against workers and workers it is something of great importance for the Department of Labor, he maintains. Therefore, they will ensure “that companies at the top of the chain comply with the laws and have incentives to understand what is happening in their supply chain.”

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