A group of unions took their grievances to the government to fight against labor exploitation.

The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS) and Public jointly filed the first complaint under the Rapid Response Mechanism of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) against Tridone for denying their Mexican employees the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Tridone is an auto parts factory located in Mexico (directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas) and is a subsidiary of Cardone Industries Inc., which is located in Philadelphia. Cardone Industries Inc. answers to Brookfield Asset Management located in Toronto.

The factory is specifically located in Matamoros, a small town in the state of Tamaulipas.

The case will test whether the USMCA’s Rapid Response Mechanism works.

The complaint includes accusations that Tamaulipas’ state government stifled labors ability to choose which union they wanted to represent them. 

“USMCA requires Mexico to end the reign of protection unions and their corrupt deals with employers,” added AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The ongoing harassment of Susana Prieto and SNITIS members is a textbook violation of the labor laws Mexico has pledged to uphold.”

According to the AFL-CIO, for two years at least 600 Tridonex workers were harassed and fired for trying to organize. Tamaulipas’ state government declined AmNews’ requests for comment.

“Tridonex workers are suffering from the abuses of a corrupt and criminal union leader, who is protected by the company so that it can continue providing precarious wages and working conditions,” stated lawyer Suana Preito Terrazas. “All of this through oppressors who harass, intimidate and beat the workers with the consent and protection of Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. We are fighting so that no one ever is afraid of freely electing the union they wish to represent them and to make history, ending several generations of modern slavery.” 

Terrazas made international headlines after Tamaulipas’ governor, who is opposed to labor reform, had her jailed for a month on––according to the AFL-CIO––trumped up charges in a state penitentiary with a high COVID-19 infection rate. They released Prieto under the condition of internal exile in another Mexican state and a ban on appearing in labor court.

The USMCA, which was created under the Donald Trump administration to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, requires that about 45% of automobile parts be made by workers earning no less than $16 an hour by 2023 and the automobiles themselves have to have at least 75% of their pieces manufactured in Mexico, the U.S., or Canada in order to qualify for no tariffs.

The trade agreement, which Mexico’s government agreed to, is supposed to make it easier for Mexican workers to organize.

For years, Mexican employees were put under “protection contracts,” which is something they had no say in. The contracts made it possible for employers to keep wages down and stifle the ability of workers to organize.

Daniel Rangel, an attorney with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, stated that Prieto’s jailing was a tell-tale sign of the opposition they’re dealing with.

“The glaring violations of the USMCA and of Mexico’s new labor law became evident as we worked with allies in Mexico and Texas to free Susana Prieto after she was jailed for protecting workers’ rights; and we learned more about the mass firings, the fake union’s abuses against the workers she represents at Tridonex and how the state government was entirely ignoring the obligations of the revised NAFTA,” said Rangel.

“Tridonex’s suppression of workers’ rights has cost our members in Philadelphia hundreds of good manufacturing jobs, and now they’re doing the same to workers in Matamoros,” added SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.