GM workers in Mexico choose an independent union, a test case of the trade deal.

Workers at one of the largest General Motors plants in Mexico voted through an independent union on Thursday, seen as a key test case for whether the new North American trade rules can improve working conditions and eliminate corruption in the Mexican labor system.

The union, known as the Independent National Auto Workers Union, won 78 percent of the vote at the plant in Silao, where more than 6,000 workers assemble Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. The vote eliminated the Mexican Workers Union, which had held the contract for the past 25 years.

Workers at the Silao factory start earning less than $9 a day, and described punitive working conditions. Employees say they are often denied leave and rarely get a raise.

Mexico committed to making sweeping changes to its labor laws and court system as part of the US New Mexico Canada Agreement, which replaced North American Free Trade Agreement. The new agreement is intended to make it easier for independent unions to challenge incumbents and requires companies operating in Mexico to review hundreds of thousands of existing contracts in independent elections.

Democrats hailed those reforms as one of the treaty’s most important changes, saying they would help level the playing field among workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Labor leaders hope the vote at the GM plant will lead to changes at other plants around Mexico, where existing labor unions are accused of colluding with company management to keep wages low.

Liz Shuler, The president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement that the election “sets a difficult precedent and comes only after workers vote to waive a previous contract with poor benefits and was negotiated without without the participation of workers.”

“Workers have weathered violent intimidation and election interference, and their victory is an example of what happens when workers come together. This vote represents a rejection of the past and a new era for Mexican workers’ freedom of association,” she said.

The US Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, issued a statement expressing support for the vote.

“As workers, we are stronger when we can speak with one voice – and we are stronger when our colleagues around the world can do the same,” he said. “The work to defend freedom of association never stops, but this historic election shows us that progress can be made towards freedom of association for all workers when We work together.” GM workers in Mexico choose an independent union, a test case of the trade deal.

Fry Electronics Team

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