Mexico-US trade deal unlikely to boost low Mexican paychecks
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Many in the U.S. government, and even some in Mexico, say the new trade agreement between the two countries will help increase the extremely low wages in Mexico’s auto industry.
But activists say the trade agreement won’t do that — or stop the steady flow of jobs south — until Mexico changes its labor laws and eliminates pro-company “protection contracts” that effectively leave workers helpless. The agreement announced Monday includes some vague promises in that direction, but essentially leaves it up to Mexico, where a web of government complicity so far has blocked progress.
Activist Pablo Medina says he and 57 fellow workers were fired from the Goodyear tire plant in San Luis Potosi on July 9 after trying to organize an independent union at the factory, where two years went by without employees even seeing the union that supposedly represented them.
Goodyear employees staged a spontaneous strike on April 24 after an employee passed out and broke three ribs in the heat of the vulcanizing department, and workers got news that the long-awaited increase to their $1.50-per hour wages would amount to only about 50 cents per day.
“The working conditions inside the Goodyear plant are very unsafe, the employee turnover is very high, and of course the wages are very low,” said Medina, who is now fighting to get his job back.
In an emailed statement, Goodyear Mexico denied the plant was unsafe, saying it is “a competitive employer within the area” on wages. It said this year’s wage increase was 6 percent — which is roughly equivalent to last year’s inflation rate. It acknowledged a group of employees was fired after the work stoppage, but denied there were 57.