MEXICO CITY – U.S. labor officials on Wednesday called on Mexico to investigate whether workers at a Panasonic auto parts factory have been deprived of their rights, marking the third U.S. labor complaint under a new trade agreement aimed at improving working conditions in Mexico.
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) request follows a petition from a Mexican union asking the US government to investigate a Panasonic plant in the northern border town of Renosa, which is accused of violating the 2020 US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
US Trade Representative Catherine Tye said in a letter to Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clothier that the company was concerned that employees of Panasonic Automotive Systems de Mexico were being denied access to free association and bargaining in violation of the USMCA.
Panasonic Corporation of North America says it “respects and upholds” those rights and does not believe they have been denied. The Japanese unit added that it would cooperate with the Mexican authorities.
He noted that previous USMCA labor lawsuits – one against automaker General Motors and another against auto parts plant Tridonex – had been directed at workers’ benefits.
The U.S. government has reached an agreement with both companies without imposing USMCA sanctions, which could include revoking the duty-free status.
“When concerns arise, we will act swiftly to stand up for workers on both sides of the border,” he said in a statement.
The Mexican government has 10 days to decide whether to conduct a review. The economy ministry said it had received the US request and would consult with the labor ministry before sending a response.
The Mexican union requested an investigation into SNITIS, accusing Panasonic of signing a union agreement behind the workers and firing dozens of protesting workers. Just days after the petition was filed last month, SNITIS won a massive vote to become the new labor representative of the plant.
U.S. Representative Bill Pascal, a Democrat, called on Panasonic to enter into negotiations with SNITIS in good faith, and the USTR applauded the allegations.
“Improving labor conditions is absolutely necessary to ensure that homework is not being hampered here,” he said. (Reporting by Diana Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by David Shepardsson in Washington; Editing by David Gregrio, Bill Barcrott and Muralikumar Anantaraman)