For Immediate Release

August 3, 1998

For More Information Contact:

Robin Alexander, UE, 412-471-8919

Bob Kingsley, UE, 703-339-5241 or 412-471-8919

Jeff Cappella, Teamsters, 202-624-8971

 

 

U.S. NAFTA Panel Cites U.S. Firm for Violence Against Workers in Mexico

 

NAO Calls for Talks Between U.S. and Mexican Government

Over Workers' Rights Abuses by Echlin

 

WASHINGTON -- The federal agency responsible for hearing complaints under

the labor side agreement to NAFTA is calling for ministerial consultations

between the United States and Mexico following testimony that charged

U.S.-based Echlin Inc. with dangerous working conditions and wide-ranging

violations of labor law and workers' human rights in auto-parts plants in

Mexico.

 

The decision issued late Friday by the U.S. National Administrative Office

finds merit in union allegations that Echlin committed massive discharges

for union activity and connived in assaults and intimidation of union

supporters by thugs. The petitioning unions also objected to a union

representation election conducted by voice vote rather than secret ballot,

in the presence of management officials and armed goons.

 

This is the first NAO decision to involve allegations of health and safety

problems. Mexican workers and health and safety experts presented testimony

here in March that complained of routine exposure to asbestos and solvents,

malfunctioning machinery and other dangerous conditions at Echlin auto-parts

plants.

 

A coalition of nine U.S. and Canadian unions filed the complaint along with

the Mexico's Authentic Workers' Front (FAT), with support from the AFL-CIO,

the Canadian Labor Congress(CLC), the new Mexican labor federation, the

National Union of Workers (UNT) and dozens of U.S., Mexican and Canadian

organizations.

 

Bob Kingsley, organizing director for the United Electrical, Radio and

Machine Workers of America (UE), one of the petitioning unions, termed the

NAO ruling "an indictment of Echlin, the Mexican government and the largest

of the official unions in Mexico," as well as "a victory for workers in all

three NAFTA countries."

 

-- more --

Speaking on behalf of the Echlin Workers' Alliance, the union coalition,

Kingsley said: "We call on Echlin and its new parent Dana to correct the

violations cited by the NAO by offering immediate and unconditional

reinstatement to the fired workers, recognizing STIMAHCS as the workers'

representative, cleaning up the plant and providing conditions where

workers' rights are respected."

 

The Echlin Workers' Alliance is calling on the Mexican government to ensure

these goals are met and to take steps that all future elections are

conducted by secret ballot, under conditions which are free from

intimidation, that measures be taken to ensure that the labor board

functions fairly and impartially in supervising elections and selecting

judges, and that registries be established to give workers access to

information about unions and contracts.

 

The Alliance also hopes that the Mexican government will ensure that the

plants in question are subjected to a thorough inspection which includes

environmental sampling, that the health and safety violations are corrected,

and that steps are taken to correct deficiencies in the application of the

inspection and penalty systems.

 

"It's nice to see that the U.S. government is recognizing workers' rights

abuses by U.S. corporations in Mexico," said Teamsters Vice President Tom

Gilmartin. "But the fact that the government can't enforce any remedies

against Echlin is an example of what's wrong with free trade agreements like

NAFTA."

 

In addition to the UE and Teamsters, the petitioning unions were the Frente

Autentico del Trabajo of Mexico, Steelworkers (in both the U.S. and Canada),

UAW, Canadian Auto Workers, Machinists, Paper Workers, IUE and UNITE!

 

Robin Alexander

UE Director of International Labor Affairs

One Gateway Center, Suite 1400

420 Fort Duquesne Blvd.

PGH., PA. 15222-1416

 

412-471-8919

412-471-8999 FAX

HTTP://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/ (See alert section every two weeks for

labor and related news from Mexico).