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
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
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
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
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."
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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
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!
UE Director of International Labor Affairs
One Gateway Center, Suite 1400
420 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
PGH., PA. 15222-1416
HTTP://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/ (See alert section every two weeks for
labor and related news from Mexico).