Reps. García, Schakowsky, and 107 Members of Congress Urge Mexican President López Obrador to Drop Charges Against Activist and Protect Labor Rights

August 14, 2020
Press Release

Chicago, IL - Today Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and 107 Members of Congress sent a letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urging him to ensure Mexican state governments drop politically motivated charges against labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas. The letter also urges Mexico to ensure states comply with the labor rights guaranteed by the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”).

The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, implemented on July 1 of this year, requires each of its signatory countries to respect workers’ rights. Last year, Mexico passed labor law reforms that strengthen collective bargaining and independent unions in the country.

Susana Prieto Terrazas, a Mexican labor rights activist, was imprisoned in June by the state government of Tamaulipas after years of organizing along the US-Mexico border. She was released on conditions that prevent her from continuing labor advocacy and require her to move to the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where the government has issued a warrant for her arrest.

“To protect workers’ rights in the United States, we must defend the rights of workers around the world and in Mexico. I’m sending a letter with more than 100 colleagues to call on Mexican President López Obrador to ensure that Mexico respects workers’ rights and ends its political persecution of labor activist Susana Prieto Terrazas,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “American legislators cannot stay silent while corporate interests and corrupt politicians undermine the law to extract profits at the expense of working people. When the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed Congress, we were told it would protect workers’ rights and labor standards in the US and Mexico. But if state governments in Mexico can willfully violate basic labor rights provided by Mexican law and affirmed by the USMCA, these protections are meaningless.”

“Mexico must live up to its obligations under the USMCA and enforce labor laws completely and uniformly throughout the country,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said. “Anything less than this is unacceptable, will render these labor protections meaningless, and will require action by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the U.S. as well as my counterparts in Mexico to strengthen workers’ protections across North America.”

 

“The rights of workers across North America must be enforced, including in Mexico, said Congressman Joaquin Castro, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has new labor provisions to guarantee worker’s rights to organize for better conditions and higher wages, and must be respected. The United States Congress needs to ensure our trading partners live up to their commitments to expand the rights of workers.”

Text of the letter is below and a PDF can be found here.

 

Dear President López Obrador:

Without the political will to enforce Mexico’s labor law reforms or the worker protections included in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), wages and working conditions will not improve as promised. State governments in Mexico are undermining the worker protections that the new Mexican labor laws and the USMCA guarantee. As members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are committed to improving conditions for workers throughout North America, we urge you to ensure that states comply with the letter and spirit of Mexican labor law so that Mexican workers can finally organize independent unions and their lawyers can advocate for them without fear of arrest.

The persecution of Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas by state officials in Tamaulipas and Chihuahua calls Mexico’s commitment to improving workers’ rights into question. Prieto was arrested in June on spurious charges related to her efforts to register an independent union for workers at U.S. auto parts plant Cardone and only released after three weeks of detention without bail. The conditions of her release require her to quit labor advocacy in Matamoros for more than two years and move to the State of Chihuahua where the state government has issued warrants for her arrest.

It appears that conservative governors of northern border states in Mexico are collaborating with the manufacturing industry to attack workers fighting for higher wages and safe workplaces as well as their advocates. After protection unions and employers were unable to invalidate Mexico’s new labor law, border states are now using political persecution to intimidate workers and their advocates. Their attacks on Prieto are extreme but unfortunately not unique.

We understand that you are trying to implement and enforce dramatic labor law changes in your country. However, if state governments in Mexico are able to willfully violate basic labor rights, we will urge USTR to swiftly and forcefully utilize the rapid response system in order to ensure Mexican compliance with the agreement.

We urge you to ensure that all Mexican states comply with the labor obligations in the USMCA and to ensure the politically motivated charges against Prieto and arrest warrants in Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are dropped and the rights-violating conditions of her release suspended.

We look forward to working with you to strengthen labor rights throughout North America, but we are concerned by the first weeks of USMCA implementation. Please respond with your government’s plan for ensuring that Mexico’s states stop interfering with Mexico’s new labor law and the USMCA.

Sincerely,

 

Jesús G. “Chuy” García                                                          Jan Schakowsky

4th District of Illinois                                                              9th District of Illinois

 

 

 

 

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