Workers at GM’s assembly plant in Silao, Mexico, voted overwhelmingly in favor of being represented by an upstart, independent union called SINTTIA this week. It won with 78 percent of the vote, beating three rival unions, including Mexico’s biggest union, the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM).
SINTTIA will now negotiate with GM in order to negotiate a new contract for workers, who are hoping for raises after years of CTM representation. Jesus Barroso, a worker at the plant, told Reuters he chose the new union to push out the old, which he said did little for him and his coworkers.
“We’re fed up. Being fed up is what’s making us take this decision,” said Barroso. “I think we have the right to give our families, our kids, a better quality of life.”
Barroso said he takes home just 480 pesos (about $24) per day after having worked at the plant for 11 years. The vote was also celebrated by the largest U.S. labor organization, the AFL-CIO.
“Workers will advocate for higher wages and improved health and safety standards […] helping to set new standards in the automobile industry,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement. “This vote represents a rejection of the past.”
The vote was required by the U.S. and Canada under the USMCA trade deal following a probe into alleged abuses of workers’ rights at the plant. Last year, Mexico’s labor ministry said it found serious irregularities in a CTM-led vote to ratify a contract with GM.
Following the investigation, the U.S. threatened to remove tariff-free access for vehicles coming out of the plant. This new vote, then, was conducted under the gaze of more than 100 independent observers. That did not, however, stop two SINTTIA leaders from receiving personal threats days before the vote.
The CTM union received just 5 percent of the vote while a separate group, which some say has ties to CTM, received 17 percent of the vote.