Mexican GM Workers Win an 8.5 Percent Wage Hike in First Union Contract

An independent union at General Motors in Silao, Mexico, has ratified its first contract, with an 8.5 percent wage hike and benefit improvements — outstripping Recent wage increases at other Mexican auto factories.

Workers voted last year by over 3 to 1 for the National Independent Union for Workers in the Automotive Industry to represent them. ousting A union that is friendly to employers and affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers. The CTM has long dominated the Mexican labor movement and signed bad contracts behind workers’ backs.

“We obtained good results for our first negotiations,” said SINTTIA President Alejandra Morales.

Guanajuato’s Silao workers build the highly profitable Chevrolet Silverado truck and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. Yet their wages and benefits have lagged far behind those achieved by independent unions at the Volkswagen and Nissan plants in Mexico — and even those signed by CTM affiliates at GM’s two other Mexican assembly plants. Before the new contract was signed the Silao workers earned Averagely, $2 per hour

Morales said the new contract brings them close to the level of GM’s San Luis Potosí plant, although wages still lag behind the GM factory in Ramos Arizpe.

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“It’s a big step forward, although of course the workers had hoped for more, because the conditions in that plant have been terrible,” said Héctor de la Cueva, coordinator of the Center for Labor Research and Union Advice (CILAS), which has been advising SINTTIA. SINTTIA originally demanded an increase of 19.2 percent. The company countered by increasing it to 3.5 percent.

Mexican auto workers still earn a fraction of the wages earned in the U.S. or Canada. Workers at GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana, for example, earn $18 to $32 hourly building the same vehicles as the Silao workers.

“The unions led by charros [the term for corrupt, politically connected, and often violent Mexican union leaders],” said Morales, “always negotiated low salaries and low benefits — some even against the law — so this influences all of the country.”

Christmas Eve Discount

Nearly 87 percent of the plant’s 6,500 workers voted on the new two-year contract, with 85 percent voting in favor. Salary is the same as in other contracts in Mexico. will be Every year, reviewed.

Workers also received a 14 percent increase of pantry vouchers, in addition to their wages being increased. They also received Christmas Eve Off and a much improved quarterly production bonus. This increased from $25 to $80. These and other benefits, in addition to the 8.5 percent wage rise, make up a 13.8 percent overall gain, according to the union.

Negotiations also focused attention on improving working conditions. The new contract stipulates that the union and the company negotiate work schedules, and establish protocols for dealing sexual harassment.

Israel Cervantes was a GM employee who was fired in 2019 for organizing. He said that working conditions were horrible. Workers work for 12 hours a days, four days a weeks, and have only one half-hour of rest each day. Cervantes stated that many workers commute for long distances and are often out of their homes for 14 to 15 hours each day.

Morales stated that work at the plant is physically demanding and can cause many injuries. Injuries were not investigated under the previous union. Workers were often denied restroom breaks.

Morales stated that workers who spoke out about harassment or the harsh working conditions would be fired and placed on a blacklist. “No worker has seen the list, but any worker knows that if you speak up, exercise your rights, and are fired for that reason, it is very difficult to obtain employment or be hired from the same company or another similar auto plant,” she said.

Permanent Direct Access

SINTTIA is creating new union culture at the plant. “As opposed to the employer-protection contract that the workers suffered under for many years with the CTM, now, not only do they have a real union, but they also have a real union contract,” said de la Cueva. “Now the company can’t act arbitrarily — they can’t act unilaterally on labor issues.”

To establish a shop floor presence, the union has set up offices in each of the plant’s five complexes. “This is a big change from before,” said de la Cueva. Many workers covered under CTM contracts and others signed by “employer-protection” unions do not even know that they have a union. Now, “it’s permanent direct access to union representatives for all workers,” he said.

SINTTIA hopes to expand the independent union movement across the country. “Our independent union is a national union, which means that workers from different auto plants can affiliate with us,” said Cervantes, who said he’s received calls from workers in Tlaxcala, Queretaro, San Luis Potosí, and Guanajuato.

“International solidarity is going to continue to be important so that SINTTIA can grow and represent more workers in different companies and different plants,” said de la Cueva.

This article was published for the first time at Labor Notes.

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