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USMCA: they file 1st labor complaint against the US

Two Mexican workers filed the first labor complaint against the United States on Tuesday under the Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada (USMCA).

First of all, Adareli Ponce Hernández and Maritza Pérez Ovando affirmed that they were repeatedly denied the H-2 visa because they were women.

In addition, both argued that discrimination based on sex in the recruitment and hiring processes for jobs in the United States prevents them from obtaining the necessary work visas.

The complaint was presented to a unit of the Mexican Ministry of Labor and the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM, which advises women in the case) affirmed that the development of the process and its resolution will be a test for the USMCA on the matter.

The petitioners asserted that the United States has violated six sections of Article 23 of the USMCA.

Headquartered in Mexico City, the CDM has offices in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, and Baltimore, Maryland.

Regarding itself, the CDM claims to support Mexican migrant workers to defend and protect their rights.

This function is performed as migrants move between their communities of origin in Mexico and their workplaces in the United States.

With its binational and multilingual team and with its geographic scope, the CDM disclosed the case of this first labor complaint within the framework of the USMCA.

Labor complaint

Some members of the US Congress and labor groups have analyzed the application of the labor provisions as «slow and cumbersome» and are based «on the political will of governments.»

They call for more monitoring and oversight of the labor practices of US trade treaty partners.

Other countries and labor groups have also raised concerns regarding some US practices and non-compliance with labor commitments, such as Mexico’s concerns about US protections for migrant workers.

Still other analysts argue that debate and scrutiny over labor provisions in FTAs, along with strong consultation mechanisms, have led to greater cooperation and helped countries improve standards.

Labor chapter

Annex 23-A of the USMCA commits Mexico to enact new labor laws, such as those of the May 2019 reforms.

Under these reforms, Mexico commits to:

  • Eliminate all forms of forced or compulsory labor.
  • Protect the right of workers to organize, form and join the union of their choice.
  • Prohibit employer interference in union activities, discrimination or coercion against workers.
  • Provide the exercise of personal, free and secret vote of workers for elections and union agreements.
  • Establish and maintain independent and impartial bodies to register union elections and resolve conflicts related to collective agreements.
  • Establish independent labor tribunals.


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