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ILAB Press Release: U.S. And Mexican Labor Secretaries Sign Consultation Agreements [05/22/2000]

For more information call: (202) 219-6373 ext. 4

Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman and Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare Mariano Palacios signed two agreements addressing five submissions under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), the labor supplement to NAFTA. The two agreements provide for the U.S. and Mexican governments to undertake a series of collaborative efforts to promote the rights of workers under their respective labor laws.

"Our agreement to address these issues is a most important step forward," said Secretary Herman. "I believe the programs we will jointly undertake advance our efforts to improve the rights of workers in our respective countries."

The first agreement resulted from ministerial consultations between the U.S. and Mexico on two submissions filed with the U.S. National Administrative Office (NAO) alleging lack of labor law enforcement in Mexico. The first submission raised freedom of association and safety and health concerns involving workers at the Han Young plant in Tijuana, Baja California. The second submission involved alleged violations of freedom of association and occupational safety and health laws at the Itapsa plant in Ciudad de los Reyes in the State of Mexico.

Under this agreement, the Government of Mexico will hold a public program in Tijuana to promote the principles of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Mexico also has agreed to conduct a trilateral seminar to discuss law and practice governing Mexican Labor Boards, including the rules and procedures to assure their impartiality. In addition, U.S. and Mexican experts will participate in a government-to-government meeting concerning the occupational safety and health issues raised in the two submissions.

A second agreement addresses three submissions filed with the Mexican NAO concerning labor law implementation in the United States. The issues focus mainly on the legal protections for migrant workers, including freedom of association, safety and health, workers' compensation, minimum employment standards and employment discrimination. The three submissions alleged that U.S. labor laws on some or all of these issues were not enforced at Solec, Inc., a solar panel manufacturer, in Carson, Calif.; at the DeCoster Egg Farm in Maine; and in the apple industry in the State of Washington.

Under this agreement, the U.S. Department of Labor will organize a government-to-government meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss the application of U.S. law focusing on the issues raised in the three submissions. The United States also will conduct public forums and outreach sessions, including in Washington and Maine, with migrant workers, community groups, and government officials regarding the issues raised in the Washington State and Maine cases.

The programs under both agreements are to be completed within 15 months. The two labor secretaries concluded these agreements at the meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission held in Washington, D.C., on May 18.