A look at labor unions in Mexico
Approximately 90% of Mexican production workers in industrial enterprises that employ at least twenty-five employees are unionized. Nearly fifty percent of the country’s workforce is employed in the “off the books” economy or is unemployed, but those who are employed in the formal industrial sector are generally highly organized, relative to other developing countries.
The large majority of labor unions in Mexico fall under the umbrella of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos) or CTM, which, comprised of approximately 11,000 labor unions, is the primary member organization (in addition to a few independent unions and considerably smaller confederations) in the labor arm of one of Mexico’s major political parties, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) or PRI. The PRI’s labor division is known as the Congress of Labor (Congreso del Trabajo) or CT, and primarily consists of the CTM. This means that the CTM, when the PRI is in power in Mexico’s government, is essentially an arm of the federal government – a status that has bolstered its popularity and power over past decades, but has not meant as much recently (until the 2012 election) since the PRI temporarily lost their majority in the national government during the period 2000-2012.
Among the more notable and prominent members of the CT, besides the CTM, is the Federation of Unions of Workers in the Service of the State (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado) or FSTSE. This organization was founded in 1938 primarily for labor unions within the federal civil system, and other organizations associated with the government. Other labor unions in Mexico, as well as federations within the CT include the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos) or CROC, the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos) or CROM, the National Federation of Independent Unions (Federación Nacional de Sindicatos Independientes) or FNSI, the Confederation of Workers and Peasants (Confederación de Trabajadores y Campesinos) or CTC, and the International Proletarian Movement (Movimiento Proletario Internacional) or MPI.
In the early twentieth century, in order to facilitate Mexico’s dramatic postwar economic growth, labor unions in Mexico accepted wage increases that did not exceed productivity gains. This helped reduce the effect of inflation, but fell short of the gains many workers hoped to achieve through their organizations. Furthermore, the CTM and several other CT-member union federations resorted to coercion and bribery to limit wage demands. Over the years, the CTM has increasingly become more agreeable to employers’ moves aimed at increasing productivity and creating jobs. Until Mexican labor reforms implemented in 2012 came into effect, the inner workings of labor unions in Mexico were, too a great extent not visible to their memberships. However, recent reform has made Mexican unions more transparent and accountable to he constituencies that they represent.