Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies has passed Mexican labor law reform legislation. The bill must now be reviewed and passed by the nation’s upper house, the Mexican Senate.

On the evening of April 11, 2019, the Mexican government’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, endorsed legislation on labor justice and freedom of association.  This occurred just one week after the US House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, warned that there would be no ratification of the new  United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) if Mexican labor law reform were not approved.  The reform seeks to harmonize Mexico’s labor regime with those of the United States and Canada so that the three countries will be on more of an equal footing.

Among the changes made to Mexico’s Federal Labor Law, Organic Law of Judicial Power of the Federation, and laws governing INFONAVIT (the country’s national worker housing fund) and Mexican Social Security are the elimination of Conciliation and Arbitration Boards, and the creation of a National Center of Conciliation.  The Mexican labor law reform also includes the establishment of workers’ freedom of association and domestic worker guarantees.

There are seven keys to the recently penned Mexican labor law reform.  They are:

The elimination of Conciliation and Arbitration Boards

Prior to the recent Mexican labor law reform, conflicts that broke out between employers and workers were resolved by Conciliation and Arbitration Boards.  Going forward, disagreements will be settled by labor courts that come under the Judicial Power of the Mexican Federation.  The goal of employing this governmental organ is to increase capacity to resolve conflicts more effectively and expeditiously.  These courts will only be used, however, when all other means of settling disputes between employers and workers have been exhausted.

The creation of the National Reconciliation Center

Mexican labor law reform proposes the creation of Federal Labor Conciliation and Registry Centers where an initial attempt at resolving labor disputes will be made.  If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, disputes between employers and workers will be sent to the courts.

The implementation of trade union democracy

A guarantee of union democracy and the freedom of collective association was included in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The reform law protects the right to collective association under Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labor Organization (ILO).  Additionally, it establishes procedures for the election of union officers through the exercise of a direct, free, and secret vote.

The elimination of “white” unions

“Sindicatos Blancos,” or “white” unions in Mexico are employer-friendly labor associations that can effectively bar entry of other unions that might enter the workplace.  They typically have little to no actual membership and do not actively represent workers.  Mexican labor law reform states that such a union may lose its registration if its leaders, attorneys, or legal representatives engage in acts of extortion against employers by demanding payment in cash or in kind.

Among other prohibitions placed upon unions are the:

  • Participation in tax evasion schemes or non-compliance of employer obligations with respect to workers;
  • Performance of acts of violence against its members, the employer or its representatives;
  • Participation in acts of simulation; that is assuming the character of the employer so that the true employer can evade his or her responsibilities (“white” union);
  • Recording of votes that have not been taken;
  • Hinderance of workers participation in the election of their union representatives

The opening of companies to more unions

The Mexican labor law reform provides that workers can organize themselves in unions in the way that they wish.  This means that workplaces must open themselves to the unions with which employees wish to enter into a collective association.

The regulation of domestic workers

Included in the provisions of the Mexican labor law reform are those having to do with the regulation of domestic workers that are employed in the home.  It is now the obligation of the employer to enroll the worker into the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and pay the corresponding fees according to the rules that are applicable in this situation.

The guarantee of gender equality

Under Mexican labor law reform, Article 3 of the Federal Labor Law not only states that “work is a social right and duty,” but also demands respect for the liberties and dignity of the persons that perform it.  The reform also establishes the equality of both genders before the law and establishes that work must be carried out under conditions that ensure a dignified life and health for workers and their dependents.