News & Commentary

April 2, 2024

Sunah Chang

Sunah Chang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: the U.S. asks Mexico to review alleged labor violations in Nuevo León, Barnes & Noble workers launch a drive to unionize, and Newsweek analyzes the role of union workers in shaping the Senate race in Ohio.

Yesterday, the U.S. Government asked the Mexican government to review an allegation that workers’ rights are being violated at the Servicios Industriales González industrial parts manufacturing factory in Nuevo León. The allegation arose from a petition filed by a Mexican trade union, which claimed that the factory had denied its workers the right to unionize by refusing the union access to company facilities and invoking a pattern of intimidation and retaliation against the union’s supporters.

This request marks the 21st time that the U.S. has sought the Mexican Government’s review over a labor dispute under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM). Implemented in 2020, the RRM aims to protect workers’ collective bargaining rights at worksites across North America. Pursuant to the RRM, the Mexican Government now has 10 days to agree to conduct a review of the Nuevo León factory; if it agrees to conduct a review, it has 45 days to complete the review. 

Across the U.S., Barnes & Noble workers are preparing for a nationwide union drive. In the past year, six Barnes & Noble stores across the nation have voted to unionize, and workers in other stores have followed suit with their own unionization campaigns. Workers in unionized stores have expressed concerns about lagging wages, safety problems, excessive job duties, among other workplace issues. In response, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, James Daunt, is said to have visited different stores, urging workers not to unionize. One worker in a New York City store recalled: “[CEO Daunt’s] big argument against us unionizing was it would make his life harder, which he would repeat several times. It wasn’t very successful.”

In more union news, Newsweek published an article yesterday analyzing how union workers may influence the Ohio Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Bernie Moreno. Ohio is a state with one of the highest percentage of union-represented employees, and union networks can play a large role in promoting political candidates and mobilizing voters. But while the labor leadership in Ohio has long been Democratic, the rank-and-file members have begun to distance themselves from the Democratic party in recent years. In particular, the Democratic Party’s turn to green energy and electric vehicles has been weaponized by Republicans to win support from autoworkers in the state.

Nevertheless, it remains unclear how these political dynamics among union workers will play out in the Senate race. Matt Taglia, a senior director of Emerson College Polling, has noted that with such a large proportion of voters currently undecided, union endorsements will play an important role in shaping voter attitudes.

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