The U.S. parent company of a Mexican auto parts factory has agreed to recognize worker rights and pay back wages to laid-off employees to settle a labor rights complaint filed under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The agreement under the trade pact was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Trade Representative and the Tridonex plant in Matamoros, Mexico.

“The agreement reached with Tridonex to provide severance, back pay and a commitment to neutrality in future union elections shows our determination to leverage the USMCA’s innovative enforcement,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

Tridonex has agreed to pay severance and six months of back pay to at least 154 people who the AFL-CIO said were wrongly dismissed from the plant over labor issues.

The back pay totals more than $600,000, or an average of just under $4,000 per worker.

The Tridonex plant, which has around 4,000 workers, refits secondhand car parts for sale in the U.S. and Canada. Most of the workers earn between $176.72 and $212.06 pesos ($8.82-$10.64) a day.

Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries Inc. operates the Tridonex auto parts plant in Matamoros, which lies across the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas.

The agreement also allows workers to select their own union representation. 

The complaint against Tridonex was the first labor dispute to be initiated under the USMCA rapid response mechanism. The USMCA replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement in July 2020.

The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, filed the labor complaint alleging that for the past two years Tridonex plant workers had not been allowed to organize with an independent union, Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32 (SNITIS), in place of a company-controlled union or to ratify a collective bargaining agreement.

Mexico-based labor lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas, who represents Tridonex workers, said the settlement was reached without consulting with her or SNITIS.

“The United States has reached an agreement with Tridonex without taking into account the working class, violating its rights, without taking into consideration the [Tridonex] workers or their legal advisor,” Prieto Terrazas said via Facebook Live on Tuesday. 

Still, she said it was a small step in the right direction.

“The positive aspect of the agreement is that Tridonex is committing itself — agrees to make a settlement,” said Prieto Terrazas.

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