UCLA Labor Center hosts tri-national summit promoting worker solidarity in response to USMCA

Labor leaders and workers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada shared strategies for organizing auto, domestic and platform workers

Citlalli Chávez-Nava | February 19, 2024 

The UCLA Labor Center convened over 80 labor leaders and workers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada for the Worker Solidarity in Action: A Tri-national Labor Response to the USMCA summit held on Feb. 9-10. The event aimed to foster transnational labor collaboration and to create a space for strategic discussions surrounding worker rights campaigns in communities across North America. 

Hosted at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (LA Fed), in partnership with the AFLCIO’s Solidarity Center  and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung- Foundation-New York Office, the event builds upon the Labor Center’s global solidarity initiatives headed by Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, project director at the UCLA Labor Center and director of UCLA’s Center for Mexican Studies. Rivera-Salgado thinks UCLA can play a vital role in facilitating worker rights across the globe. 

“A big takeaway from this tri-national meeting is that as the debate over immigration and drug trade heats up because of the upcoming presidential election, both in Mexico and the United States, we need to step back and remind ourselves that the fates of these two countries is more linked than never before,” he said. “Mexico has become the most important trading partner for the U.S. and increasingly a good number of workers work for the same companies producing goods and services for a common North American market.”

Labor Center Director Saba Waheed facilitated a session at the summit in which organizers, representing the automotive industry, domestic workers and platform workers employed by rideshare and food delivery companies, shared their stories and daily struggles highlighting the need to build transnational worker power.

“As we face global economic challenges that transcend borders, convenings like this are integral in being able to see the interconnectedness of our movements,” she said. “It’s important to have the space to co-learn, dialogue and develop shared strategies and vision.”

In 2021, the UCLA Labor Center led an effort to create labor centers at three Mexican universities to support research, data collection and policy engagement to promote compliance of more robust labor protections enacted through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Since then, staff and faculty of the UCLA Labor and the IRLE have participated in a variety of transnational convenings focused on advancing greater labor solidarity during a pivotal period for U.S. and Mexico labor relations. 

“As supply chains continue their post-pandemic reorientation, we’re seeing greater integration of manufacturing and services across North America,” said Tobias Higbie, director at UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) who also participated in the convening. “Worker-to-worker relationships will be essential to this process, and that’s what we helped nurture at the LA Fed.” 

On the final day of the event, attendees marched to the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles in act of solidarity with striking Audi auto workers demanding increases in salaries and benefits in Puebla, Mexico. On February 16, following a 23-day strike, the Audi workers at the plant secured a historic 7% wage and 3.2% benefit increase.

The Worker Solidarity in Action: A Tri-national Labor Response to the USMCA summit included representatives from: The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), AFSCME United Domestic Workers of America (UDW), SEIU 2015, the California Domestic Workers Coalition (CDWC), The Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), Nuestras Manos, the United Auto Workers (UAW), the Solidarity Center, GM Local 6625, Rideshare Drivers United, Gig Workers United, Unión Nacional de Trabajadores por Aplicación (UNTA), International Association of App-based Transport Workers (IAATW), among others.

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Citlalli Chávez-Nava

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