MEXICO CITY -- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a Mexican labor lawyers group today filed a path breaking complaint with Mexico's Department of Labor challenging Alabama's anti-immigrant law HB 56 under the supplemental labor agreement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), the United States committed to uphold international labor principles and to effectively enforce labor laws related to those principles. The NAFTA labor agreement is the only trade agreement with a clause that specifically protects the rights of migrant workers, requiring that they be given the same legal protection as U.S. nationals in respect of working conditions.
Calling Alabama's anti-immigrant law "discriminatory" and "abusive" toward all workers - not just immigrants - the complaint filed by the SEIU and the Mexican National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD) says that HB 56 violates international human rights and labor rights standards and undermines the ability of federal authorities to effectively enforce labor and employment laws.
"We are going to fight HB 56 with everything we can bring to bear under U.S. law," said Eliseo Medina, SEIU's International Secretary-Treasurer. "But we're not going to stop at our borders - we are bringing the fight to a global stage and putting HB 56 under international scrutiny."
ANAD also pledged its full support. "In solidarity with SEIU and workers in Alabama, ANAD and our allies in Mexican social movements will urge our government to move quickly to investigate the effects of the anti-immigrant Alabama law and to cooperate with the U.S. government to stop the abuses that this law is causing," ANAD stated.
On April 2, SEIU filed a complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, charging that HB 56 violates workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively under international standards.
The new NAFTA labor complaint also cites the Alabama law's "devastating" impact on workers' organizing and collective bargaining rights, as well as involvement in workers' centers, community groups and other freedom of association activities that are supposed to be protected under the NAFTA and CAFTA labor clauses.
The NAFTA complaint further charges that HB 56 leads to increased minimum wage and overtime violations, workplace health and safety hazards, and discrimination against workers who "look" or "sound" foreign. Alabama's HB 56 undermines the ability of the United States to meet its obligations under the trade agreements international standards and to effectively enforce laws to halt such abuses, the complaint concludes.
The Mexican labor department will now evaluate the complaint and seek additional information from the complaining parties in preparation for a wider-ranging investigation and report. The investigation may require hearings in Mexico in which Alabama workers and their allies can testify about the effects of HB 56 on workers' rights.
"As officials begin investigating, we are confident they will see HB 56 for what it is: an immoral racial profiling law that had no grounds to begin with but which now threatens workers and economic stability," Medina said.
Read the complaint in English:
Read the complaint in Spanish: