Morena, White Unions and the Maquiladora Industry in Mexico

After Mexico’s historical ruling party, the PRI, was defeated in the national elections, the entire country has experienced a political restructuring headed by Morena, currently led by president Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The northern state of Baja California is no exception: Morena secured victories in all 17 districts, including the governorship, represented by Jaime Bonilla Valdez. As part of its national strategy, Morena’s aims include strengthening its ties to labor unions by reshaping their structure and functions to contrast the ways of the old order constituted by the PRI.

The previous PRI leadership gave rise to a large number of labor unions in Mexico that were known to operate as “white unions”, controlled by the employer, characterized by a flexible interpretation of labor laws and by little to no intervention on behalf of employees. In the case of northern Mexico and Baja California specifically, the majority of these white unions tied to the assembly factories — or the maquiladora industry — are managed by law firms that work directly with companies to thwart legitimate election processes, to prohibit employees from holding assemblies in meeting halls as to debate topics of interest and, especially, of preventing them from joining other unions.

In Baja California, Morena’s strategies include pushing to apply constitutional reforms and rewrite state laws that could impede white unions to continue operating freely. This move matches Morena’s trend, for the past several years, of recruiting members at the local, state and federal level, with a special interest in their relationship to the maquiladora industry, in order to solidify a base in one of the most profitable economic sectors of northern Mexico. In short, Mexico’s new ruling party, Morena, is taking definite measures to allocate itself as a long-term presence of political power, somewhat reminiscent of the old order associated to the founding of the PRI in the 1930s.