U.S. lawmakers urge GM, Mexico to safeguard worker rights ahead of union vote

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WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Three U.S. lawmakers on Friday urged General Motors (GM.N) and the Mexican government to safeguard worker rights ahead of a union vote next week of Mexican autoworkers at a pick-up truck plant in central Mexico.

Representative Earl Blumenauer, who chairs a House Ways and Means subcommittee on trade, along with Representatives Bill Pascrell and Dan Kildee raised concerns on Friday about reports of worker intimidation ahead of next week's union election at GM's Silao plant in Guanajuato, where it builds the Silverado.

"It is imperative that GM and Mexico's labor authority ensure that every single worker may cast a secret ballot freely and without intimidation," the lawmakers said.

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GM said Friday it has "been absolutely committed to working with the Mexican authorities, the work force, vote observers and all partners, including the (Biden) Administration and U.S. Congress to provide the environment for a free and fair election."

GM added it looks forward "to working with whichever union leadership is selected by our work force," and addressing any worker concerns in a subsequent negotiation process.

Mexico's Federal Center for Conciliation and Labor Registration, which is organizing the vote, said on Friday it has inspected the plant to ensure access for voters and this week set up an email account to receive worker complaints, although none so far have been submitted.

For decades, workers across Mexico have often faced intimidation tied to contentious union votes.

The Center added that nearly 6,300 workers are eligible to cast ballots on Feb. 1-2 at five different areas of the plant, and that transportation will be provided to workers whose shifts fall on other days.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents GM workers in the United States and last week also called for tighter scrutiny over the election, previously said as many as 7,000 people would be voting.

Workers will choose among four unions in line with a Mexican labor reform aimed at ensuring freedom of association, a key tenet of a new trade deal with the United States and Canada.

A vote last year on the collective contract was initially marred by irregularities, prompting the U.S. government to demand ramped-up scrutiny in a formal complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Workers eventually voted to dissolve the contract, opening the door to elect a new union.

U.S. officials in September closed the GM complaint about last year's vote, but are still tracking the issue, a U.S. government labor committee report said last week.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Sandra Maler

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