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Audi Workers in Mexico Hold First Auto Strike Under AMLO

(Bloomberg) -- Unionized workers at the Audi plant in the central Mexican state of Puebla are on strike over wages, while the union representative continues negotiations in Mexico City.

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The unionized workers went on strike on Wednesday mid-morning after rejecting the German automaker’s proposal of a 6.5% salary increase for this year’s contract. The workers’ union Sitaudi, which represents more than 4,000 workers, had requested a 15.5% increase including benefits. Inflation in Mexico was 4.66% by the end of 2023.

The striking workers planted red and black flags outside the Audi plant in Puebla, shouting that they are “workers, not beggars” and deserve a higher salary for manufacturing the luxury vehicles, according to videos posted on X, formerly Twitter, from national newspaper Milenio.

Translation of X post: “We’re workers, not beggars,” workers at Audi Mexico said as they launched a strike at the Puebla plant over the lack of a salary agreement.

Audi, the upscale brand owned by Volkswagen AG, didn’t immediately respond to requests sent via email for comment.

Sitaudi’s chief, Cesar Orta Briones, traveled to Mexico City to continue talks with representatives of Audi. “We are going to continue with the negotiations,” he said in an interview with local media at the Puebla plant before traveling to the capital. “We hope to start with this issue at the negotiating table tonight or earlier today.”

The strike — the first in Audi’s more than seven-year history in Mexico, and the first auto union strike under the leadership of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — comes after unprecedented strikes orchestrated by the US’s United Auto Workers union last year, which led to historic pay increases at Ford, GM and Stellantis.

Mexico’s car industry has long been criticized for stagnant wages due to the stranglehold of the national union CTM, which has come under fire for being more focused on collecting dues and staying in control of labor contracts than representing workers. In 2019, Lopez Obrador’s administration pushed through a law to expands workers’ rights, including union votes by secret ballot to validate labor contracts. The reform helped pave the way for independent union SINTTIA to win the right to represent workers at General Motors Co.’s truck plant in Mexico in 2022, displacing CTM.

GM Union Vote Opens Path to End Years of Mexico Wage Stagnation

SINTTIA head Alejandra Morales told Bloomberg that the Audi strike is positive for auto workers in Mexico. “It could make companies see that workers know their labor rights and therefore request a decent wage,” she said.

(Updates second paragraph with Mexico’s inflation rate at the end of 2023)

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