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Mexico’s 1st labor center Centro Laboral UAQ opens with UCLA support

The Centro Laboral UAQ, Mexico’s first labor center, is pictured. It was opened in August by the Autonomous University of Querétaro in collaboration with the UCLA Labor Center.(Courtesy of Diseño e Imagen FPSE)

By Jessica Gonzalez

Sept. 26, 2022 12:03 p.m.

The Autonomous University of Querétaro has opened Mexico’s first labor center with support from the UCLA Labor Center.

The Centro Laboral UAQ, which opened in August, seeks to provide more resources to workers in Mexico by supporting working class mobilization, assisting in contract negotiation and helping workers understand how to unionize, according to UCLA Newsroom.

Although Mexico is host to numerous industries such as automobile and aerospace manufacturing, it still lacks support for an organized and mobilized workforce, said Paolo Marinaro, a lecturer of labor studies at UCLA. He said Querétaro was chosen as the first labor center’s location because of its reputation as an important industrial hub in Mexico.

Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, a project director at the UCLA Labor Center, said the labor center in Querétaro is the first of three the UCLA Labor Center plans to open in Mexico, with the other two set to be developed at Mexico’s Metropolitan Autonomous University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He said their purpose is to provide workers in Mexico with resources, including access to lawyers and academic programs, as they seek to further their rights within their labor sectors.

“Having access to lawyers who can help these workers address issues of working conditions, harassment at the workplace and wage theft are important,” Rivera-Salgado said. “There is a lot of interest in developing a network of worker centers in Mexico.”

Since this is Mexico’s first ever labor center, Janna Shadduck-Hernández – a project director at the UCLA Labor Center – said leaders at both the Autonomous University of Querétaro and the UCLA Labor Center are working to ensure its success. The director of Centro Laboral UAQ, Javier Salinas, was a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA who was able to learn from and forge connections with her and Rivera-Salgado throughout his time at the university, thus linking the Los Angeles- and Mexico-based labor centers together, Shadduck-Hernández said.

“It’s (Centro Laboral UAQ is) being modeled on a lot of the learnings from some of the key actors there, of having spent time here at UCLA,” Shadduck-Hernández said. “But also of the deep commitment to really wanting to improve the working conditions of the working class in Mexico and in the U.S. and how can we create transnational connections across boundaries and across borders.”

Rivera-Salgado added that Centro Laboral UAQ is opening as Mexico is currently working to ensure successful labor reform, which has been spurred by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The new trade deal requires collective bargaining agreements, allowing the working class to voice their concerns instead of solely corporate interests, he added.

Salinas said the center’s primary goal is now promoting its services and making itself known to laborers who could utilize their resources.

“What we want to do is have better communication with workers, help them organize themselves, help them understand that there is a space where they can receive advice if they have an interest in finding better labor conditions,” Salinas said.

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Jessica Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
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