Two sweeping reform packages passed by Mexico's current administration — energy and education reform — signify major blows for the country's most powerful unions. Although the two packages differ greatly in scope and impact, together they herald substantial changes in the Mexican labor sector, effectively reducing the influence of two of Mexico's most powerful unions.
So far, the efforts to block implementation that have generated the most unrest and media attention in the country belong to the National Coordinator of Education Workers, a dissident faction within the National Education Workers Union. The faction has put up a public but largely ineffective fight against the reforms. But when the dissident group called to block June 7 elections, it failed to generate the necessary participants to carry out its threat. Now, the National Education Workers Union, one of the largest labor organizations in Latin America, will have to answer to federal oversight partly in the form of teacher evaluations.
Like their counterparts in the education sector, energy unions are seeing their influence decline in the face of reform. Mexico's energy resources begin to officially open up to foreign investment next month, and the National Oil Workers Union is more disadvantaged than ever during its current round of negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement (effective Aug. 1). It lacks the power to stop the widely-rumored mass layoffs within Petroleos Mexicanos, should they occur as a result of budget cuts. Moreover, Mexico's 2012 labor reforms banned exclusive closed-shop agreements, meaning the National Oil Workers Union likely will encounter growing competition from small, independent unions in the sector.
Mexico's social, political and economic reforms have long been weakening the influence of labor unions on the political system. Now the trend only continues, as new education and energy reforms will gradually erode more of their power and political clout.