UAW President Bob King says a lack of independent labor unions in Mexico explains why auto workers there remain impoverished despite a booming car industry.
Many Mexican employers have unions, but they predominantly are "protectionist unions" that work on behalf of companies to hold down compensation and preserve production, King says.
These protectionist unions won't hold democratic elections for officers or subject labor agreements to a vote by members, he says.
"In Brazil, 36 million people have moved out of poverty in recent years because of what free labor unions have fought for," King says. "You haven't seen that in Mexico."
King estimates that UAW members in the United States working at auto plants and auto parts factories earn an average of about $35 an hour in combined wages and benefits.
According to Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography,the average wage and benefit package for Mexican auto assembly workers is $6.94 an hour. The minimum wage by law in Mexico is about $5 a day.
King says he is making it a part of the UAW's mission to pressure U.S.-based manufacturers operating in Mexico to pay wages that support a reasonable standard of living.