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Painting of FAT supporters with signs for socialjustice & free unions in colorful town
Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention
Artist Beatriz Aurora

Mexican Labor News & Analysis

October , 2010, Vol. 15, No. 9

 

Introduction to this issue:

Dear Readers,

Because this issue is so long, I want to call your attention to a few really significant developments. The first group of articles covers an impressive organizing victory by the FAT and their 50th Anniversary Congress.

The next section provides updated information regarding a variety of on-going struggles. I want to highlight two in particular. Of particular importance is the announcement of a pact between the CTM and CT to produce their own labor law reform proposal. If, as rumors have it, the PAN and PRI are able to reconcile their differences, together they have the votes to pass a “reform” that will be devastating to the independent trade union movement. We will be in touch regarding future developments; please stand ready if we need to call on you to help our Mexican sisters and brothers defeat these virulent attacks on their rights.

You are no doubt aware of the escalating attack on the independent unions in Mexico. Particularly disturbing is the arrest of one of the leaders of SME for violations supposedly committed many months earlier, at a time when the union has demonstrated an impressive show of unity and strength on the anniversary of the massive discharge of its members and just at the time when it has proposed a legislative solution. Please note that the SME Solidarity Committee of the San Francisco Labor Council has called for a protest next week at the Mexican consulate and invites activists in San Francisco and other cities to join them.

The third section contains reports of two major advances in solidarity: a pact regarding a plan of action between the AFL-CIO and UNT and a report on a meeting hosted by the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) to support the organizing work of independent unions in Mexico. Also discussed at the meeting were proposals for a world day of action on February 18 to highlight on-going struggles and to demand the right of freedom of association in Mexico. There is also a proposal for a tour of trade union leaders who will travel to the US and Canada early next year. If any of you have major events planned in which they might participate or if you are in a position to help organize or finance events, please be in touch!

The final section includes other matters that we believe are important for an understanding of the broader context, including the assassination of two peasant leaders in Oaxaca, the jockeying that has begun regarding the presidential election of 2012 and the controversy regarding whether military or civilian courts should try perpetrators of drug-related killings.

This is a critical time in Mexico. We thank you for your interest and please encourage your co-workers and friends to subscribe to MLNA.

In solidarity,

Robin Alexander
Director of International Affairs
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

 

Contents for this issue:

Frente Auténtico Del Trabajo (FAT) Wins Election at UE Sister Shop

On Friday, October 8, STIMAHCS, the metalworkers union affiliated with the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) won an impressive victory at DMI, formerly Metaldyne.

Although workers in Mexico won the right to secret ballot elections several years ago, this one was anything but fair. Notice of the election was served on the union and company the day before the election took place, allowing little time to prepare or challenge the list of “eligible” voters, which included twenty seven confidential employees including the plant manager, labor relations, and all of the supervisors. However, the union quickly learned that the company had failed to inform workrs in the plant of the upcoming election. Instead, it notified ten workers from each shift that they would be leaving for an event the following day. With this information, the union was able to design its strategy: to beat those 30 votes without alerting the company.

Working clandestinely, the necessary number of workers traveled an hour and a half by subway, then gathered at the metro station closest to the labor board. The company, official union, its lawyers, and thugs were relaxing inside along with the workers they had handpicked – assuming that they would easily win. Just before the election was set to begin, to avoid any last minute moves to scuttle it, the other workers appeared. The result of the vote: of a total of 59, 43 voted in favor of STIMAHS, 10 against, 1 was annulled and five were not permitted to vote.

The victory followed a two-year struggle to get the labor board to set an election, during which time they had to overcome numerous legal obstacles and experienced first-hand the combined power of the employer, state and official unions. When STIMAHCS first filed its petition seeking an election to replace the official union, it faced an objection that it had filed the petition in the wrong labor board. It subsequently became clear that the company had filed two contracts signed by two different unions in different labor boards -- but covering the same group of workers. Instead of imposing sanctions for such illegal conduct, the labor board used it to justify additional delays. Further delays were caused by other unions that filed multiple petitions, but then failed to even appear.

Some forty workers were fired in an early stage of the campaign, causing the campaign to shift to a much more underground strategy. Of those, six workers were determined to democratize their workplace and elect a real union. Refusing to resign, they fought for their right to reinstatement. When ordered reinstated by the labor board, they insisted on returning to their previous jobs and turned down the many thousands of dollars offered by the company to resign. One activist was offered more than $10,000 and when he turned it down was told “tell me an amount.” When they insisted on exercising their rights, they were fired a second time; the next hearing on the cases alleging the failure to reinstate the workers will take place in December.

Following the election, one of the FAT’s co-presidents, Benedicto Martínez said: “We know that despite the problem that not all 150 workers could vote, the great majority of the workers support the union. It is our expectation that the company will operate in compliance with the agreements we will reach and that we will be able to establish a relation of respect between the union and company.”

Members of UE Local 715 in Edon, Ohio, also manufacture suspensions systems for automobiles and have shown solidarity with their counterparts in Mexico at various points throughout the campaign.
Following the election, the DMI union leaders wrote to their UE counterparts: “…from now on we would like for our relationship with you to be closer and more direct, and that this will permit us to collaborate more with you. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are also aware and convinced that a change such as this is what is needed by the majority of workers in Mexico and other parts of the world. We are therefore willing whenever you ask us, to provide our testimony so that it may serve as inspiration and motivation to other workers who are experiencing a situation similar to the one we have just lived through.”

UE Director of Organization Bob Kingsley observed: “This is one of the more significant strides in the history of our strategic alliance with the Authentic Workers Front (FAT). The unity of workers employed by the same company and represented by fighting democratic unions has been a central goal of that alliance from its very inception.”

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Report on the FAT Congress (October 15-17, 2010)

By Peter Knowlton, Regional President of UE Northeast Region

Context

Violence and protection rackets by the drug cartels in a number of states and especially in the city of Juárez, Chihuahua, continue to plague Mexico. For some time a debate has been raging over whether Mexico is a “failed state.” Whatever the answer is to that question, there can be little doubt that repression has increased. In addition to the increasing ungovernability and collusion of the police with the cartels, there is also a visible increase in the attacks on the independent trade union movement in key sectors (mining, electrical, and aviation). SME, the electrical workers union, continues to fight their members’ termination and to oppose the privatization of Mexico’s electrical utility. The Mineros are still dealing with attacks on their leadership – their general secretary remains in Canada – as well as attempts to crush a strike that has lasted more than 2 years in Cananea. Mexicana Airline workers are fighting the dismantling of their wages, conditions, union, and this public airline’s existence itself.

However, the FAT had won an election at one of UE’s sister shops just days before, and the Congress was full of enthusiastic FAT members as well as national and international allies and friends who were celebrating 50 years of struggle and re-committing themselves to at least 50 more. This was the context in which the FAT celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary Congress.

My First Impressions about Being at the Fat Congress Is That if I Lived in Mexico It Would Be the Union I Would Be in

Although, like the rest of us, I keep up with and am knowledgeable about the FAT and have talked with leaders and members I had never been to Mexico, nor had I ever attended a FAT meeting. My first and most lasting impression is the UE is the FAT and vice versa. We are very similar in politics, perspective, and practices.

The Congress began with greetings from international trade unions. Other international representatives were from the French CGT, the Canadian CEP, the Quebecois CSN, the Brazil CUT, and two global union federations: the International Metalworkers Federation and the International Chemical Energy and Mine workers. The Mexican representative of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center was also present. (The new Director was in Washington signing an agreement with the UNT). Numerous social and civic progressive organizations were there on and off during the three days. Virtually all of the independent Mexican trade unions sent representatives to express greetings and support for the FAT, including SME, UNT (both telephone workers and airline pilots). FAT clearly is seen by these other unions as a leading independent voice for Mexican workers and received high praise for its work.

A video was screened that illustrated the FAT’s years of struggle, and there was the presentation of a new book on the history of the FAT. This was particularly compelling because a number of the people who were involved in major struggles over the years shared their stories.

The second day involved internal discussions of their working documents, election preparation, and sectoral meetings so the international delegation visited several museums and then went to the SME offices to pay our regards during a major cultural event. That night included music by a few professional and a number of members of the FAT, their allies and lawyers …and, of course, dancing.

The morning of the third day included presentations by the international delegates and a few prominent national figures. I led off with a power point presentation on the present crises, and the timidity of the Obama administration to take on corporate interests. What was striking was the similarity of policies being applied around the world, and people seemed to really appreciate getting a sense of what was happening outside of Mexico. This occurred at the peak of the French strikes, so that presentation was particularly well received.

The afternoon of the final day was the elections. Although there were two slates of six people, only one position was contested. The election was conducted by a three person commission that was also elected, and the voting took place by secret ballot. The vote count took place in front of the assembly and was totally transparent. The leadership body that was elected are the same folks as the last few years - with the exception that a young woman lawyer, who comes out of a shop and works for the firm that has represented the FAT for many years replaced another member of that firm.

The declaration, which had been discussed prior to the congress in regional meetings and which was finalized the previous day, was then read and adopted. It summarizes the developments in Mexico and the world since the 1980s and the impact of neo-liberalism. The heart of the document is the fourth section, entitled “It is Urgent to Change the Economic, Political and Social Path.” This section speaks of the work of the FAT, UNT, RMALC and other organizations to encourage a broad movement that incorporates civil society in order to democratize Mexican society, dismantle the corporativist system and participate in the construction of a new order in which workers and valued and included. Given the lack of success of the policies of the Executive in dealing with the crisis, they call of the legislature to assume responsibility to work with social movements to develop a national program for economic reconstruction and social development together with a plan to recover the purchasing power of wages. The declaration also outlines the demands of the campaign for freedom of association:
• Elections that are free, individual, secret, with an accurate eligibility list and in a neutral location;
• Honesty and transparency in the financial reports of organizations;
• Combating impunity, corruption and a legal system that merely gives the appearance of fairness;
• Real collective bargaining;
• Freedom of association;
• Participative and direct democracy in order to change the rules of the game;
• Impartial and timely labor justice.

The document concludes: “We declare that faced with a re-accommodation of capital that is pushing back and destroying advances in well-being, participation and equity of the working class, we proclaim our right to a decent life and for this reason we are on our feet, fighting to advance for the path of liberty, for participatory democracy in social, political and economic matters, for the good of men and women workers in Mexico, the continent and the entire planet.”

Using this as a framework, the congress approved a tri-annual plan containing five broad strategic objectives together with more specific objectives in order to promote freedom of association, solidarity, an alternative national project, and the strengthening of the organization and its finances. The congress closed with a wonderful party. However, the highlight for us was spending an hour and a half talking with the DMI workers who had just won the right to a democratic union after more than two years of struggle! (See previous article).

The Declaration from the International Delegation Follows:

BUILDING INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY WITH THE AUTHENTIC WORKERS’ FRONT

Mexico City, October 17, 2010

As unions and social organizations in United States, Canada, Québec, France and Brazil and union activists from around the world gathered in this forum of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Authentic Labour Front (FAT), we take this opportunity to express our appreciation and full solidarity with the FAT, and our commitment to defending human rights, including labour rights, in Mexico.

We are concerned about the authoritarian corporativist control wielded over workers in Mexico, which results in continuous violation by the Mexican government, in collusion with employers, of the right to FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION and other human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO conventions, signed and ratified by the Mexican government.

We reject the criminalization of trade union organizations and their actions, and the violation of trade union autonomy, lately increasingly expressed through violence, the jailing of trade unionists, and police intervention in labour disputes. Even the recently-won right to secret ballot elections is being undermined by obstacles erected by the labour authorities and the violence by thugs at elections, even those held at the labour boards themselves.

We demand non-intervention of the government in the internal affairs of unions and the unconditional recognition of their democratically elected leaders, and the full right to form unions freely and independently of the state, employers and political parties.

We wish great success to our colleagues in the Authentic Labour Front in their struggle to achieve better living and working conditions, greater justice, and more freedom for the working class of Mexico. As representatives of unions and social movement groups facing the impact of neo-liberal policies in our own countries, we recognize the contributions of the FAT to international labour alliances, uniting workers across borders.

LA LUCHA OBRERA NO TIENE FRONTERAS / WORKERS ' STRUGGLES HAVE NO

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Documents of the Movement in Translation:
Fifty Years of the FAT

By Arturo Alcalde Justiniani; Translation by Dan La Botz

The establishment of legitimate unions in our country is a Herculean task. Workers have to confront many obstacles created by the bosses, government, and corrupt union leaders who want to control them or paralyze them. For that reason there are ever fewer members of democratic unions with real collective bargaining agreements where leaders are elected by the rank and file and decisions are made collective with transparency and with accountability.

The decline of labor unions in Mexico is the result of the complicity of various interests. Consequently workers’ right to unions of their own choosing and to collective bargaining, in spite of their importance, are excluded from the national agenda. The first obstacle the unions face is achieving legal recognition by the authorities, both being recognized as unions and having their union executive boards recognized. It is now quite common that fighting unions find their legal status questioned.

When that formal obstacle is overcome, then there is the issue of collective bargaining, and here things are even worse. In practice, the bosses’ ideal scenario is that they have in place the union of their choice—that is, one that is controllable and corrupt—even before the workplace opens. Democratic unions are excluded. This twisted path to a labor contract explains in large measure the terrible situation of the union movement, with union leaders who are obliged to “dance to the tune” of the employers in order to get their principal source of income, the union dues. Then too, there is the participation of these union leaders in the tripartite institutions of the so-called labor courts, which are also complicit in the existing system that controls the labor unions.

It is in these unfavorable circumstances that the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) celebrates its 50th anniversary. The FAT was born on October 18 in Mexico City, fifty years ago, with the goal of improving working conditions and the life of the working class, as well as promoting freedom, democracy and union autonomy. True to its principles, it became the democratic and independent alternative to government control of the unions and to the corrupt union officials. Its permanent strategy has been education, organization and action. Its slogan has been unity, both nationally and internationally. Its task has been to link various organizations which also fight for change. In recent years the FAT has joined with other unions in the National Union of Workers (UNT).

Fifty years ago the first executive committee of the FAT was made up of rank and file workers: Juan Trinidad Ríos Comargo, general secretary; Elías Santacruz, adjunct secretary; Juan Bruno Cervantes, secretary of organization, and Nicolás Medina, secretary of press and propaganda. Among its early supporters we remember Pedro Velázquez of the Mexican Social Secretariat and his team of progressive worker priests. The history of the FAT has been written by thousands of men and women who during the last 50 years have participated in its struggles and strikes, in its victories and defeats. They were common people who at some point in their lives became aware that only with organization and power could they improve their working conditions and their lives. They were working people who risked losing their jobs and even risked their personal safety to achieve a better world for those who had the least.

Their life stories, too, are in many cases exemplary, many of them leader who lived or continue to live today on their wages, as workers, without ever selling out, without accepting the bribes offered to them to betray the interests of those they represent. It is appropriate to remembers those who built the organization who are no longer with us, such as Nicolás Medina and Victor Quiroga (senior), shoe workers who, swimming against the stream, led the FAT in the Bajío region of Mexico. We should also remember those who left us recently, don Ramón Ramírez, Antonio Villalba and Antonio Velásquez, all of whom worked indefatigably among the rank-and-file fighters of the union. And we should remember as well those other rank-and-file comrades in the cooperatives and the neighborhood organizations who dedicated their lives to service to others, counting on the collaboration of respected activists like Federico Babines, Benito Terrazas, Porfirio Miranda, Efraín Calderón Lara, and Ramón Durán.

It is hard to list all the battles undertaken by the FAT, hundreds of them in small- and medium-sized companies, the area in which it has undertaken most of its work. But, also in the big companies it carried out fights and left its mark, among others: Gamesa in Monterrey, Spicer and Vidrio Plano in the State of Mexico, Cinsa-Cinfunsa in Saltillo, Hilsa and Ciza in Leon, Maquiladora de Pantalones in Irapuato, PepsiCola, Ropa el Diamante, and Aceros de Chihuahua in Chihuahua.

The FAT has been involved in the organization of cooperatives, in self-managed plants, and in the rural sector—there it has organized regional unions in the north of the country such as the weavers of henequen and candle-makers and workers on ejidos [state leased lands]. It has also taken up the demands of the urban poor people’s movement for decent housing and for services. Social rights have also been part of the agenda of the independent union movement where the FAT has fought shoulder-to-shoulder with sister organizations. Also of note is the FAT’s participation in united fronts, solidarity pacts and networks of diverse organizations.

The FAT, like other organizations, understands that this country will only change if we work from the bottom up to build a different economic and social policy with regard to issues of human rights and the environment. A key element is the construction of a labor culture based on freedom, democracy, and responsibility. In short: a different direction. Congratulations and many you have many more successes!

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One Year Later:
Mexican Electrical Workers Continue Battle for Jobs

On the first year anniversary of the Mexican government’s seizure of their workplaces, liquidation of their company, and the firing of more than 44,000 workers, thousands of members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) took to the streets of Mexico City on October 11. Shouting, “We are still alive!” the workers, friends, families and allies stopped traffic on the city’s major thoroughfares to the Zócalo, the national square. Martín Esparza, the union’s general secretary vowed that the union would continue the battle for jobs.

The SME says that 17,000 workers or 36 percent of the original 44,000 continue to be active with the union and in the struggle for their jobs. The protests on the anniversary of their firing continued for several days as the electrical workers demonstrated at the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District, at the headquarters of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Secretary of Energy, the Federal Electrical Commission, and the federal House of Representatives.

The SME says that it has returned to the streets because of the failure of President Felipe Calderón and his Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano to fulfill the agreements with the fired workers reached months ago.

Union: Create a New Power Company

The SME’s principal demand is for the creation of a publicly owned company to produce electric energy for the center of the country. That is, the union wants a company more or less like the Light and Power Company of Central Mexico (LFC) which was seized and liquidated a year ago. The union is working with representatives in the House of Representatives to submit a bill to that effect. Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano Alarcón has said that there is not a chance that such a company will be created to rehire the fired workers.

The Federal Electrical Commission (CFE) currently manages the former facilities of the former Central Light and Power Company. Workers there belong to the Sole Union of Electrical Workers (SUTERM), an authoritarian and bureaucratic union loyal to the government. The SME has focused its efforts on either getting jobs at the CFE or creating a new company which could hire the former LFC workers.

To the Labor Board

While working to pass a new law through the Mexican legislature, the SME has also taken its case to the Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JFCA). The SME argues that its members were fired or laid off without justification. Thousands of electrical workers either individually or in groups have filed cases though many private law firms demanding their jobs back.

The union also argues that President Felipe Calderon’s liquidation of the company was illegal because it was not preceded by a declaration by a federal regulatory body (Cofemer). At the Labor Board, the SME argues that the CFE is the successor employer and should be responsible for hiring the workers who lost their jobs.

The union is also in negotiations with Secretary of the Interior (Gobernación) José Francisco Blake, over the union’s internal elections. That matter has been complicated by an internal division in the union, according to Blake. The SME wants all union members to vote, while Alejandro Muñoz, leader of a dissident group in the union, wants only the 22,000 retired workers to vote.

Guerrilla Warfare

While the union continues to pressure the government to reestablish the workers’ jobs and the government continues to deny any such possibility, both sides continue with what is a sort of urban guerrilla warfare—without guns. The Mexican government arrested and brought criminal charges against one SME leader, Miguel Márquez Ríos, claiming that he had deprived people of their liberty and damaged government property. The union demonstrates demanding his release.

At the same time, the union calls upon the government to arrest and charge Néstor Moreno Díaz, a director of the Federal Electrical Commission, for corruption and theft of materials from the company. Moreno Díaz already faces charges for these crimes in the U.S.

The SME, joined by other unions such as the streetcar workers, has helped to create an alliance of CFC customers to resist prices increase and to demand good service. It is estimated that in the first six months of the year -- that is, since the firing of the SME members -- electrical rates have risen 9.6 percent. There has also been an increase in blackouts and accidents, according to the SME. So far there have been 68,000 complaints by customers for excessively high charges by the CFE.

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San Francisco Labor Council to Protest Arrest of SME Leader

Miguel Márquez Rios, a member of the Executive Committee of the SME, was arrested in Puebla on October 21 on his way home from a peaceful demonstration. He was arrested without a warrant and he and other representatives from the SME were beaten. They were returning from an event at the Congress of the state of Puebla where Márquez Rios made a formal presentation requesting the support of the Puebla legislature for the creation of a decentralized power utility in the central part of the country. (See preceding article).

Near the second toll booth Texmelucan San Martín, an impressive force comprised of army and federal police, without saying a word, let alone providing a warrant, proceeded to attack Márquez Ruiz, forcing him into a sand-colored Xtrail SUV with plates HKC-3761 from the state of Hidalgo and indiscriminately beating the other workers.
“The arrest of Miguel Márquez Rios… is part of a strategy by the federal government to destroy the movement of the electrical workers and deactivate the union,” according to SME’s general secretary Martín Esparza, who was quoted in La Jornada following an interview during a protest of the arrest last Sunday. According to the paper, some 200 demonstrators demanded the release of Márquez Rios, whom they consider a political prisoner, since he is being held without bond. The demonstration was monitored by at least sixty state and municipal police.

The charges relate to actions on November 5, 2009 and March 16, 2010 and concern allegations regarding damage to federal property and deprivation of liberty of personnel of the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE) and federal police in connection with resistance actions in the installations of Luz y Fuerza del Centro.

Protest in Us Scheduled for November 5

The SME Solidarity Committee of the San Francisco Labor Council, which has provided solidarity to SME through frequent pickets at the Mexican consulate and other actions, has organized a protest action for November 5, at 12:00 noon at the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco. They encourage people in the area to join them or to organize similar protests or consular visits in other cites to protest the arrest of arrest of Miguel Márquez Rios and to demand that the Mexican government resolve the conflict with the SME.

For more information, please contact Frank Martin del Campo at: Cell (415) 407-7117 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (415) 407-7117      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (415) 407-7117      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (415) 407-7117      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or
email: poderpopular@sbcglobal.net

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CTM and CT to Make Labor Law Reform Proposal

The Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and the Congress of Labor (CT), the two most important organizations of the so-called “official” unions, that is unions historically loyal to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), will make their own labor law reform proposal, they announced.

The National Action Party (PAN), the conservative pro-business party of President Felipe Calderón, has been struggling to pass its labor law reform for several years but encountered opposition from both the PRI and the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Now the CTM and the CT proposed to work through the PRI to present a reform which incorporates some elements of PAN proposal but rejects others.
The CTM-CT proposal would, for example, permit some workers to be employed by the hour rather than the week, but only students. CTM leader Joaquín Gamboa Pascoe said that the country must have a reform which both creates economic growth and respects the unions and rights of workers to organize themselves and defend their interests.
He said that the PAN proposal would take away protections for pregnant women, did not respect union rights, would threaten the right to strike, as well as weaken severance requirements.

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Protesting Mexicana Airlines Workers Clash with Police

Some 500 workers at the maintenance facility of Mexicana airlines, protesting their layoff by the company, clashed with police in late October. The workers at the facility were attempting to prevent 13 airplanes which they had seized and held from being taken from them and returned by court order to their “legitimate owners.”

The recent bankruptcy of Mexicana led to the layoff of more than 6,000 workers. Following the bankruptcy, various corporations have been laying claim to the airlines equipment and routes.

When workers go on strike in Mexico, it is customary for the workers to occupy the facility and hold the machinery until the strike ends. While these workers were not on strike, they were acting in that spirit, protecting their jobs.

Hundreds of other ground workers, airline flight attendants and pilots have also been protesting at the International Airport in Mexico City. They have proclaimed that they are prepared to seize the runways in order to fight for their jobs.

At the beginning of August, Mexicana employed over 6,000 workers: 2,500 ground workers, 1,400 flight attendants, 1,400 management employees, and 800 pilots. Pilots, flight attendants and ground workers were unionized employees with collective bargaining agreements. Today the company is closed and has declared bankruptcy in Mexico and the United States, and while complex financial negotiations are going on, there is no guarantee that any of the workers’ jobs or their unions will be saved.

Workers may receive as little as 10 percent of the legal severance pay that they have coming as they compete with other creditors. The pilots’ union has criticized President Felipe Calderón’s administration for failing to defend the national airline industry. A group of Senators in the Mexican legislature is investigating the situation. Airline union leaders have approached Carlos Slim Helú, Mexico’s richest man -- and this year declared to be the richest in the world -- to see if they can interest him in coming to the financial rescue of Mexicana.

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Cananea Miners Refuse Severance Pay; Vow to Continue Strike

Most Cananea miners have refused their severance pay, vowing that they will continue the strike that they began in July of 2007. Earlier this year, after a court ruled the strike was over, federal police entered the mining town of Cananea and took control of the mine from the strikers. Although a separate order from a district court specifically permits the strikers to remain in the mine, that order has not been respected and there are still federal and state police occupying the mine and scabs working inside. The strike began with 1,087 workers and about 900 continue the strike today.

“We didn’t become involved in this strike only to sell our contract and nor are we going to bow before the boasts of the company and the government,” said Sergio Solano, the general secretary of Local 65 of the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM).

Miners said that they have discontinued their picket lines at the mine because of attacks by company guards.

In related news, a Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration also declared the strike that began June 20, 2010 at the Guanajuato mine to be illegal. Meanwhile, at Altos Hornos de Mexico in Monclova, the country’s largest steel mill, workers on strike there are facing company and government repression and have also engaged in hunger strikes. And workers at the Gold Corp mine, El Peñasquito, in Mazapil, Zacatecas signed a new contract with wage and benefit gains.

In the continuing legal case against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, leader of the mine workers union who has been charged with robbing 55 million dollars, a judge ordered the arrest of the brothers Germán and Genaro Larrea Mota, the owners of Grupo Mexico, one of the country’s largest corporations. The arrests were ordered to assure that they appear to testify in the trial of the union leader. Various independent outside investigators have declared that Gómez did not commit the embezzlement of which he was accused.

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Pemex Attempts to Force Leader of UNTyPP to Resign

Article and translation by Robin Alexander

Some 30,000 technical and professional employees of PEMEX, the huge public Mexican petroleum complex, have struggled for several years to organize and obtain recognition for an independent union. Their third attempt was successful, and on December 19, 2009 a federal court forced the government to recognize the union and its officers.

The new union's victory was short lived. Some fifty leaders and activists from the new "Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionistas Petroleros" (UNTyPP) were fired, joining many others who had been discharged during the first two unionization efforts. Many others were informed that in order to retain their jobs they were required to sign two documents, one calling for the cancellation of the union's registration and the other a resignation from the union.

A major initiative focused on the House of deputies coupled with a Labourstart campaign that generated some 4000 emails caused PEMEX to enter into discussions with the union and to reinstate three of the 27 who had refused to bow to pressure and sign away their rights.

However, PEMEX has continued to resist real negotiations, deferring to the official union, STPRM. (A decision by the Mexican Supreme Court several years ago held that more than one union could represent workers in the same bargaining unit, putting an end, at least in theory, to the stranglehold of the official unions over public sector workers).

Most recently, PEMEX attempted to force the resignation of the General Secretary of Local 1 of UNTyPP, in what the union claims is retaliation and an effort to dismantle an effective effort to defend the labor rights of professional and technical workers in Coatzacoalcos.

In Response, the Union Issued the Following Declaration:

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
TO THE INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNION
TO THE GENERAL DIRECTOR OF PETROLEOS MEXICANOS
TO THE DIRECTOR OF PEMEX PETROQUIMICA
TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

By means of this document, the workers affiliated with the National Union of Technical and Professional Petroleum Workers (UNTyPP), demonstrate our most energetic opposition to the actions taken by the administrative authorities of Petróleos Mexicanos towards our brother, Ing. Moisés Flores Salmerón, General Secretary of Local 1, of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Last Friday, the 22 of October at 5:30, Lic. Eduardo Ramirez Bautista, Superintendent of Services and Benefits for the employees of Pemex Petroquímica, informed Flores Salmerón that as of that day he was retired, even though he had not requested this pursuant to the administrative procedures of Pemex Petroquímica.

This action by the administration is a provocation as well as a flagrant violation of the rights of that worker. In addition, Lic. Francisco Javier Ramirez Rodriguez, Manager of Labor Relations of PEMEX has gone back on his word, as just a day earlier he had provided assurances that there would not be any forced retirements of our members.

This happened eleven days after the General Director of Petróleos Mexicanos appeared, on October 13, and personally and in writing before the House of Representatives, expressed his recognition of our union and respect for our organization. This is a clear example that the repression of our freedom of association that is protected by our laws has not ended, even though the Secretary of Labor and Social Benefits, has recognized our union and granted union registration Nº 5878 as a company based union in compliance with the constitutional decree in the indirect appeal of the First District Court for Labor Matters of the Federal District. Our Union has as its mission the defense of the labor rights of the technical and professional workers, as well as to ensure that Petróleos Mexicanos is an integrated national oil company at the service of our country. For this reason we will not stand aside in the face of an attack against any of our brothers.

For These Reasons We Demand:

1.- The immediate suspension of the illegal retirement of Ing. Moisés Flores Salmerón, Secretary General of Local No 1 of UNTyPP, and reinstatement of our dismissed brothers.

2.- Recognition and respect by the company, in an official manner, of the union registration that was conferred on our union by the labor authorities, as well as for the operation of the Executive Committees in each Center of Work.

3.- The immediate halt to any act of repression against any employees affiliated with UNTyPP.

It is important to remember that seven years ago our brother Moisés Flores Salmerón was dismissed illegally by the director of Pemex Petroquímica, Rafael Beverido Lomelín, for defending the company against privatization and that a year ago he was reinstated. Now, as union representative, he has received another blow from those who oppose our struggle.

“For an Integrated National Petroleum Industry at the Service of our Nation”

National Union of Technical and Professional Petroleum Workers (UNTyPP)

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Gangs Fire on Busload of Maquiladora Workers: 4 Dead, 15 Injured

Information in this article from coverage by La Jornada.

The drug war’s latest victims in Mexico are workers at a maquiladora in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico (across the border from El Paso, Texas).

A group of armed men, presumed to be from gangs involved in Mexico’s drug wars, attacked the bus belonging to the Eagle Ottawa company, a Canadian auto parts manufacturer, as it took third shift workers home in the early morning (1:30 a.m.) on October 28. Four were killed, 15 injured, and one reportedly taken away from the scene of the attack by the gang members.

The workers, 12 of them women, were mostly shot in the lower extremities. Various women’s groups in the city responded that same day with protest demonstrations at the state legislature to demand an end to the shootings and killing in Juárez and throughout the state of Chihuahua and other parts of Mexico. Victor Quintana of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) helped to coordinate the protests.

One gang, La Línea, the armed wing of the Juarez drug cartel, painted signs on abandoned buildings in the city saying that it had not been responsible for the attack. La Línea or the line refers to the U.S.-Mexico border on which the town of Juarez sits.

Maquiladora Closes Its Doors because of Gangs

The drug wars in Juárez are taking their toll on the maquiladora industry in other ways too.

Earlier this month, a maquiladora in Ciudad Juárez -- this one a manufacturer of pet food -- closed its doors on mid-October because of extortion by a local drug gang, presumably La Línea and by Gente Nueva (New Folks), the armed wing of the Sinaloa cartel. Unable to make payoffs to the two gangs, the owner decided to close the factory.

The National Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber of the Small and National Manufacturing Industry report that since November 2007 more than 5,000 businesses in Juárez have closed, many of them reportedly because they could not pay the protection money demanded or because the gangs burned the factories when they did not pay. The Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez reports that between 2007 and 2010 more than 230,000 people have left Juárez either for their hometowns in other regions of Mexico or for the United States.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Social Security Union Leader Says He Will Stay in Office until 2018

Valdemar Gutiérrez Fragoso, head of the National Union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS), announced that he will continue in office until 2018. He said that based on a temporary article in the union’s by-laws he would extend his term in office for six years.
Gutiérrez declared that there would be no election and that he would continue in office at the suggestion of the delegates to the union’s national convention. He declared this a one-time only extension that would not affect other subsequent administrations or local union elections.

The National Assembly of IMSS Workers, a dissident caucus within the SNTSS, denounced Gutiérrez, claiming that the extension of his term was illegal. The new term of office has yet to be approved by the Secretary of Labor through the process known as “toma de nota” or “taking a note,” the government approval of union officers.

This is not the first time that Gutiérrez, who is also a Congressional Representative of the National Action Party (PAN), has extended his term. In 2008 he lengthened the regular term of office of the general secretary from four to six years. Nor is Gutiérrez the first union leader to use such a device. Carlos Romero Deschamps, general secretary of the Petroleum Workers Union (STPS), did exactly the same thing in his union.

The SNTSS recent convention in Nayarit also approved the new union contract with a wage gain of 3 percent, the lowest of any organized union in the country, according to La Jornada.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

National University Union Seeks Pay Increase, Better Contract

The Union of Workers of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (STUNAM) has asked the university administration for a wage increase of 20 percent, plus additional support for transportation and food. The union is also seeking improvements in working conditions. The union brought more than 1,000 workers to a meeting in the university rectory on October 15 and turned out thousands for a demonstration on October 27. The union has threatened to join with other unions in “a great national union movement” if its demands are not met.
The union has also taken its demands to the House of Representatives arguing that that’s where national economic policy is set.

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Police Beat Teachers En Route to Secretary of Interior’s Office

Mexico City teachers, members of Local 9, led by general secretary Francisco Bravo, spent several hours on October 13 in the public employees social security institute (ISTEE) attempting to work out problems dealing with health benefits and other employee benefits.
When they became frustrated with the results they were getting there, Bravo and other officers led a group of 500 of the union’s members in the direction of Bucareli, the office of the Secretary of the Interior José Francisco Blake. While they were still blocks from Bucareli, police reportedly attacked the marchers, injuring 20.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Walkout in a Baja Electronics Maquiladora

Story contributed by Maquila Network

About 700 maquiladora workers AT Sharp Rosarito about 15 miles South of Tijuana walked off the job at the end of September.
The workers created a committee to talk with the company administration, the Secretariat of Labor and the union that supposedly “represents” them. The managers of the Japanese company refused to talk with the committee. Meantime, an outsourcing company set up a booth next to the factory to hire people in order to replace the workers who participate in the walkout.

The police surrounded the workers, but otherwise did not interfere in the strike.

The workers committee passed out a flyer with the following demands:
1. Wage increase according to the market, not fictional
2. Wage increase for 2010
3. Wage increase for 2009, retroactive
4. Annual evaluation based on inflation and performance
5. Definition of promotions for wage increases
6. Assign budget for a real training for workers
7. A better labor atmosphere by training managers, supervisors and production line leaders in fair and equal labor relationships
8. Multi-abilities in operators to indicate their personal and economic development
9. Overtime work paid as that and not as worked “resting-time”

Later that night the company offered a 4% wage increase. The workers accepted the offer and returned to work, though many are still dissatisfied.

Workers’ photos: http://ollincallicm.blogspot.com/search/label/Struggles%20in%20the%20Maquilas)

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

AFL-CIO-Mexico Action Plan Focuses on Economy, Labor Rights

By Jamie Parks

October 29, 2010

The AFL-CIO and the major independent Mexican labor federation, Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), have agreed on a joint action plan to bring economic and social development to both countries.
The plan, signed by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the three co-presidents of UNT, calls for the two federations to work jointly to rebuild the industrial base in the United States and Mexico. They will work together across industries to ensure that jobs in these industries are good jobs and workers are represented by unions and to coordinate bargaining across borders.

Mexican unions and U.S. unions have worked closely for years. Most recently, the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers (USW) backed strikers at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea and Pasta de Conchos mines. The Communications Workers of America (CWA), led by President Larry Cohen, has had a long working relationship with STRM, the independent union of telephone workers, defending worker and union rights and supporting each other in bargaining, organizing and mobilization.
In 2007, Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), was murdered in Monterrey where he was helping farmworkers speak out and fight corruption in the recruitment of workers to migrate to America. The Solidarity Center also works with Mexican workers to build an independent trade union movement there.

CWA’s Cohen says:
The working people of Mexico need an independent trade union movement to be able to bargain fairly and make economic gains for themselves and their families. The UNT is a dynamic organization with members like STRM that are committed to ending the Mexican government’s assault on workers’ rights. This plan will help bring economic justice to workers in both Mexico and the United States.

AFL-CIO International Affairs Director Cathy Feingold adds:
The agreement reached with the UNT represents an important step forward towards realizing a shared prosperity agenda for workers struggling in both Mexico and the United States.
The union leaders also agreed to work together to oppose any further weakening of labor laws and to work jointly to strengthen labor laws through the International Labor Organization (ILO) and other global groups.

One of the major labor-law problems in Mexico is the so-called “protection contracts”— collective agreements negotiated between employers and “official” company or government-appointed union leaders—which “protect” the employer from having to deal with representative and democratic trade unions. Protection contracts are negotiated without the knowledge or consent of workers. Such contracts often are in place in a factory even before workers are hired. Experts estimate that the vast majority of collective bargaining agreements in the country are in fact protection contracts.

the Agreement Also Calls For:

• Developing a plan for immigration that protects, promotes and respects immigrant rights.
• Working together to combat unscrupulous labor recruiters and end labor abuses in both countries.
• Pushing for changes in both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the labor side agreements.
• Using the existing systems in trade agreements to push for enforcement of worker rights in each country.
• Conducting joint corporate campaigns to build authentic representation for workers.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Building the Strength of Independent Unions in Mexico

International Metalworkers Federation (IMF)

"Our first objective is to survive; if we stop fighting we will disappear," says Jorge Robles of UNT union when speaking on the situation for Mexican independent unions during the International Metalworkers' Federation's Strategic Meeting on Union Building held in Mexico City on October 13-14, 2010.

MEXICO: The International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) held a Strategic Meeting on Union Building in Mexico City on October 13 and 14, to find ways to jointly build democratic union power in Mexico.
Los Mineros and SME, the two oldest and leading democratic unions in Mexico who are under violent attack by the Mexican Government, opened the meeting. Sergio Beltrán, speaking on behalf of Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleon Gómez, denounced the increasingly precarious working conditions due to 95 per cent of contracts being protection contracts, which deprive the majority of Mexican workers of their rights to have a union.

Martín Esparza, SME General Secretary announced that the Mineros-SME Pact represents a giant step forward to jointly fight for the restoration of the State of Law. The leadership of both national unions expressed their full support of the meeting, highlighting the utmost urgency to expand and build the membership and capacity of the democratic unions.

Each of the independent Mexican unions and organisations present condemned the corruption and brutal anti-union tactics deployed by employers with overt complicity of governmental authorities. "In Mexico we continue fighting for collective contracts at gunpoint," said Hector de la Cueva from Centro de Investigación Laboral y Asesoría Sindical (CILAS).

Jorge Robles from Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), stated, "For 80 years we have been subjected to corporative unions engaged with governmental institutions to protect employers and maintain workers under control; in Mexico there is no drop in the unionization rate because most workers are unionized unknowingly! Here the companies continue to choose which unions they want. Our first objective is to survive; if we stop fighting we will disappear. Our second urgent task is to strengthen the unions that can defend us."

The meeting brought together over 50 participants including the leadership of the six main independent unions in Mexico, unions affiliated to IMF, ICEM, representatives from IMF, ICEM, UNI and ITF, and international and Mexican civil society organizations, who supported the need to build a coordinated approach with solidarity from trade unions around the world.

Following up to the Toronto meeting in June this year, Joe Drexler from ICEM, together with representatives from the Global Unions Federations present, emphasized the need to continue educating the membership regarding the situation in Mexico and to develop broad alliances to condemn the Mexican Government's attacks on independent unions.

During the two-day meeting, participants discussed the complexities of organizing democratic unions and the positive role that civil society organisations such as Centro de Apoyo al Trabajador (CAT), Comité Fronterizo de Obrero(a)s (CFO) and Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (PRODESC) in particular, have recently played in training workers on their labour rights to form part and affiliate to the national Los Mineros union.

IMF presented the conclusions of an evaluation of the 2004-2009 IMF Organising Project in the Maquilas, while Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) updated participants about the extension of the Campaign against Protection Contracts to Puebla and research being carried out regarding existing collective agreements. AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center expressed their commitment to continue supporting the independent unions in Mexico.

The participants reaffirmed their commitment to work together and reinforce alliances with the democratic unions. "This meeting expressed great solidarity and unity to go forward together in building strong and democratic unions in Mexico," said IMF Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes. "We need two legs to stand and walk. The Toronto agreement to fight at all levels for freedom of association and trade union rights is only one leg, the expansion and capacity building of the democratic unions in Mexico is our second leg. Each organization has different capacities and needs, we must examine each case and strategically coordinate our union building efforts," added Lopes.

Responsibilities and tasks were shared among participants and the report of the main decisions from the meeting will be posted at the end October. An email network will function until the next planning meeting scheduled for early 2011, to work on the global union-building proposal with each of the participating unions.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Mexico’s Leftist Politicians Look toward to 2012 Election

With the 2012 election still more than a year and a half away, Mexico’s leftist politicians have begun already to campaign for the presidency. The two leading contenders, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Marcelo Ebrard, are both jockeying for position already. Another possible candidate is Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, son of Mexico’s most famous president and candidate in previous elections.

The left has a chance to win the one-term 6-year presidency, but it won’t be easy. Felipe Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN) have been largely discredited by the economic crisis, their inability to win the drug war, and the human rights violations and repression by the military, the police, and political assassins. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is expected to be the big winner in the elections of 2012 based on its showing in the last mid-term election. Its presidential candidate will likely be Enrique Peña Nieto, governor of the State of Mexico.

The Left Candidates Position Themselves

López Obrador has been at the center stage in October, largely as a result of a comment by Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The president declared that his former opponent was “a danger for Mexico” and that he had “done terrible damage to Mexico” in the 2006 election. López Obrador replied that Calderón was responsible for the current “national tragedy” and that he should beg forgiveness from the Mexican people.

López Obrador has won the support of a block of senators from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) – for whom he was a candidate 2006 -- and from the Labor Party (PT), with which he worked on mid-term elections in 2010.

Meanwhile, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, another former PRD presidential candidate, has called for the creation of a “progressive and democratic front.” The 76-year old Cárdenas doesn’t rule out a 2012 bid for the presidency, declaring, “I am neither crippled nor blind.”

Cárdenas, however, may back Marcelo Ebrard, the popular mayor of Mexico City. Ebrard of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution has supported women’s abortion rights, gay marriage, and social programs for the disadvantaged. He also created urban beaches in the summer and skating rinks in the winter.

At present, Ebrard and López Obrador are at odds over how to go after their most important opponent, Peña Nieto, the PRI governor of the State of Mexico. Ebrard prefers an alliance with the PAN to defeat him for the governorship, while López Obrador is waging a campaign against any PRD-PAN alliances.

Women’s organizations recently declared that Mexico was ready for a woman president, but so far no candidate has presented herself. Rosario Ibarra ran as the first woman candidate for president in 1882 on the ticket of the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT).

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Two Activists Murdered in Oaxaca;
Speculation: Ex-governor’s Revenge

Two leaders of the popular movement in Oaxaca were assassinated in late October, both of them murdered execution style. Local activists speculate that this is the work of persons associated with governor Ulises Ruiz who lost the July 2010 election to Gambino Cue Monteagudo, a left-of-center candidate running on the ticket of a right-left alliance. Cue’s election came in the aftermath of the 2006 civic uprising by teachers and communities in the capital city of Oaxaca who revolted against Ruiz’s repressive regime.

The two men who were killed were Heriberto Pazos Ortiz, the leader of the Movement for the Unification of the Triqui Struggle (MULT) and Catarino Torres Pereda, general secretary of the Committee of Citizen Defense (Codeci). Pazos was shot and killed in Oaxaca when two men on a motor cycle pulled up alongside his car and fired guns through the open window hitting him in the head. Pereda was shot in the office of his organization in the town of Tuxtepec when two men came into the office to talk with him, took out pistols and fired at him at point blank range.

No One Has so Far Been Apprehended or Charged by the Police.

Local activists from social movements and left political parties did not hesitate to suggest that Governor Ruiz was behind the assassinations. Governor-elect Cue called upon the State’s Attorney to prosecute those responsible.

On October 8, Antonio Jiménez Baños, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and mayor elected of the town of Mártires de Tacubaya was assassinated, shot with a shotgun while returning to his farm. Speculation was that that the murder had been carried out by drug dealers who have been assassinating mayors in towns throughout the country.

Upon learning of these two latest assassinations, leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned the administration of president Felipe Calderón for the pattern of assassination and the unraveling of the situation in the country.

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Calderón’s Proposed Reform of Military Code Criticized

Mexican President Felipe Calderón presented a proposed reform of the Military Code of Justice to the Senate in late October, but human rights organizations in Mexico and abroad found fault with his proposal. The proposal would call for members of the military accused of forced disappearance, torture or rape to be tried for those crimes in civilian courts.

Over a dozen Mexican human rights organization, Amnesty International (AI), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), as well as the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights all found that the proposal failed to meet the requirements set by the Intern-American Court on Human Rights (CIDH). The CIDH requires that all violations of human rights be tried before a civilian court.

Under Calderón’s proposal, for example, an extra-judicial execution—that is a military murder of a civilian—would still be tried only in a military court.

Calderón’s proposal comes in response to mounting criticism of the Mexican Army for human rights violations in the course of the drug war.

See Rights’ Groups Criticisms At:

http://centroprodh.org.mx/sididh2008/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/101019_sididh_255.pdf
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/10/21/mexico-require-civilian-investigation-abuses-against-civilians-military
http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=viewp&id=1179&Itemid=8
http://www.wola.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=viewp&id=1180&Itemid=2
http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/mexico-propuesta-calderon-reforma-justicia-militar-permitiria-continui

Back to October , 2010 Table of Contents

Social Statistics

Women Workers in Mexico Still Lack Equality and Justice on Job

Women in Mexico receive wages 30 percent lower than men doing the same job, according to Martha Heredia Figueroa, Vice-President for Equality and Gender of the National Union of Workers (UNT). Heredia presented this information while speaking at the opening of the Third National Meeting of Union Women organized by the UNT, the Streetcar Workers Alliance of Mexico and the Center for Labor Research and Union Consulting (CILAS).

Women in Mexico today represent 40 percent of the economically active population (EAP), but 55 percent of them receive incomes of less than two minimum wages as opposed to the 38.8 percent of men who make less than two minimum wages. This according to the figures of the Mexican Institute of Statistics (INEGI) and the Secretary of Labor.

Official figures also indicate that one out of five women is self-employed in things such as the sale of food, in family businesses or as a street vendor. Most of these self-employed women receive no social benefits of employment. Of those engaged in direct sales -- some 1.2 million people -- 80 percent are women, according to Foro Pyme Mujer, a women’s advocacy organization.

Meanwhile, the number of households headed by women has grown by 25.5 percent in the last five years, according to the Mexican Institute of Statistics (INEGI). Mexico has 28.2 million households of which 21 million or 74.5 percent are headed by men. In 2005 some 23.5 million households were headed by women, while today the figure is 25.5 percent.

Unemployment

Mexico’s unemployment rate in September reached 5.7 percent according to INEGI, the Mexican Institute of Statistics. Unemployment in commerce reached 20 percent, in manufacturing 15 percent, and in construction 7.2 percent. This compares to the official annual rates for all workers of between 3.5 and 4.5 percent before the economic crisis.

Poverty

The poorest people in Mexico lost about one-fifth of their income due to the crisis, according to the Bank of Mexico.

Pensions

Only 27 percent of the elderly in Mexico receive pensions according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CEPAL). The poorest Mexicans have no pensions.

Illiteracy

Mexico has 5.8 million illiterate adults (over age 15). Some 9.9 million Mexicans have not finished primary school. Mexico’s total population is 106 million. Some 17.5 million have not completed high school.

Hunger

Some 23.1 million Mexicans or about one in 5 does not receive an adequate diet according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policies (Coneval).

Wages as Percentage of GDP

Wages in Mexico have fallen to just 29.2 percent of the GDP while profits have risen to 61.6 percent of GDP.

Walmart

Walmart of Mexico and Central America will hire 16,000 temporary employees to work in its 1,589 stores this Christmas season.

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