|Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention|
|Artist Beatriz Aurora|
Mexican Labor News & Analysis
March , 2011, Vol. 16, No. 3
Introduction to this issue:
We in the workers’ movement are in a new era. At Mexican Labor News and Analysis, we find we are viewing things differently in this new period as we attempt to situate ourselves as observers, reporters and promoters of international labor solidarity.
We’ve been publishing Mexican Labor News and Analysis for 16 years, but today things are much different than they were when we began, different for all of the unions in continental North America. The events of the last few years have significantly changed every aspect of employer-union relations, labor law, and social welfare in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries. Politicians have dismantled many of our rights. Employers have gone on the offensive as never before. And workers are fighting back on this continent both separately in their respective nations and collectively though tri-national alliances.
When we began Mexican Labor News and Analysis, most people we encountered presumed that Canadian and U.S. workers enjoyed labor rights, while Mexicans suffered under an oppressive government system that denied workers there their rights. The situation was always more complicated. Mexican workers had enjoyed since 1917 a Constitutional right to organize unions under Article 123, while Canadian workers had Federal union rights since the 1907 Industrial Disputes and Investigation Law. Yet U.S. workers only won the Federal right to unionize in 1935 with the passage of National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act).
Still, in practice, Canadian and U.S. workers generally enjoyed greater rights than Mexican workers. The Mexican state system often referred to as “corporatism,” that is the incorporation of the unions into the ruling party and the state, and the tripartite labor boards, virtually eliminated independent unions, prevented workers from striking, and led to collusion between the government, bosses and “official” unions to drive dissident workers out of the union and out of the workplace. Mexico’s government-backed official unions in both the private and the public sectors were often run by gangsters who did not hesitate to collude in firing, even beating and sometimes killing workers who sought union democracy and a more militant fight for workers’ rights.
Back in the mid-1990s when we began to publish MLNA, Canadian workers often seemed to have it best since some of them had “card check”—a simple majority of cards signed to get a union—and some had strong protections against workers being fired. U.S. workers had been reeling since Ronald Reagan’s 1981 attack on the Professional Association of Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) which led to the firing of 13,000 who had gone on strike. We in Canada and the U.S. admired Mexican workers in the independent movements—such as the National Coordinating Committee of the Mexican Teachers Union (la CNTE)—for their huge mobilizations and strikes involving tens of thousands of workers and the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) for their principled determination to build independent unions against incredible odds.
Today, throughout North America, unions and workers are under attack from their governments and from the employers. Canadian private sector workers in industries such as auto have faced and been forced to give in to employer demands for concessions. The country’s biggest forest industry company AtibiBowater declared bankruptcy threatening jobs of thousands. Public sector workers have also been under attack. In many provinces and cities they are facing moves toward wage and benefit freezes, demands that they give up sick days and other benefits, and new drives for privatizing key public services and taking away defined benefit pensions.
Similarly, in the United States, private sector employers are demanding give backs in wages, higher worker contributions to health care and the elimination of pensions, while public employees face budget cuts from both major parties and Republican attempts to take away their bargaining rights such as those in Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee and Idaho. A Michigan law would give a new government agency the right to simply do away with collective bargaining agreements. Various states, beginning with Indiana, are also moving forward with “right-to-work” proposals, that is bills that would ban union shops. At the Federal level President Barack Obama has frozen government workers’ wages while the Republicans would stop funding the National Labor Relations Board which oversees workers’ representation elections.
In Mexico President Felipe Calderón fired more than 40,000 electrical workers in October 2009, while Grupo Mexico has waged war on the Mexican Mine Workers Union, Mexicana Airlines went bankrupt leaving 6,000 unemployed, and the Mexican Congress appears to be on the verge of approving highly regressive labor law “reforms.” Throughout Mexico the war on drugs is taking a toll on workers and is sometimes used as an excuse to suppress the leaders of unions or social movements.
While we once looked to Mexico’s huge worker protests and heroic struggles, today we hear from Mexicans that they are looking at Wisconsin with admiration for the workers’ struggles there.
Last month, more than 50,000 trade unionists and their community allies around the world took action for change in Mexico during the Global Days of Action. This was the largest and most coordinated effort in support of independent trade unions in Mexico we have seen. Four Global Union Federations -- IMF, ICEM, ITF and UNI – issued the call and the newly formed Tri-National Solidarity Alliance of unions in Mexico, the US and Canada undertook the challenge of organizing protest events here.
In the US there were demonstrations or delegations in at least 13 cities, in four cities in Canada and in Mexico there were 27 different actions following the massive demonstration on January 31st.
In all, workers and their community allies in 40 countries on five continents strongly denounced the attack on independent trade unions in Mexico.
We believe that the time has finally come for a new international solidarity!
Dan La Botz and Robin Alexander
Contents for this issue:
- International Women’s Day in Mexico: Women’s Status:
Continued Inequality; Human Rights Violations; Rising Violence
- Women Workers Educate, Organize and Fight for Rights
- Electrical Workers Succeed in Pressuring Government to Meet Again; SME Women Roughed up on International Women’s Day
- Women Protest Against "Femicide" and Militarization
- PRI Submits Pro-business Labor Law Reform Bill
- Documents of the Movement in Translation:
PRI Labor Law Reform Initiative a Betrayal of the Workers
- Mexicana Workers March Again to Demand Government Revive Company
- Letter from Four Gufs and Ituc
- Mexico’s Richest Grow Even Richer; as Numbers of the Poor Grow
- Labor Shorts
- Upcoming Events:
International Women’s Day in Mexico: Women’s Status:
Continued Inequality; Human Rights Violations; Rising Violence
[Most of the statistics in this article come from the Mexican government’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) and most others come from additional official government sources. Some statistics and information come from news sources.]
President Calderón Inaugurates International Women’s Day
President Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party opened International Women’s Day ceremonies stating: “We continue to live in a machista society where prejudices and attitudes inhibit the development of women. Mexico, unfortunately, continues to be a place where many women are neglected, discriminated against, beaten and killed. Practices of sexual harassment and other abuses continue, sometimes viewed as customs in a society which doesn’t fully appreciate and respect the dignity of women.” Calderón promised that the twenty-first century would be the century of women and pointed to increased health care programs for them.
While Calderón’s remarks to some 3,000 female academics, women government employees and members of the military emphasized “prejudices and attitudes” and the psychological impact, women’s organizations tended to criticize the inequality of wealth and power in society which continue to perpetuate the inferior status and abuse of women. Most critics of Mexico’s gender relations emphasize social structures: class, ethnicity, and gender. Capitalism, patriarchy and sexist practices, they say, perpetuate women’s subordination and exploitation. We look here at those social structures and practices.
The Social Status of Mexican Women
On the occasion of International Women’s Day in Mexico, the National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations reported that women continue to face inequality in the workplace, while other organizations pointed to human rights violations and to an increase of violence against women. At the same time, women’s organizations described their fight against violence and for abortion rights, while working women vowed to continue their fight for their rights as workers, union members, and activists in the democratic union movement.
Today in Mexico, 42.5 percent of women over 14 work. Two-thirds of these women (64.8 percent) are wage earners while 25.8 percent are self-employed, often in micro-enterprises such as selling food on the street. Some 9.4 percent of women work for no wages (compared to 5.1 percent of men). Women’s incomes are generally less than men’s even for the same work. Women with middle school or high school education earn 5.4 pesos less per hour (about 50 cents) than men with the same education.
Six out of ten Mexican women 15 years or older are either married or in “free unions” (equivalent more or less to our common law marriage). Of the others, three are single and one is either separated, divorced or widowed. A quarter (25.5 percent) of all homes are now headed by women. Of those 80.8 percent are of what is called “family type” homes where the woman head of household has a parent relationship to at least one of the family’s members.
Women’s child bearing is related to education and urbanity. Women in Mexico with higher education have 1.1 children each while those who are illiterate average 3.5 each. Those who live in cities of more than 100,000 people have 2.6 children, while those who live in towns of less than 2,500 average 2.9 children.
Older Women and Poor Women
Mexico’s female population is aging. Today in Mexico there is a total population of 113 million of whom 10,055,379 are adults over 60. Of those older adults, 5,375,841 are women. Some 1,623,694 of these 60 year old women are heads of households. Mexico has 2,036,320 widows and 405,889 single older women.
While health coverage for this group has grown, of the 5.3 million older women only 3,904,064 have health coverage through IMSS or Seguro Popular. That is, 1.4 million older women do not have health coverage. Of older women, some 1,138,670 suffer from some disability. More than 1.5 million are illiterate while 620,442 never attended school. Only 638,149 of the some 5.3 million women over 60 work.
The National Institute of Women issued a report on Poverty and Gender indicating that 44.5 percent of women (or 24.5 million) lived in “multidimensional poverty,” with deficits in education, health and food. Only 19 percent of women heads of households have finished their basic grammar school education.
Women and Violence
Women continue to be the victims of violence at home, in the workplace and in society. While no exact figures are available for the nation, women’s organizations indicate that domestic violence—wife beating—remains common. Some 15,000 cases of domestic violence were registered in the Federal District (Mexico City) last year, 98 percent of them against women. There were 107 women murdered in the Federal District in 2010. Women activists point out that some Mexican states recognize the existence of “crimes of honor” where boyfriends or husbands who kill their girlfriends or wives in jealous passion may be treated leniently.
With the growth of the drug business and the war on drugs in Mexico, increasing numbers of women have been arrested and jailed and find themselves the victim of prison violence directed against them: police, jail guards or others may sexually abuse or treat women inmates violently.
Various women’s organizations report that most of the women they come into contact with have experienced sexual harassment on the job. They also say that the problem is becoming more visible now that more women are reporting such harassment. Benito Mirón, Secretary of Labor of the Federal District, reported that his agency assisted, 3,265 women who reported sexual harassment at work, violence on the job, or unjustified termination. About ten million Mexicans live in the Federal District.
Women not only suffer violence, they are also murdered at alarming rates, especially in those states where the Mexican government is at war with the drug dealers. In Ciudad Juárez, for example, 87 women were murdered in 2008; 164 in 2009; and in 2010 some 169 or more have been murdered. Altogether since 1993, 846 have been killed. It is estimated that three or four hundred women in Juárez were killed in ritual murders in the 1990s and early 2000s, murders which remain unsolved.
Legislators Leticia Quezada and Teresa Incháustegui, both members of the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have put forward legislation that would require the Mexican Attorney General (PGR) to keep a register of the women killed. Otherwise, they say, these crimes remain invisible and unpunished.
They say that in 2008 in the drug war, 4.82 percent of those killed were women; that is 159 women. Others put the figure at 194. In 2009 411 were killed, and in 2010 some 772 women were killed. So far in 2011 some 56 women have been killed in the drug war.
The Mexican Constitution does not discuss the question of abortion, which is therefore left in the hands of the Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District. The Constitutions of 18 of the 31 Mexican states expressly forbid and criminalize abortion and it is not legal in the rest. The Federal District, where the Party of the Democratic Revolution hold power, legalized first trimester abortion in 2007 and it remains the only part of Mexico where abortion is legal. After the Federal District legalized first trimester abortion, 17 Mexican state passed constitutional amendments to make it illegal.
Where abortion is illegal, prison terms may be long. In Baja California, for example, fourteen women were convicted and imprisoned on charges of abortion between 2000 and 2010, facing typical prison sentences of 20 to 50 years. The Party of the Democratic Revolution’s leader Carlos Navarrete announced on this International Women’s Day that his party would seek to decriminalize abortion and guarantee the right of women to interrupt a pregnancy. President Calderón’s National Action Party, closely linked to the Catholic Church, opposes women’s right to abortion.
Women in the Legislatures
Women are underrepresented in Mexico’s national and state legislatures. According to the United Nations Development Program, of Mexico’s 31 states, only 6 have 30 percent or more women in the legislature. The six are: Oaxaca with 35.7 percent; Chiapas at 35 percent; Campeche, 34.3 percent; Baja California Sur, 33 percent and Morelos and Zacatecas with 30 percent each.
The states with fewest women in the legislature are Puebla with 14 percent, Michoacán with 12.5 percent and Jalisco and Nayarit with only 10.3 percent. Nayarit is one of the state’s where abortion is illegal and killing a woman in a “crime of honor” may lead to the murderer going free.
At the Federal level, the House of Deputies -- the lower house with 500 representatives -- has 376 men and 124 women (75.2 percent men and 24.8 percent women). In the Mexican Senate (2006 – 2012) there are 99 men and 28 women or 77.3 percent men and 21.8 percent women.
In the last presidential election in 2006, only the Social Democratic and Peasant Alternative Party (PASDyC) put forth a woman candidate, Particia Mercado who won 1.1 million votes or 2.7 percent of the total vote. In 1996 there were two women presidential candidates: Cecilia Soto of the Workers Party (PT) who receive 2.75 percent of the vote and Marcela Lombardo Toledano of the Popular Socialist Party who failed to win enough votes to keep the party’s legal status.
Women Workers Educate, Organize and Fight for Rights
Working women, faced with low wages, sexual harassment, and other problems in the workplace, have been organizing with the assistance of labor unions and non-governmental organizations.
The Authentic Labor Front
The Authentic Labor Front (FAT), for example, has since 1995 been educating and organizing women to help them win their rights. Beatriz Luján, a member of FAT’s national leadership says that a lot has been accomplished. She points to the example of recently organized gas station attendants, many of whom were women. “Their working conditions were extremely poor. They had no fixed wage before, on the contrary, they had to pay for a spot working at the gas station. They had no benefits. They had to sell a certain number of products—from fuel additives to sandwiches—and if they failed to make their quota, the difference was deducted from whatever they had earned.” The employer only hired good looking women and the “sexual harassment from the owners, the bosses, the men they worked with, and even the clients was terrible.”
Since the workers formed the Union of Workers of Commercial Houses, Offices and Outlets (STRACC) with the aid of the FAT, the workers, many of whom are young women, have received education about gender equity and have been able to improve their working conditions. “At least now we have strict rules in the gas stations which prohibit sexual harassment,” says Luján.
The Women’s Trade Unionist Network
Similarly, the Women’s Trade Unionist Network (RMS), founded in 1997, also educates working women on their rights. Eight years ago the RMS working with the Federal District Government, carried out its first campaign against sexual harassment. Guadalupe de la Garza explains that at the time “Men thought it was natural to treat women that way, and that it was unnatural that women denounced them.”
The RMS has also worked with women at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla, Mexico to create a lactation area for working women and a childcare center. “These were not our accomplishments, but those of the women workers, but we helped to set things in motion,” said de la Garza.
Workers and Wives
On this year’s International Women’s Day, women workers and wives who have been active in the democratic movements in the labor unions discussed their experiences and the challenges that still face them in a conference held in the Railroad Workers Museum in the Federal District. Wives of railroad workers, women workers and wives from the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), from the Pascual soft drink cooperative, from the Spicer autoparts plant, and from the telephone company shared their experiences.
Elvia Wong, the widow of a railroad worker, spoke on the panel entitled “Women: Upholding Workers’ Dignity.” “The objective of the workshop,” she said, “was to preserve the experience of the railroad workers and other participants in the democratic union movement in Mexico, by hearing from women, especially the wives of workers who worked for the National Railroads of Mexico.”
Matilde León, a member of the Women of Light Committee of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union said, “I am the wife of a respectable worker and I have been in this struggle shoulder to shoulder with my grandfather, my father, my brothers and my husband, all of whom worked for the Light and Power Company. And they are going to get their jobs back.” Some 40,000 electrical workers were suddenly fired by President Felipe Calderón in October 2009 after he sent police to occupy the plants and then liquidated the company.
Another woman, Elba Nora Cruz, said: “We are a family in resistance. From the first day, that’s where I’ve been. “They took away our husbands’ jobs over night. Many could not stand the pressure and took their severance pay, but more than 16,000 continue to fight. We were not organized, but we got to know each other in the marches and that’s how the idea of creating this group came up. We’ll continue the struggle until we win.”
[This article is mostly a translation of passage from two articles: 1) Rocío Sánchez, “Trabajando a Marchas Forzadas: Mujeres en el Mundo Laboral,” Letra S, supplement to La Jornada, Number 176, March 3, 2011; and, 2) Carolina Velázquez, “Mujeres, partícipes del cambio en la lucha syndical” Cimacnoticias, March 11, 2011.]
Electrical Workers Succeed in Pressuring Government to Meet Again; SME Women Roughed up on International Women’s Day
The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) succeeded after months of protest demonstrations and marches in getting the Mexican government to meet again with union leaders with the goal of resolving the conflict between the two parties. The meeting was arranged through the office of Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marín, head of the parliamentary delegation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
In October 2009 President Felipe Calderón’s government seized the Light and Power Company plants, then liquidated the company and fired more than 40,000 workers. Since then, most of the workers accepted their severance pay, but 16,000 continue to fight for recognition of a successor company or for the creation of a new company, but, in any case, they want to return to their jobs.
SME leader Martín Esparza and others member of the union will meet with Interior Secretary Francisco Blake and his staff to seek a resolution to the conflict. The PRI leader Ramírez Marín has suggested that all aspects of the case be reopened and be discussed. SME has maintained throughout that President Calderón violated laws governing state-owned companies as well as labor laws in the firing of the workers.
Sme Women Roughed up on International Women’s Day
The change in the government’s attitude may come from the dozens of protest demonstrations and marches of the union, as well as pressure from unions around the world. Most recently a group of SME women workers and wives protested on International Women’s Day, March 8, at the presidential residence of Los Pinos. Police surrounded and “encapsulated them” in the middle of a phalanx of guards. In the course of the action, police injured two women.
Women Protest Against "Femicide" and Militarization
Source: BNO News: 03/08
Mexican women took to the streets Tuesday to mark the 100th International Women's Day and protest against 'femicide,' and the militarization of the country, La Jornada reported. Some 100 members of various organizations defending women's rights marched through the main streets of Querétaro in central Mexico to demand "not one more death in the country." They remembered slain activist Marisela Escobedo with pink crosses and called on Mexican authorities to criminalize female homicides, also called 'femicides'.
In the southern state of Oaxaca, teachers of the Section 22 union marched to demand attention to women's claims, causing the suspension of classes in about 13 thousand schools in the state, with a school population of more than one million students, according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Chiapas, more than a thousand women and men from various groups marched in the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas to demand the demilitarization of the country, the release of political prisoners, and an end to violence and femicide. Some protesters said that "while jails are filled with social activists, the country is bleeding to death in a war without end." In another demonstration in the municipality of Chenalho in Chiapas, about 500 members of the civil society organization Las Abejas, or "Bees," whose some of its members were killed by a paramilitary group in Acteal on December 22, 1997, staged a protest at a military camp where soldiers tried to prevent them from entering to hold a prayer vigil.
In Cuernavaca, Morelos, near Mexico City, the Sixth Continental Meeting of Indigenous Women of the Americas, concluded with a rally. Attendees expressed concern about the lack of public policies that directly involve women, youth and indigenous peoples, the unequal distribution of budgets, and enforcement of laws that are inconsistent with international standards.
On Monday, the United Nations called on the Mexican government to legally define femicide as a separate and particularly intolerable crime. According to the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, which mainly defends abuses against women, over 10,000 women and girls have been killed in the last 10 years. Each year 120,000 women are raped on average and now in the context of the war on drugs, this sector faces greater levels of violence.
PRI Submits Pro-business Labor Law Reform Bill
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) submitted to the Mexican House of Representative in early March its labor law reform proposal with a decidedly pro-business character. Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano Alarcón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) both praised the measures saying that it would lead to economic expansion, greater productivity, and higher employment, as well as improving the situation for Mexico’s 59.2 million working people.
The left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Workers Party (PT) both denounced the PRI’s proposal as little more than a copy of the PAN’s labor law reform proposal known at the Lozano Initiative. The PAN’s proposal was inspired the Mexican Employers Association (COPRAMEX).
The National Association of Democratic Attorneys (ANAD) called the PRI proposal a step backwards for workers’ right. “It is clear that the PRI, the labor confederations such as the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) have colluded with business to weaken the fundamental rights of workers to job security, a decent wage, good working conditions, social security [health care] and workers’ rights to unions of their own choice. The union federations have gone along with this with the understanding that the reforms will not upset the interests of the traditional union leaders who will continue using the unions as their private businesses,” said Manuel Fuentes Muñiz, president of ANAD.
Critics argue that, among other things, the PRI proposal opens the door to subcontracting, creates a new category of probationary employees who can be terminated without any legal protection, and creates incentives for unjust dismissals.
The leaders of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), the largest labor federation in Mexico which is affiliated with the PRI, seemed to be divided on the PRI’s proposal. Some officials supported the proposal while others said the bill was disastrous, calling it an “aggressive attack on workers.”
Documents of the Movement in Translation:
PRI Labor Law Reform Initiative a Betrayal of the Workers
By Arturo Alcalde Justiniani
[The following article originally appeared in La Jornada, March 12, 2011. This translation is by Daina Z. Green. – Ed.]
In a radical departure from its December 15 proposal, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) formally presented a new bill to reform labor law in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, bowing to key demands by the lawyers of the Business Coordinating Council.
Gone are the PRI’s original proposals to improve working conditions, reduce maximum hours of work, improve seniority bonuses and vacation provisions and get rid of the “toma de nota” rules; all improvements included in the previous proposal because they were considered essential for compliance with international conventions. Obviously, in the area of democratization, transparency and accountability, nothing remains in the new proposal. As predicted, the party negotiated with industry to maintain the protection of corporatism and corrupt union control in exchange for support for employer priorities: the freedom to outsource and expand temporary contracting, but above all, to facilitate dismissals. The pro-business line of the PRI won out over faint protests of some of their union leaders. The party felt it was necessary to ingratiate itself with employers in the run-up to the 2012 elections. In exchange, there was an agreement that there would be no reforms that would hurt “their” union leaders. The National Action Party (PAN), for its part, will come into line with these negotiations, toeing the line of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS).
The initiative contains a major contradiction between the content of its preamble and the text of the succeeding articles. The obvious intent is for the lofty purpose statements to be reported in press releases and superficial reviews, while the real content of the reform remains hidden.
Leaving aside some minor issues, there are four issues that should be highlighted in the initiative. The first is the content of article 15(b), which normalizes so-called work subcontracting (outsourcing), without providing basic safeguards to prevent the abuses that have been generated by this type of employment, namely insecurity, inequality, lower wages, the deceptive appearance of an equitable legal system and lack of recourse for redress. The PRI proposal fails to include protections necessary to prevent abuse, such as making employment under such terms conditional on specific situations or justified causes. The imposition of the entrepreneurial viewpoint is evident when this proposal is compared with the PRI's own proposal of three months ago, which included provisions relating to labor fraud, intervention by labor Inspectors, and the fraudulent nature of outsourcing, "when deliberately transferring permanent workers to a subcontractor in order to reduce labor rights." These provisions have been deleted.
The second theme is also evidence of the PRI’s employer bias: a proposal that workers pay for the delay and the slow pace of resolution of cases before labor boards, even in the case of unjustified dismissal, by limiting back pay to a maximum of 12 months. Despite the fact that PRI-leaning labor leaders had bitterly criticized this business proposal for leaving workers without redress, the party is now adopting this position. Obviously, this has made employer-side lawyers happy: "Between this proposal and the one on outsourcing, we have what we need,” said the attorney representing Coparmex. "We do not need any more."
The idea of limiting payment for lost wages in cases of dismissal has already been a practice of the STPS, supposedly supported by Spanish labor legislation, without taking into account that in that country, lost wages due to delays in the delivery of justice are covered by the State itself, under the rationale that the government is responsible for maintaining an efficient justice system. The PRI proposal goes even further than the 2002 “Abascal Initiative.” During discussion of that proposal, there was no uptake on this absurd business-friendly proposal; it was clear that the fundamental challenge was to create the conditions to ensure that cases were resolved quickly, not in the four or five years it takes today. It was understood as unfair to charge workers with the costs of the delays. On the other hand, in cases where a dismissal is found to be justified, the employer doesn’t have to pay severance or back pay. It is clear that the adoption of this proposal would cut across many aspects of labor law, by creating an incentive to reduce enforcement, leading to more unjust dismissals, and encouraging the further drawing out of cases; made even more likely by the fact that there are no legal provisions for payment of damages or interest on delayed payouts. This proposal would reward lawbreakers and punish those who have been unjustifiably discharged from their jobs.
A third issue refers to temporary, probationary, seasonal and training positions. Job security for workers employed under these conditions of employment will be the loser if new provisions are not accompanied by mechanisms for legitimate labor-management accords, which are not contemplated by this reform proposal. The goal is to preserve the system of protection contracts to which workers in most workplaces are subjected.
An additional theme showing the anti-worker approach of the PRI is the proposal to amend Article 388. The proposal would prevent craft unions, and in particular the democratic trade unions of the airline industry representing pilots and flight attendants (ASPA and ASSA), from signing up workers at other airlines. This addition comes in response to the request by owners of low cost airlines to the STPS and Section 15 of the CTM, as a way of ensuring the continuity of employer protection contracts in that sector. They think nothing of contravening international conventions, and putting themselves above the law, the Constitution itself, and even a recent decision of the country’s Supreme Court. Mr. Employer? Just tell us what you want.
There is still time to stop this absurd initiative.
Mexicana Workers March Again to Demand Government Revive Company
Mexicana Airlines workers were marching again at the Mexico City International Airport to demand that President Felipe Calderón and the Mexican government help to reopen the airline and return them to their jobs.
Mexicana went bankrupt last summer throwing 8,000 workers out of their jobs; 6,000 of those were union members: pilots, fight attendants and ground crews. (See an earlier MLNA article at: http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/mlna_articles.php?id=176#1179) After the unions signed concessionary contracts, the new management promised to begin operating again in January, and when that didn’t happen said it would begin operation in March. Still, Mexicana planes are not flying.
Fernando Perfecto of the Mexican Union Pilots Association (ASPA) and Lizette Clavel of the Mexican Flight Attendants Union (ASSA) said they were asking President Calderón and Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano to prevent the collapse of the airline so that workers can return to their jobs.
An attempt in the Mexican Senate to express its solidarity with the Mexicana workers was blocked when the National Action Party delegation left to prevent the Senate from having a quorum. PRI Senator Francisco Arroyo Vieyra called the situation a “tragic-comedy,” saying that the privatization of the company years ago had been fraudulent and that its succeeding owners had “sacked” the company. Mexicana, he said, was an airline with a long tradition and with excellent pilots and flight attendants.
Letter from Four Gufs and Ituc
March 11, 2011
TO ALL AFFILIATES OF:
International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF)
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)
UNI Global Union
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN MEXICO
The International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are very proud to report that more than 50,000 union members, students and human rights activists from more than 40 countries participated in the Global Days of Action, launched on February 14 in Mexico City and Australia simultaneously. Thousands of others from more than 70 countries participated in the electronic campaign on Labourstart, sending some 3500+ emails to the Mexican President in defense of labour rights.
For six days, we came together on behalf of millions of members around the globe holding actions, writing letters and taking meetings with political figures to highlight massive labour rights violations in Mexico. From Mumbai to Milan, Hong Kong to Helsinki, the message to the Mexican government was the same:
• Hold employer and government officials accountable for the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion that killed 65 miners on February 19, 2006.
• Abolish systemic violations of workers' freedom of association, including employer-dominated "protection contracts" and interference in union elections.
• End the use of force—by the state or private parties—to repress workers' legitimate demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions, and good health and safety conditions.
• End the campaign of political persecution against the Mexican Miners' and Metalworkers’ Union (Los Mineros) and the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union (SME).
In total, some 50 meetings with Embassy representatives or policymakers took place during the week, shining a light on Mexico's refusal to honour its international commitments to respect Freedom of Association. The country’s deteriorating labour rights record was also the subject of discussion at the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association meeting this month, where three significant complaints regarding union autonomy and protection contracts have been filed against Mexico.
The world celebrated the news that just days after our global actions, Los Mineros union leader Juan Linares Montufar, who had been illegally imprisoned without bond since December 3, 2008, was released. And while the global labour movement cheered along with the some 100 Los Mineros members who gathered at the prison gate upon his release, we also recommit our efforts to fight for the release of the two remaining jailed union leaders, Miguel Marquez Rios, from SME who has been imprisoned since 2010 and Martin Salazar Arvayo, a member of Los Mineros who has been unjustly imprisoned since September last year.
The campaign will continue during this year, and we will keep the pressure on by calling on our affiliates for future support and mobilization. As part of that effort, IMF, ICEM, ITF, UNI and ITUC will join the independent Mexican trade union movement in Mexico City on May 1st in a massive show of strength and solidarity.
Our commitment to helping build a strong independent trade union movement in Mexico remains a key priority for the global labour movement. We will continue the struggle until all of our demands are met!
Jyrki Raina, IMF General Secretary
Manfred Warda, ICEM General Secretary
David Cockcroft, ITF General secretary
Phil Jennings, UNI General Secretary
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary
Take a minute to send a message!
Help defend the rights of independent trade unions in Mexico! Take a minute to send a message!
There is a lot of good information about the mineworkers' struggle in the Days of Action materials prepared by the Global Union Federations There is a lot more going back many years throughout Mexican Labor News and Analysis (MLNA).
Mexico’s Richest Grow Even Richer; as Numbers of the Poor Grow
Carlos Slim is not only Mexico’s richest man, but also the world’s richest, and for the second year in a row according to Forbes magazine. In 2010 he was worth $74 billion, an increase of more than $20 billion since last year. Slim is best known for his ownership of much of the Mexican telephone industry, but he is involved in many other businesses as well.
As Wikileaks, citing secret U.S. diplomatic cables reported, “The net wealth of the 10 richest people in Mexico -- a country where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty -- represents roughly 10 percent of the country's GDP (gross domestic product).”
Today 44 percent of Mexico’s people live in poverty, about 18 million of those in such extreme poverty that they may suffer food shortages. The CIA reports that the number of those extremely poor grew from 13.8 million in 2009 to 18.2 million in 2010.
This year, Forbes’s billionaires list included eleven Mexicans, two more than last year. The other wealthiest Mexicans are, in order: Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, president of Grupo Mexico, with $16 billion, 65 percent more than last year; Alberto Bailleres of Grupo Bal and the owner of Grupo Peñoles, the mining company; Ricardo Salinas Pliego of Grupo Salinas (TV Azteca, Elektra and Banco Azteca), with $8 billion, a little less than last year; Jerónimo Arango with $4 billion, about the same as last year; Daniel Servitje Montull and family of the Bimbo bakery company with $3.5 billion; Emilio Azcárraga Jean, president of Televisa with $2.3 billion, 800 million more than last year; Roberto Gonzalez Barrera of Banorte and Gruma with $2 billion; Roberto Hernández Ramírez with $1.2 billion; Alfreo Harp Helú of Grupo Martí with $1 billion.
Contract Agreement Reached in El Cubo
Section 142 of Los Mineros ended an eight month strike against the Canadian company Gammon Gold at El Cubo on February 24th. The company agreed to pay 100% of back pay and to maintain the collective bargaining agreement. It appears that a dispute remains regarding reinstatement of 50 dissident workers.
Linares Released from Prison; Files Complaint
Juan Linares Montúfar, a leader of Los Mineros, was released from prison on February 24th following an imprisonment of more than two years based on accusations of diverting funds from the Mineworkers Trust Fund. Linares presented a denunciation that he had been promised 8 million pesos and 2 million dollars if he would break with Los Mineros President Napoleon Gómez Urrutia and join the dissident group headed by Pavón. He was freed after firing his lawyer. He filed the complaint after the accusations against him were withdrawn. The complaint concludes: “freedom is tremendously important; dignity is as well.”
Analysis of Labor Law Reform Proposal
Analysis of Labor Law reform proposal from Nacional Asociation of democratic Lawyers (ANAD) (Spanish)
Violence Against Mexican Women
Teresa Fernández de Juan, ed., Violencia Contra la Mujer en Mexico. Mexico: Commission Nacional de Derechos Humanos, 2004. (Spanish)
Message from AMLO
Mensaje AMLO 14 de marzo del 2011 (Spanish)
Over the next month trade union leaders from Mexico will be traveling to various cities in the United States, hosted by various organizations. Come Hear First Hand Accounts!
Help our Mexican Sisters and Brothers speak with a louder voice!
Please support them by spreading the word, attending their presentations and educating yourself and your friends and co-workers!
1) March 20 – 26: Los Mineros Leader in New York and New Orleans
Carlos Esquer, a member of the National Executive Committee of the Mexican Mineworkers’ Union, from Section 65 in Cananea will be speaking at 4 events in New York City between March 20 and 22 and then at the UALE conference in New Orleans from March 23 - 26.
• Sunday, March 20 Left Forum panel at Pace University
Transnational Labor Solidarity
M. Panel Session 6—Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 1:50 p.m., W511
Sponsored by: Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society
Speakers: Carlos Esquer—Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Mexico
Jamie McCallum—CUNY Graduate Center / Left Forum
Kate Bronfenbrenner—Cornell University
Stanley Aronowitz—CUNY Graduate Center
For More information, contact Manny Ness at:212-529-1260.
• Monday, March 21 12:00 Presentation at Columbia Law School, Room 105, Jerome Greene Hall. He will be joined by Omar Angel, a Mexican attorney who is director of the Workplace Project. Co-sponsored by the Columbia Human Rights Clinic and the Columbia law school chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Light lunch provided. For more information contact: Ashwini Sukthankar 646-403-7346
• Monday, March 21 NYC LCLAA is hosting a presentation at 1199 SEIU, 310 West 43rd Street at 6:00 PM. For more information contact Sonia Ivany - 917-428-7477 or Luis Matos - 917-570-0506
• Tuesday, March 22 1:00pm - 1:45 Presentation at Brooklyn Law School, student lounge, 250 Joralemon St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 sponsored by Brooklyn Law School chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Light lunch provided. For more information contact Carrie Ross at 585-315-7672.
• UALE conference in New Orleans from March 23 - 26.
2) Leaders of Sme and Section Viii of Cnte Are on a Tour from March 16 – March 31:
Humberto Montes de Oca, Interior Secretary of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) and Jorge Cázares Torres, Section VIII of the National Steering Committee of Education Workers (CNTE) are on a tour from March 16 – March 31:
Dates & Cities:
March 16 & 17- Washington D.C.
March 18- Cleveland, OhioMarch 19- Toledo, Ohio
March 20- Detroit, Michigan
March 21- Chicago, Illinois
March 22- San Francisco, California
March 23- Oakland, California
March 24 & 25- San Diego, California
March 26 & 27- Los Angeles, California
March 28, 29, 30 & 31- New York, New York
3) April 4th and 5th : Leader of Sme Speaking in Pittsburgh:
3) On April 4th and 5th a leader of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), Pipino Cuevas Velazquez, will be speaking at three events in Pittsburgh:
April 4: 12:00 at the USW Five Gateway Center, Stanwix and Blvd of the Allies
7:00 University of Pittsburgh Location to be announced
April 5: CMU at 12:00 Location to be announced
For more information, please contact Robin Alexander 412-471-8919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Tribunal on Freedom of Association
The International Tribunal on Freedom of Association will take place in Mexico City from April 28 – 30.