|Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention|
|Artist Beatriz Aurora|
Mexican Labor News & Analysis
June , 2011, Vol. 16, No. 6
Introduction to this issue:
Last month we included an article on the Tribunal on Trade Union Freedom that was organized in Mexico City on May 28th. The full resolution is now available and makes very interesting reading as an overview of the challenges faced by the independent labor movement in Mexico. Far too long to include here, you can view it in its entirety at: http://nlginternational.org/news/article.php?nid=417.
There are also many items of interest in the Resource section of this issue, so be sure to check it out!
Robin Alexander and Dan LaBotz
Contents for this issue:
- PRI Presses Forward with Its Labor Law Reform, Backed by Pan
- Supreme Court Rules that Secretary of Labor Has No Authority to Approve or Annul Union Elections
- Mexican Electrical Workers Union Internal Election Intersects Elections for the Governor of the State of Mexico
- Teachers Strike, Protest over Contracts, Rights, Disappearances
- Truckers Protest Rising Fuel Costs with Highway Slowdowns
- Volkswagen Workers Threaten Strike to Demand 13% Wage Gain
- “March of the Whores” – Women March Against Sexual Violence
- Untypp Blog - Accusations of Violation of Labour Rights
- Senator Accuses PEMEX Director of Harassing Union Members
- Interview: Juan Linares, National Mexican Mine and Metal Workers Union (sntmmsrm)
- Un Report: Mexico: “a State of Emergency” – Not Enough Food and Too Much Obesity
PRI Presses Forward with Its Labor Law Reform, Backed by Pan
Leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) have said that they intend to pass the labor law reform “without undue haste or improvisation.” PRI leaders and leaders of the “official” unions associated with the PRI say that the matter will pass in the next regular legislative sessions.
Isaías González Cuevas, general secretary of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), one of the official unions, says he is sure that the reform will pass during the regular session.
The National Union of Workers (UNT), the independent labor federation, issued a statement saying that Felipe Calderón’s government is “desperate” to pass a the reform of the Federal Labor Law (LFT) and that it will accept the PRI’s version. The UNT claims that Calderón and former Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano are working feverishly to pressure the legislature to act.
The PRI’s reforms, like those proposed earlier by President Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN), would weaken the unions, their collective bargaining rights and their power to strike, while strengthening the hand of the employers.
The president of the Mexican Employers Federation (COPARMEX), Gerardo Gutiérrez Candiani, said that passing the labor law reform was a priority for the country. COPARMEX, he said, had been in dialogue with the parties and the unions to achieve the goal of a solid labor law reform.
Supreme Court Rules that Secretary of Labor Has No Authority to Approve or Annul Union Elections
The Supreme Court of Mexico, in a partial decision impacting the case of Napoleón Gómez Urrútia of the Mexican Mine and Metalworkers Union (SNTMMRM), ruled in mid-June that the Secretary of Labor cannot act as an election authority to annul or approve union elections. The Secretary of Labor, the majority of the justices said, only has the power to ensure that the procedural steps in the union’s constitution and by-laws have been adhered to in union election cases.
Particularly significant, a majority of the justices agreed that the labor authorities cannot challenge the legitimacy of the union official who is elected and that any dispute over the outcome of an election would require a judicial determination.
Independent union leaders and activists see this as an important victory for union autonomy.
For years Mexican union activists have argued that Mexico’s labor authorities regularly violate the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87 which permits workers full freedom to choose to join a union of their own choosing and to elect their own leaders of their own choosing. Mexican authorities violate Convention 87 by approving or annulling the election of union leaders.
The Supreme Court’s decision would seem to strengthen the argument of Napoleón Gómez Urrutia that his January 12, 2011 re-election to be general secretary of the union should be recognized and confirmed by the Secretary of Labor. Under Mexican labor law, the Secretary of Labor must review and confirm officers of union bodies under a procedure known as “toma de nota” or taking note. The procedure, in violation of the conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), has been used by the government to overturn the democratic election of union leaders by union members.
Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government have been colluding for the last several years to destroy the Mexican Miners Union. Part of their strategy has been to use legal charges against Gómez Urrutia to remove him from the leadership of the union, while at the same time using the labor authorities to deny him the right to hold office in the union. The struggle between the employers and the government on the one hand and the Miners Union on the other has been one of the most important battles between capital and labor in the last decade.
While the recent Supreme Court decision would seem to benefit Gómez Urrutia, a decision on all of the issues involved and on whether or not to force the Secretary of Labor to recognize him as the union’s leader has yet to be made. Such a decision is expected within the next few months.
Mexican Electrical Workers Union Internal Election Intersects Elections for the Governor of the State of Mexico
The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), representing about 16,000 former workers for the Light and Power Company of Central Mexico, is holding internal elections to choose a new leadership. Those elections have become inextricably intertwined with the elections for the new governor of the State of Mexico, a key state in the coming presidential election in 2012.
Martin Esparza was re-elected last December as General Secretary along with half of the executive committee in a special election was held under an order of the Labor Board. This is the first regular annual election held since that time. However, because the election was blocked for so long, their period in office expires on July 14th. The other half of the executive committee will remain in office, as they have another year before their term expires. Only workers who did not accept their severance pay after the Mexican government abolished Light and Power on October 10, 2009 will be allowed to vote. Martín Esparza, the current general secretary (top officer) of the union is being challenged by José Bonilla Rodolfo Gómez. Alejando Muñoz, the man who filed the original charges contesting the previous election and leading to this new election and who was expected to be Esparza’s opponent, surprisingly dropped out of the race.
The SME and National Politics
The interaction between the SME and the national political parties is not surprising given that it was President Felipe Calderón who ordered the police and military to seize the Light and Power Company plants in October 2009, ordered the liquidation of the company, and fired approximately 42,000 workers. The SME subsequently appealed to the legislature and to the courts to try to reverse the President’s actions, finding most support from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Workers Party (PT), and Convergence. At times, some members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party made statements that might seem to support the SME’s position.
It was Martín Esparza himself who announced in late April that the SME would become involved in the elections. While he refused to identify the SME with any particular party, he did say that the SME would not give one vote to Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) in the crucial State of Mexico. At the same time, the SME was working to win the support of the PRI’s electoral bloc in parliament, already counting on the support of the PRD, PT, and Convergence.
Now Bonilla, who opposes Esparza in the race for the top office in the union, has announced that if he wins the SME will give 50,000 votes to the PAN’s candidate in the State of Mexico, Luis Felipe Bravo Mena. Bonilla is supported by Antonio Durán, a leader of 22,000 retired SME members, in his support for the conservative party’s candidate. Bravo Mena has rejected the SME’s demand to create a new company to replace the former Light and Power Company, but has said he would open a channel for discussions with the former employees.
Bravo Mena of the PAN is being opposed in the State of Mexico by Alejandro Encinas of the PRD and Eruviel Ávila of the PRI. Current governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, is expected to be the PRI’s presidential candidate in 2012. Winning the State of Mexico is seen as key to winning the presidential elections.
Teachers Strike, Protest over Contracts, Rights, Disappearances
It’s June in Mexico and so teachers are on the march -- actually on various marches -- raising demands related to their contracts and their rights.
The National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), an opposition caucus of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), called a strike of Michoacán’s schools on May 31. They are demanding more money in the state budget for education, for schools and teachers, according to Jorge Cázares, la CNTE spokesperson. “While they blame the teachers, it is the government which is responsible for the lags in education,” he said. Teachers marched through the center of Morelia, the state capital, occupying the central plaza.
La CNTE claimed that the strike was affecting 10,000 schools serving 800,000 students throughout the state. El SNTE, the official union, claimed that la CNTE controlled only half the schools and other reports indicated that many schools were functioning as normal.
Teachers in Oaxaca voted on May 31 to suspend the strike and return to the negotiating table with state authorities. Of 73,000 strikers, some 28,844 voted to return to work, while 13,793 voted to continue with the strike. Teachers received some of the economic demands they had made both for the teachers and the students, the union said.
Other Teacher Protests
About 200 teachers and 150 community activists protested on June 8 at the office of the Mexican Attorney General (PGR) to demand the Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), be removed from office for having violated the union’s statutes in what they claim was her “illegal” election.
About a thousand teachers, members of the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE) of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), marched through downtown Mexico City on June 3 to demand that the government produce alive two teacher activists Carlos Román Salazar y José Guadalupe Pérez who, they say, were “disappeared” as a “reprisal for their social activism.”
They also demanded that the government cancel arrest orders against other union members and other movement activists.
On the same day, in a separate demonstration, about 2,000 teachers from Local 18 of el SNTE marched through Mexico City to Los Pinos, the presidential mansion, to press their demand for one billion pesos more for wages and promotions, scholarships and school uniforms in their state. After protesting at the presidential residence, they went off to the Secretary of Education (SEP) offices where they formed a human barrier to prevent the administrative workers there from coming and going.
Truckers Protest Rising Fuel Costs with Highway Slowdowns
Truck drivers affiliated with the Mexican Alliance of Transport Organizations (AMOTAC) slowed down, blocking traffic on highways in the central states of Mexico, Querétaro, Puebla, Jalisco and Veracruz in mid-June. They targeted highways leading into Mexico City.
The drivers have been protesting rising prices of gasoline and diesel as well as a new law that would take transport vehicles more than 15 years old off the road. They are also demanding greater security against the theft of their trucks.
Over 500 drivers in Puebla joined the protest, particularly concerned about truck theft. They call the area of of San Martín Texmelucan, Azomoc and Esperanza which is served by the Mexico-Puebla-Orizaba highway the “Bermuda Triangle” of trucks because dozens of trailers and trucks filled with food and clothing, auto parts and appliances and a variety of other sorts of merchandise have been stolen there.
Volkswagen Workers Threaten Strike to Demand 13% Wage Gain
The Independent Union of Workers of the Volkswagen Automotive Industry of Mexico (SITIAVWM) have given strike notification as required by the Federal Labor Law. They are seeking a 13 percent wage increase, according to Victor Cervantes Rosas, the union spokesperson.
Workers had actually told their representatives that they wanted an increase of 15 to 20 percent, said, Cervantaes. Given the economic crisis, the union leadership convinced them that 13 percent would be a more reasonable demand. The union argues that the Puebla plant is competitive and has produced more cars this year that at almost any time in the past, and that therefore the workers’ demand should be met.
If its demands are not met, the union says it plans to strike on July 18. In the meantime, said the union leader, the workers will not interfere with the assembly of cars at the plant.
“March of the Whores” – Women March Against Sexual Violence
Hundreds of women, men and children, about 2,500 in all, marched through Mexico City on Sunday, March 12 in what they called the “March of the Whores,” a protest against violence against women which is so often justified by saying that the woman caused it or the woman asked for it. Or simply, saying, “The woman was a whore.”
The marches in Mexico began after 3,000 women participated in the first Slutwalk in Toronto on April 3 where Canadian women and men protested against the remark by police officer Michael Sanguinetti that women might avoid rape by not dressing “like sluts.” He subsequently apologized for the remark.
Women in Mexico City marched to the Juárez Monument on Central Park, some of them shouting, “Listen, you fool, I choose who I screw.” (“Escucha, baboso, yo elijo a quien me cojo.”) At the rally at the monument speakers demanded that women victims of sexual violence have access to health services which must include emergency contraception and the right to interrupt a pregnancy. They also demanded administrative sanctions, as well as civil and criminal penalties against any public servant who committed institutional gender violence.
As one woman speaker said, “Women are not objects, we are human beings and we deserve to have our rights respected, above all by the government.” Women in Mexico are frequently accosted by police officers and several women were sexually abused or raped by police officers in actions against social movements in the last few years. Police officers are seldom investigated, tried or punished for their actions.
Who’s a Whore?
Gabriela Amancaya, an activist in Atrévete DF, said that the point of the demonstrations was to make it clear that “We are fed up with abuse in the streets in general and with the silence that surrounds this issue.”
As Marta Lamas wrote in the Mexican magazine Proceso, “Using the stigmatized Word ‘whore’ demonstrates a defiant and liberating attitude. ‘Whore’ isn’t only used to name sex workers; it is used to describe women who don’t behave “decently” (whether that’s because they have sexual relations as they please or simply because they dress in a suggestive way); but also some men use the term as vengeance against a woman who resists their unwanted advances. Some men use the word ‘whore’ as an insult and socially it is used to control women. The fear of being called ‘whores’ predisposes them to put up with bad treatment and with the restriction of their desires. So, the arbitrary and sexist use of ‘whore’ when women’s behavior is not what’s expected of them, means that at any moment women can be stigmatized as ‘whores.’”
Speaking at the Marcha de las Putas in Mexico City, Yuriria Rodríguez, a member of the Citizens’ National Monitor of Femicide (OCFN), demanded that the federal and state authorities implement Mexico’s Official Norm 046 on Family and Sexual Violence against Women which, she said, though it was published two years ago in the Diario Oficial de la Federación (comparable to the U.S. Federal Register), is systematically ignored.”
“The norm is the result of a long fight to guarantee legal access to health services when women are the victim of sexual violence, when they become pregnant as a result and require an abortion, cases in which the government should provide immediate urgent attention,” she said.
Untypp Blog - Accusations of Violation of Labour Rights
The translation was provided by Daina Z. Green on behalf of the CEP of Canada, which has recently established a bi-national relationship with UNTyPP.
3 June 2011
One year and five months after our union, the National Union of Technical and Professional Petroleum Workers (UNTyPP), obtained its union registration (charter) and the “toma de nota” (government recognition of the union’s leadership), the management of Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), the largest para-public entity in Mexico, continues to refuse to recognize us. This is a violation of our right to free association established in the Mexican Constitution, the Federal Labour Act and Convention 87 of the International Labour Organization.
As of today 24 brothers who have been kicked out of their workplaces since November 14, 2008, most of them violently, are still out of work. They were ejected on charges of organizing our union, some very recently. PEMEX has ignored all requests to respect the UNTyPP’s right to organize, and has refused to reinstate the dismissed workers and establish an employment relationship, despite requests from thousands of trade unionists from 94 countries, and despite all-party agreement by Chamber of Deputies urging PEMEX to do so.
Our National Executive Committee (NEC) is being prevented from exercising our right to represent our members in the multiple investigations that our members have been subjected to. We are also being denied the leaves that would allow our members to attend meetings held in the capital to try to reinstate our members. The lack of union leave and the long working hours are keeping us from being able to defend the rights of our brothers and sisters.
Another serious situation we are facing is that despite our charter which makes us the representatives of technicians and professionals of Petróleos Mexicanos, another union at PEMEX has begun to sign up our members. The Union of Petroleum Workers of Mexico (STPRM) represents all manual workers in the company. They are not supposed to include professionals beyond salary grade 30, who are covered under UNT y PP’s charter. In a clear case of collusion with the company, the STPRM is taking on personnel, regardless of seniority, technical skills or job title. This means we now have engineers who have been working for 10 or 15 years on contract, with no job security, at the mercy of the will of the company and the STPRM. The union is also demanding that these engineers carry out "Social Work", laying bricks for an additional day per week to build houses for STPRM leaders, as well as being pressured to having to attend the rallies on behalf of the PRI during political campaigns. Anyone who refuses to perform the "Social Work" will find himself or herself without a contract. As well as violating the rights of our brothers and sisters, this situation is also an attack on our organization, by denying hiring rights to these brothers and sisters.
The national Organizing Secretary of UNTyPP, Francisco Rios Piñeyro, whose workplace is located in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, was transferred to Monclova Coahuila where, due to daily activities of organized crime, the working conditions are highly unsafe. Beyond being isolated from the workplace and workmates he has known for years, he currently fears for his physical safety. Despite a formal request to PEMEX officials to revoke the transfer, Brother Rios Piñeyro remains in Monclova.
On the establishment of our Union Local 1, Eastern Region of the state of Veracruz, PEMEX has proceeded to “retire” Mr. Moisés Salmerón Flores, the Secretary General of this local. The retirement was effected in a most abnormal fashion. Brother Salmerón Flores was notified on a Friday at 17:30 that his retirement was effectives as of the following Monday. This is an undignified way to treat a professional who has served Petróleos Mexicanos for 29 years and 209 days. He was denied his pre-retirement vacation to which all employees are entitled. No replacement was prepared, nor was the brother able to turn his post over to another worker. This procedure was in complete violation of the company’s own retirement procedure No. 72400-PA-035. The action was obviously taken following the brother’s election to the post of Secretary General as a reprisal against the union by certain company employees. In addition to being a flagrant violation of worker rights, it is a further aggression against our organization.
The most recent case of repression against our organization took place on March 29 of this year, when an official letter (No. PXR-SP-RMH-0552/2011, dated March 28, 2011) signed by Engineer José de Jesus Chavez Mercado, Manager of the Miguel Hidalgo Refinery in Tula de Allende, Hidalgo, notified Sister Silvia Ramos Luna, a member of the UNTyPP, that she was not to present for work as of March 30, 2011, without reference to the existing process for dismissal, which is a violation of articles 25 and 27 of the Federal Law of Administrative Responsibilities of Public Servants.
Sister Silvia has been the victim of an abuse of authority and prosecution for exercising her right to free speech, thought and association. She has been the victim of an illegal penalty imposed in a procedure fraught with violations of due process, as well as violating her constitutionally guaranteed rights to legality, security and judicial process set out in Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
None of the documents presented during the trial refer to any actual damage to PEMEX, nor to when or where such damage is alleged to have occurred. Article 13 of the Federal Law of Administrative Responsibilities of Public Servants states that "When no damage or injury has been caused, nor any benefit or profit produced, the ineligibility [to work] shall be imposed for a period of six months to one year." To date, given that no damage, loss, profit or gain has been established, on what grounds has a sanction of 10 years been imposed?
Perhaps Mr. Carlos Albert Trevino, Corporate Director of Administration has been unable to meet with leaders of the UNTyPP to resolve the problems of technical and business professionals (he has already twice cancelled the meeting) due to being extremely occupied with the search for backers within the federal public service for the presidential campaign of Ernesto Cordero, as reported La Reforma newspaper on May 28 (in an article entitled “Bureaucrats set up network for Cordero.”
We demand that the Mexican government through PEMEX respect the right of association of the professional and technical petroleum workers. We must not be criminalized for supposed crime of having formed a union. Our dismissed colleagues who have committed the same “crime” must be reinstated. PEMEX should proceed to sign to sign a collective bargaining agreement that allows us job security and the free exercise of our labour rights.
Senator Accuses PEMEX Director of Harassing Union Members
Pablo Gómez Álvarez, a Senator of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) for the Federal District, accused Juan José Suárez Coppel, the general director of the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX) of harassing members of the National Union of Technical and Professional Petroleum Workers (UNTyPP).
Gómez said that, even though the Secretary of Labor had formally approved the right of the UNTyPP to organized petroleum workers on December 21, 2009, the authorities and directors of the government-owned company had continued to harass union members, including by firing them. The intent of the harassment, he said, was to eliminate the union. He insisted that members of the union who had been unjustly fired be returned to work.
Gómez asked the PEMEX general director to provide a report to the legislator explaining the relationship between the company and the UNTyPP union. He also called for the creation of dialogue between the company administrators and the union’s members so that each side could put forth its positions. “At present,” he said, “the company is pressuring members to retire with the clear goal of depriving the union of its membership.”
The Senator said that union members had been threatened, blackmailed, fired, and violently driven from their workplaces in order to prevent the union from recruiting members and functioning within the state company. In doing so, he said, it had violated the labor authority’s administrative decisions regarding the union’s legal right to exist.
Gómez reminded the general director and the public that this was not the first time that this matter had come to their attention. On Feb. 25, 2010 a petition was presented to the House of Representatives exhorting the director of PEMEX to cease harassing the members of the UNTyPP and to reinstate those who had been fired. Yet, so far, only 27 of those professional employees unjustly fired had been returned to work. At the same time, the union’s general secretary of Local 1 in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Francisco Medina, had been arbitrarily forced into retirement.
[This account is based on a report in Punto Crítico: Lunes, 20 de Junio de 2011 15:59 Arturo Mendoza http://www.elpuntocritico.com/politica-nacional/17166-denuncia-en-contra-de-suarez-coppel-por-violar-los-derechos-de-trabajadores.html]
Interview: Juan Linares, National Mexican Mine and Metal Workers Union (sntmmsrm)
This article appears on the ICEM web site at: http://www.icem.org/index.php?id=217&la=EN&doc=4457
On 24 February, Juan Linares was released after spending two years in jail. His release came just days after worldwide mobilization of unions in the 14-19 February global days of action demanding trade union rights in Mexico. Linares has been a member of SNTMMSRM (or Los Mineros) since 1972 as a mine worker at the ArcelorMittal Sicartsa steel mill.
Why were you imprisoned and what was the impact of this on your union?
I was imprisoned under false charges of fraud, on which no evidence was ever presented. This is clearly an anti-union measure taken by the government of Felipe Calderón to undermine and attack the Miners' Union. There was an investigation and an audit was carried out which shows that there has been no embezzlement of funds at all. The anti-union attacks from the government have been constant, firstly starting with the accusations against the General Secretary Napoleón Gómez Urrutia; secondly, the freezing of the bank account and thirdly, imprisoning me. This just serves the government’s intention to finish off our union.
How did you manage to secure your release after two years in jail?
International support, particularly from the IMF, ICEM, AFL-CIO, and the United Steelworkers, that mobilized international opinion about my case and in particular the global days of action held in February had considerable impact on my release. I was imprisoned for two years, two months and 20 days.
Is the government persecution of Los Mineros continuing?
Yes, the government continues daily to persecute Los Mineros and this is because it is a right wing government. This already started in the time of Vicente Fox and is now continuing with Felipe Calderón. Persecution is particularly harsh from the Minister of Labour.
What is the situation for Los Mineros and the independent trade union movement in Mexico today?
I think that things are slowly improving. The questions that we are discussing today on the merger at the global level will be particularly beneficial for Mexico. For example, another union under attack - SME - will soon be together with us and I think that we could achieve a really strong and independent labour movement in Mexico.
How can international solidarity support Los Mineros and other independent unions in your struggle?
One thing in which we need the support from the international organizations is to be able to continue organizing and recruiting new members in our union and that is what we would ask the international organizations to which we are affiliated. I also would like to share with you my great joy because we just heard on 25 May that our leader Napoleón Gómez has now been cleared of all accusations against him and we are looking forward to having him back with us in Mexico and to continue our struggle. We believe that the union movement in Mexico is really advancing.
Un Report: Mexico: “a State of Emergency” – Not Enough Food and Too Much Obesity
Mexico, says U.N. food expert, should declare “a state of emergency” because of the terrible imbalances in food and nutrition in the country. On the one hand, says Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the country has 19 million people who live in food insecurity, unsure from day to day if they will get enough to eat. On the other hand, Mexico is second only to the United States in terms of obesity and the health problems it entails.
Mexico’s Unhealthy Diets a Result of Gov’t Policies
De Schutter said both under-nutrition and over-nutrition are the result of several factors, including mono-cropping and export-led agriculture at the expense of healthy and diverse diets, policies skewed towards the interests of rich farmers rather than smallholders, and marketing of energy-rich foods by companies.
“Agricultural policies and social policies aiding consumers should be made mutually supportive and support local food systems that could present most benefits for consumer and small-scale farmers alike,” he said.
“For instance, existing food aid programs should source more of their food supplies from small-scale, local producers to increase their incomes and to ensure the provision of fresh foods to consumers.”
The Traditionally Healthy Mexican Diet
Traditionally, many Mexicans ate a relatively healthy diet of tortillas and beans (an excellent source of protein), some meat, fowl and fish, and fresh vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and sweet and spicy chiles. The traditional diets of indigenous peoples in most of the world tended to be fundamentally healthy according to Dr. Elizabeth Lipski of Hawthorne University in Ashville, North Carolina. A recent study by Sylvia Guendelman, assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, found that Mexican immigrant women actually had a healthier diet than American women.
(We might note that what many Americans take to be Mexican food, some sort of tortilla and filling covered with a slab of melted yellow cheese, has little to do with Mexico and better reflects the impact of the powerful Midwestern dairy lobby. Similarly the burrito, the ever present greasy, salty tortilla chips, and nachos are American inventions, not Mexican food.)
The United States: Food Imperialism and Diet
During the post-war period, U.S. companies began to invade the Mexican market, bringing to our southern neighbor the reliance on industrially processed and refined foods. From Coca-Cola to potato chips, from McDonalds to Walmart, U.S. corporations carried our unhealthy eating habits to our southern neighbor. Mexico’s myriad miscelaneas, the family owned neighborhood stores, began to carry shelves of packed foods, often replacing the greens sold in the local fresh food and vegetable stores, while sugared drinks replaced healthier juices.
Throughout the post-war period, Mexico lost “food sovereignty,” that is, lost the ability to feed its own people, becoming dependent on the United States for imported beans and even corn. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) led to the massive dumping of American corn on the Mexican market, wiping out many of the remaining small farmers. At the same time, traditional Mexican foods were replaced with American processed foods—and the result has been the same plague of obesity with its accompanying diabetes and heart disease that threatens the American people.
In May of 2010 the Mexican government, finally standing up to years of lobbying by Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola and other U.S. corporations, decided to ban junk foods such as carbonated drinks, fruit drinks that are mostly corn syrup, and processed snacks that are largely fat, sugar and salt.
A Moratorium on GM Corn
De Schutter also called for a moratorium on field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn and said the Mexican government should prevent the introduction of transgenic corn, claiming they would not benefit most farmers since it would lead them to gradually depend on seeds protected by intellectual property rights that may make farming prohibitively expensive.
“The introduction of GM maize in Mexico will pose a serious threat to agro-biodiversity, a crucial asset in the face of future threats and unpredictable changes brought about by climate change,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur said agrarian reform “should focus on smallholders and aim at scaling up agro-ecological techniques. It should start by developing pro-poor agricultural policies: the current policies favor the richest states, the richest municipalities and the richest producers.”
De Schutter, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Campesino Communities Caught in the Narco-economy Are Resisting Repression and Dispossession
Josh Rushing finds out how campesino communities caught in the narco-economy are resisting repression and dispossession. Al Jazeera
June 12 speech by Andrés Manuel López Obrador to immigrant workers in Los Angeles
June 12 speech by Andrés Manuel López Obrador to immigrant workers in Los Angeles
In Spanish, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1p8nD5OO-4
Three more articles by David Bacon
Labor Law Reform – A Key Battle for Mexican Unions Today
by David Bacon
Published by the Americas Program on May 26, 2011 http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4654
The Rebirth of Solidarity on the Border
by David Bacon
Posted by the Americas Program on May 31, 2011 http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4697
Editor's Note: This is the third article of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article and subsequent stories were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change's report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.
Growing Ties Between Mexican and U.S. Labor
Published by the Americas Program on June 14, 2011
Editor's Note: This is the fourth article of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. All articles in the series were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change's report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.
Denunciation by Martin Esparza General Secretary of SME at the ILO 100th Conference on International Labor
Denunciation by Martin Esparza General Secretary of SME at the ILO 100th Conference on International Labor in Geneva, Switzerland on June 8, 2011 (in Spanish) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4Tgmv3ocIc&feature=player_embedded
Caravan for Peace
Video from Caravan for Peace in Monterrey (in Spanish): https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=e99aca73dd&view=att&th=130706bd0ff01414&attid=0.1&disp=safe&zw
Democracia y Libertad Sindical
You can view this interesting publication of the campaign against protection contracts and news updates on the web site of Democracia y Libertad Sindical at http://www.democraciaylibertadsindical.org.mx/
Global Labour Journal
Global Labour Journal, published by McMaster University in Canada, is pleased to announce that the latest issue of the Journal (GLJ 2.2, May 2011) is now available for free download online at http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/globallabour/
The issue includes a review of Michelle L. Dion's 'Workers and Welfare: Comparative Institutional Change in Twentieth Century Mexico' by Dan La Botz.
Crossing the Border to Cananea: High Stakes and Teachable Moments for North American Workers
In 2010 a groups of labor educators, union staff and students went to Cananea Sonora, Mexico to investigate the ongoing copper strike by Los Mineros Union. A report by the delegation and a 29 minute video produced by Howard Kling are now on line at the web site of the Institute for Labor Studies: http://cas.umkc.edu/labor-ed/global.htm.