|Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention|
|Artist Beatriz Aurora|
Mexican Labor News & Analysis
August , 2011, Vol. 16, No. 8
Introduction to this issue:
Support the SME ad in La Jornada. This is time sensitive; please get it to people you think may be interested ASAP.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
As most of you know, since October 2009 the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) has been one of the primary targets of the Mexican government's attack on Freedom of Association.
Most recently, the government has failed to take action to recognize the union's national officers who were elected by an overwhelming vote in July. Instead, it issued arrest warrants against General Secretary Martin Esparza and another national leader, along with their legal counsel, based on spurious charges regarding actions occurring two years earlier (the charges relate to an attempt by the SME to withdraw money from its own bank account as authorized by a judge after it had been frozen by government authorities).
SME is working with other organizations to develop a broad response, and a document reflecting some of those plans is attached.
However, they have one immediate and very specific request:
They will be publishing the following declaration in the newspaper La Jornada and are requesting authorization to include the names of unions, other organizations and prominent individuals. Their deadline for collecting names is next Monday, August 22. Please send a message (English or Spanish are fine) to "Jose Humberto Montes de Oca"
Note that this is an expensive proposition (a full page ad costs $11,000 US). If you are interested in contributing to the cost, money can be wired to SME
Bank: BBVA BANCOMER, 0067 REVOLUCION, MEXICO, D.F.
Names on account: MARTIN ESPARZA FLORES and JOSE FERNANDO MUÑOZ PONCE.
SWIFTT Code: BCMRMXMNPYN
Interbank number: 012180001687152466
Please send Humberto the confirmation of the deposit at the above address.
Robin Alexander and Dan LaBotz
Contents for this issue:
- Opposition Criticizes Calderón for U.S.’s Growing Role in Mexico
- Sicilia and Movement for Peace Continue to Press for Change
- Mexican Human Rights Board Recommends Visas for Migrants
- Mexican Government Human Rights Board: Army, Police Violate Rights
- AI Officials Says Disappearances at Level of Dictatorships
- Electrical Workers Occupy Zócalo as Leaders Are Charged
- Increasing Solidarity with the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union!
- Solidarity Alliance Between the United Steelworkers and the Mexican Mine and Metalworkers Unions
- Miners Continue to Fight Repression, Negotiate Good Congracts
- Workers Killed in Fight Between Official and Independent Union
- Public Worker Fed Calls for Audit of Health, Pension Fund
- Mexicana Unions still Fighting for their Members’ Jobs
- Legislator Demands Investigation into Railroad Retirement Fund
- Politics Convergence Becomes the Citizens Movement
- Mexico City Mayor and Supporters Create “democratic Left”
Opposition Criticizes Calderón for U.S.’s Growing Role in Mexico
By Dan La Botz
From time to time there are stories in Mexico that make the front pages and head up the evening news, stories involving both Mexico and the United States, that get little attention in the American media, even when, as in this case, it was an American newspaper, The New York Times, which broke the story. We thought it important to show how one important story was playing out in the Mexican press today, and to explain why it is treated differently in Mexico.
Mexico’s opposition parties have harshly criticized President Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) for entering into agreements with the United States that radically and perhaps illegally change the country’s policy, permitting U.S. police and military to operate on Mexican soil and raising the possibility of U.S. private contractors also joining them. An article by Ginger Thompson of the New York Times on August 6, 2011 revealed that with Calderón’s permission U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Pentagon retired military and civilian military employees now operate out of a base in Mexico. The U.S. agents also manage Mexican informants. Mexican law forbids foreign military and police from operating on its soil.
These most recent revelations have caused a furor not only in the opposition but among broad sectors of Mexican society, coming as they do on the heels of earlier disclosures in March that Calderón had given the United States permission to send unmanned drones on flights deep into Mexico as part of the drug war. U.S. officials said that they had carried out those activities in such a way as to allow Calderón “plausible deniability.” The opposition had criticized that too, as a violation of Mexican sovereignty. Many Mexicans have also been concerned about the $1.4 billion in money and materiel that the United States has provided through the Mérida Plan for Calderón’s war on the drug cartels. It has been suggested that the U.S. is financing the Mexican Army’s human rights abuses which have been documented by Mexican governmental and non-governmental human rights groups, as well as international human rights organizations.
When questioned by La Opinion, the Los Angeles Spanish language daily, about the pact with Calderón, President Barack Obama told the paper that “Our program is restricted to providing intelligence assistance and other forms of back-up advice, so that the Mexican government can carry out its fight against the drug dealers in that country.” Mexican Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake Mora assured the Mexican media that everything was being done to respect Mexico’s Constitution and laws, as well as international treaties, and that all that was involved was international cooperation to help Mexico’s security forces. William Burns, Under Secretary of State, said that the U.S. only provided such assistance as Mexico wanted.
U.S. Has to Approve Mexican Colleagues
Senator Carlos Jiménez Macías of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the former ruling party of Mexico, reported that he had learned that Calderón and Obama had signed a memorandum of understanding in March of this year and that the U.S. had begun to operate on Mexican soil in June. He said that the agreement had been specifically designed to evade Mexico’s law forbidding foreign police and military from operating on Mexican soil.
Adding insult to injury, the U.S. agents in Mexico will only work with high commanders and officers of the Secretary of Public Security and of the Attorney General’s office who have been vetted, found worthy of confidence, and accredited by U.S. officials, according to the Mexico City daily La Jornada. The U.S. insists on examining Mexican police commanders and military officers because of the widespread corruption among such officials in Mexico.
The number of officials operating out of the base in Mexico, the location of which has not been disclosed, is put at under two dozen by a U.S. official. Other sources say that there may be as many at 400 U.S. agents of different sorts—customs, immigration, justice, national security, drugs and arms traffic, etc.—operating in Mexico, agents whose influence is multiplied by the many informants that they oversee.
Opposition: Calderón a Traitor
The revelations of Calderón’s agreement with Obama has been met with outrage and indignation from the opposition parties. PRI leader Manuel Bartlett Díaz, the former Secretary of the Interior of Mexico, declared that Calderón should be “tried for treason” for having permitted foreign troops on Mexican soil. He declared that Calderón’s pact with Obama was void, since it violated the Constitution. The Senate should act immediately against this handing over of Mexican interests to the United States, said Bartlett. The PRI expects to win the elections in the summer of 2012 and once again become the country’s ruling party.
Senators from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Workers Party (PT), and the PRI demanded an investigation into the Calderón-Obama secret security pact. La Jornada editorialized that the pact constituted “a flagrant violation of national law” and “an attack on national sovereignty” and the Constitution. The leftwing daily also pointed out the irony of cooperating with the United States, the country which has provided the drug market, the guns for the drug wars, and carried out the money laundering for the criminals.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, one of the two leading contenders to be the left candidate in the 2012 election, attacked Calderón for having sold out his own country. “We Mexicans have to take charge of our own internal affairs. We don’t want to be a protectorate or a colony of any foreign country. Mexico must continue to be a free, independent, and sovereign country. It should cooperate with, not be subordinate to the United States,” he said.
Manuel Fuentes Muñiz, president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD), declared that the agreement was “not only a demonstration of the Mexican authorities’ governmental incapacity in the fight against transnational organized crime, but also a relinquishment of sovereignty and an outright violation of the Constitution.” Eduardo Miranda Esquivel of the Union of Mexican Jurists called the pact “a silent invasion of Mexican sovereignty by the United States government.”
Historical Background of the Debate
While the American media has tended to treat this matter as primarily a question of U.S. support for the Mexican war on drugs, the Mexican media has had to deal with this as a question of the legality and legitimacy of the U.S. presence in Mexico and involvement in Mexican security. The Mexican media and public see these matters in terms not only of the contemporary situation, but also in the light of Mexican history. If Mexicans are leery of the U.S. presence in their country, it is for good reason.
American colonists in Mexico—the Indian killers and slave traders who constituted the Mafia of the slave states such as Sam Houston and Davey Crockett—succeeded in taking Texas from Mexico. Mexicans, of course, are more aware than Americans that U.S. aggression led to the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 in which the United States took about half of all of Mexico’s territory, comprising what would become much of the American West and Southwest: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and parts of other several other states.
During the late nineteenth century, American banks, corporations and wealthy individuals came to own enormous tracts of land in Mexico and to control many of the country’s most important resources: minerals, oil, and lumber. In the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, the United States twice invaded Mexico, once in 1914, bombarding and then occupying the port city of Veracruz and again in 1916 sending an expeditionary military force into the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. During the late 20th century, American corporations continued to dominate mining, and returned to take control of large sections of the country’s railroads and telecommunications, while U.S. owned maquiladoras dominated the economy of the northern border. In the Cold War period from 1948 to the late 1960s, Mexico cooperated with the U.S. State Department in the war against communists and other leftists in North America. Since the opening of this century, Wal-mart has become the country’s largest private employer, eclipsing firms like General Motors and Delco which once held that title.
Mexicans see the Calderón-Obama pact permitting U.S. police and military to operate in Mexico as part of a long history of American imperialism. Some may also think about the experience of Mexico in the 1850s when the Conservative party, losing out to the Liberals of Benito Juárez, invited the French to invade Mexico and establish a Hapsburg monarch to rule the country. They may fear that Calderón, threatened by the PRI, by Andrés Manuel López Obrador and by the drug lords, may be inviting the Americans to come in to help him defeat his opponents. The Mexican concern about U.S. involvement in its internal affairs represents a realistic concern about its northern neighbor’s imperial ambitions.
Sicilia and Movement for Peace Continue to Press for Change
The poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered last March 28, continues to lead the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity through a series of dialogues with Mexican political, economic and social leaders. At the same time, he continues to lead protest marches and to speak out against the policies of those governmental leaders with whom he is in dialogue.
“We want peace,” says Scilia, “and that is impossible without dialogue.” The poet and his movement have criticized the government’s proposed national security law and called for changes to make it “a citizen’s law, a humane law that takes into account the people and recognizes the need to re-weave the social fabric.”
Sicila has said that the proposed national security law “would legitimize the horror of the war and open the way to the militarization of the country.” He also criticized the government for betraying the desires of the country’s indigenous people as formulated in the San Andrés Larrainzar accords of 1996, an agreement between the Mexican government and the Zapatista rebels dealing with indigenous rights. The Mexican legislature failed to adopt the agreement.
Sicilia has said about Calderón’s war on drugs:
“The politicians are formulating the drug problem as an issue of national security, but it is an issue of public health. If, from the very beginning, drugs were decriminalized, drug lords would be subjected to the iron laws of the market. That would have controlled them. That would have allowed us to discover our drug addicts and offer them our love and our support. That would not have left us with 40,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared and 120,000 displaced…
“The war is caused by puritan mentalities: like those of Calderón and Bush. In the name of abstractions—the abstraction of saving youth from drug addiction—they have brutally assassinated thousands of young people, while transforming others into delinquents.
“Albert Camus spoke a terrible truth. ‘I know something worse than hate: abstract love.’ In the name of abstract love, in the name of God and Country, in the name of saving the youth from drugs, in the name of the proletariat, in the name of abstractions, our politicians and war policy makers have committed the most atrocious crimes on human beings, who are not abstractions, who are bones and flesh. That is what our country is living and suffering today: in the name of an abstract goodness, we are suffering the opposite: the horror of war and violence, of innocents dead, disappeared, and mutilated.” (cited at Forbes.com)
Mexican Human Rights Board Recommends Visas for Migrants
The Mexican Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government board, recommended at the beginning of August that migrants be given temporary visas as a way to protect them from the violence to which they are commonly subjected.
Migrants face a violent reality, said Felipe González, the Special Relator of the CNDH’s committee on Migratory Workers and Members of their Families.
Tens of thousands of Central American migrants from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador pass through Mexico each year, many of them following the migrant route that runs from Chiapas, through Oaxaca, to Veracruz and on to Tamaulipas and then the United States.
Migrants are often subject to violence by both criminals and by the police or other authorities. The migrants and their families report being threatened, beaten, tortured, robbed, raped, illegally arrested and jailed, and murdered. Drug cartels have killed scores of migrants, 72 at one time in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.
The Mexican government says that it plans to take the CNDH recommendations into account and to come up with new recommendations by October. This could include the granting of temporary visas as the CNDH has recommended.
Pressure on the Human Rights Commission and on the immigration authorities has been exerted by Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest, who organized the Step by Step for Peace caravan. He said that the Mexican government should stop being a policemen for the United States. “Our children don’t want to stay in Mexico,” said Solalinde, “they just want to pass through it on their way north.”
Javier Sicilia, the poet who leads the Movement for Peace, seconds Solalinde’s effort, saying, “Fuck all the bureaucratic red tape when it gets in the way of the interests of human beings. We have to give their dignity back to our Central American brothers.”
Mexican Government Human Rights Board: Army, Police Violate Rights
The Mexican government’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) declared in early August that the country’s police and army routinely violate human rights. “Illegal searches have become common practice in many parts of the country, and they reveal a systematic pattern,” said the commission’s report. “When soldiers or police,” said the commission, “burst into a homes looking for illicit objects, they threaten, injure and detain the occupations, they take valuables or money, they alter evidence.”
The commission’s report happened to coincide with a recent police raid on the home of Efraín Bartolomé, a poet uninvolved in criminal activities of any sort. Police who were looking for a drug dealer ransacked his house and took his cell phones, a memory stick, and a watch. The man the police were looking for was found in a nearby neighborhood and the authorities quickly issued an apology.
An additional irony in this case was that the police who made the raid were from the State of Mexico but raided the poet’s home across the line in the Federal District where they had no authority. Two other homes in the Federal District were similarly and illegal raided. The raid took on political overtones because Enrique Peña Nieto, until recently the governor of Mexico State, is the likely candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), while Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City, could be the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Ebrard called for a full investigation into the raids.
The Mexican Human Rights Commission report went on to show that the Mexican army and police used threats to get people to permit “voluntary” searches of their homes. They used force to make citizens falsely confess to possession of contraband. If they complained, they threatened their victims.
Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department, and other organizations have for years reported that Mexican police routinely shake down, threaten, beat, torture, and murder citizens.
AI Officials Says Disappearances at Level of Dictatorships
Javier Zuñiga, a Mexican official of Amnesty International, speaking at the beginning of August, warned that human rights violations such as forced disappearances could reach levels similar to those of the Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Zuñiga referred to people disappeared after being delivered to military bases in Nuevo Leon.
The Mexican Army and police are thought to be responsible for many of these disappearances, just as the military was responsible for the disappearance—almost all of them eventually found to have been murders—perpetrated by the military in countries like Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Guatemala in the period between 1965 and 1985.
At about the same time, Amnesty International in Mexico organized a demonstration at the offices of the Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE) to demand that the government sign the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and take appropriate action to deal with poverty. (Covenant at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm)
Daniel Zapico who heads AI Mexico’s Mobilization and Impact group said the group was circulating a petition urging Mexico to sign the agreement and that it had collected about 20,000 signatures so far.
Electrical Workers Occupy Zócalo as Leaders Are Charged
The Mexican Electrical Workers Union(SME) has vowed to continue its permanent encampment—a plantón—in the Zócalo, Mexico’s national plaza as a protest against new attacks on the union. The SME is being supported by over 40 Mexican and international labor organizations in its fight against government repression. The National Union of Workers (UNT), Mexico’s independent labor federation, and the AFL-CIO, the U.S. labor federation, are both backing the SME.
The new attack takes the form of spurious legal charges against the union’s leaders for fraud based on actions occurring two years earlier (the charges relate to an attempt by the SME to withdraw money from its own bank account as authorized by a judge after it had been frozen by government authorities). The Mexican Attorney General’s office has drawn up charges against SME’s General Secretary Martín Esparza, Secretary of Labor Eduardo Bobadilla, and Amalia Vargas Ríos their legal counsel. At the same time the Secretary of Labor has yet to approve the union’s newly elected officers through the process known as “taking note” (toma de nota). In violation of international labor standards, Mexican labor law gives the government the power to accept or reject democratically elected union officials.
Some 13 other SME members are being held as “political prisoners,” according to the union.
Legislators and officials of the National Action Party (PAN), the party of President Felipe Calderón have demanded that Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City, remove the SME union from the square. Ebrard has refused, saying that the Calderón government has to deal with the union’s issues. On October 10 and 11 of 2009 Calderón ordered police and military units to seize the facilities of the Mexican Light & Power Company, then liquidated the company and terminated its 44,000 employees, most of them members of the SME. While many workers took their severance pay and gave up their union membership, some 16,000 refused severance and continue fighting for their jobs with the union.
SME officials call the new fraud charges an act of “aggression” against the union. They argue that the government has “fabricated charges” and “criminalized” union activity. The SME has vowed to undertake new, dramatic action against this attack on the union and its members.
The Mexican government took a similar action against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, leader of the Mine and Metal Workers Union (SNMMRM), to force him to flee the country and to lead the union from exile in Canada.
Sme to Create New Political Group
Meanwhile SME leaders are moving ahead with plans for the founding congress of a new political organization which will take place on August 27 and 28. Humberto Montes de Oca, SME Secretary of the Exterior, said that the organizations involved were agreed that to solve the problems caused by neo-liberalism and the crisis of capitalism that it will be necessary to construct “a new majority, a new social bloc that takes in its hand the political leadership of the State to re-found and reconstruct the republic on the basis of the people.”
Increasing Solidarity with the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union!
Translation by Daina Green
Mexico City, August 11, 2011
Faced with the delay on the part of the Labour Secretary to grant the official recognition of our elected union leadership and the infamous arrest warrants drawn on our Secretary General, brother Martin Esparza Flores, brother Eduardo Bobadilla Zarza, Secretary of Labor, and our legal representative Amalia Vargas Ríos, a solidarity rally was held on Monday, August 7 at the headquarters of the Union of Mexican Electrical Workers. In attendance were 42 political and social movement organizations, including the National Workers Union (UNT), the Movement for Food and Energy Sovereignty, Workers’ Rights and Democratic Freedoms, the Mineworkers’ Union, Sections 9 and 18 the CNTE-SNTE, the Mexican Union Front, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, National Dialogue, students from Ciudad Juárez, the Association of Retirees, Pensioners and Senior Citizens, members of the Social Congress for a New Constitutional Assembly and a broad representation of political and social organizations. We also note the presence of representatives of international trade unions like the World Federation of Trade Unions and the AFL-CIO, the latter being the largest workers’ central in the United States.
At the meeting, the legal department of the SME presented a comprehensive report demonstrating the innocence of our colleagues of the absurd charges of "attempted fraud" arbitrarily laid against them as part of the campaign being waged by the federal government, the PAN (National Action Party), and some media outlets, to criminalize our legitimate resistance struggle. In their interventions, participants agreed that these attacks by the federal government are not only intended to "decapitate" the movement of the SME, but represent a potential threat against all social movements because the underlying objective is to wipe out democratic freedoms in our country. The government of Felipe Calderón seeks to get an organization that is very representative of the social struggle against the imposition of "regressive" neo-liberal reforms, such as labour law and security, out of the way. For this reason, the organizations present are prepared to defend the SME, to condemn the totalitarian and fascist policy of the federal government and to undertake a joint action plan to stop the onslaught of government against national sovereignty, social rights, democratic freedoms and the struggles of resistance.
The main resolutions adopted by the meeting are as follows:
1) Publish a paid statement aimed at national and international public opinion to condemn this escalation of repression by the federal government against SME and demand the immediate withdrawal of arrest warrants issued against our brothers and sister, as well as the release of 13 SME political prisoners. Any organization that wishes to join is invited to sign onto the statement.
2) Reinforce the sit-in of the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers in the Zócalo of Mexico City, with the addition of new contingents from all participating organizations.
3) Participate in the demonstration called by the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity for Sunday August 14 at 11:00 am, which will leave the Museum of Anthropology at Los Pinos, ending at the Senate building.
4) Conduct an international campaign to denounce the Mexican government for its repressive policy in violation of the right to freedom of association. Encourage a letter- writing campaign, statements from well-known individuals, protests at embassies and consulates of Mexico throughout the world, and the promotion of an international mission in solidarity with the SME to come to the Zócalo.
5) Promote the National Day of Outraged Mexicans to be held on Thursday September 1 at the Zócalo in Mexico City. On that day, present a counter-report on government action showing a negative assessment of the neo-liberal policies imposed by the federal government at the expense of welfare, social rights, liberties and the lives of Mexicans. We are all outraged.
6) Given the urgent need to unite the efforts of all victims of neo-liberal policies, we must work toward the establishment of a coordinating body for all social movements to agree on a political agenda and a joint action plan. Among points of unity, we propose the themes of NO MORE BLOOD, the army's return to their barracks and the solution to the conflict of the miners, the teachers, the pilots’ union and the electrical workers, as well as the solution of demands of social movements, students, farmers, environmentalists and others.
7) Continue to hold demonstrations during the months of September and October.
Finally, it was agreed to hold another plenary session on Thursday, August 18 at 4 pm at the SME headquarters.
P.S. In the face of renewed calls to evacuate our encampment in the Zocalo by deputies of the PAN and supported by some journalists, we reiterate that our presence there is not frivolous. We are sitting in because we are victims of the illegal and illegitimate dispossession of our work, and the arbitrary closure of a public company whose business is now delivering company improperly through contractors, which is also causing an unjustified increase in electricity rates. If the courts had resolved the matter of successor employer in a timely manner, as required by law, we would be back at work, there would be no camp at the Zócalo, there would be better electrical service and the rates would not have skyrocketed.
"FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS AND JUSTICE "
José Humberto Montes de Oca
Solidarity Alliance Between the United Steelworkers and the Mexican Mine and Metalworkers Unions
The United Steel Workers (USW) of Canada and the United States and the Miners and Metal Workers (SNMMRM) of Mexico, have signed what they call a “solidarity alliance” promising continued cooperation between the two unions.
In recognition of the historic ties between our two unions and the leading role that each has played in the fight for the rights of workers in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (the United Steelworkers) and the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel, and Similar Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) entered into a Strategic Alliance in 2005.
Under the banner of that Alliance our two unions have fought side by side to resist the attack by a handful of corporations, aided and abetted by the government of Mexico, on the rights of Mexican workers in general and the very existence of Los Mineros in particular. While that fight is far from over, Los Mineros, supported by the United Steelworkers, has won tremendous improvements in working and living standards for its members in the mines, mills, and factories of Mexico, contributing to the increased well being of its members in Mexico and increasing economic security for workers in the United States and Canada.
In recognition of our joint commitment to the rights and living and working standards of workers across North America, in 2010 our two unions built upon that framework by entering into an agreement to work towards the creation of a single North American organization. Supported by our increasing ties of solidarity and concrete actions of support, Los Mineros have been successful in organizing new workplaces in Mexico, significantly increasing its membership in 2010 even in the face of the continuing attack.
On the heels of these successes, the United Steelworkers and Los Mineros intend to strengthen our joint efforts to fight for workers throughout our three countries, reaffirm our joint commitment to work toward the creation of a single North American organization, and act on that commitment by creating a new SOLIDARITY ALLIANCE based on the following principles and commitments:
• The United Steelworkers and Los Mineros will remain separate labor organizations with separate constitutions, and neither will be liable for the legal obligations and debts of the other.
• The Steelworkers will be entitled to an observer with the right to speak but not vote on issues coming before the National Executive Committee of Los Mineros, and Los Mineros will be entitled to an observer with the right to speak but not vote on issues coming before the Steelworkers International Executive Board. The observers will not be considered members of the Committee/Board whose activities they are observing.
• A program of exchanges of Steelworker and Minero personnel, staff, and membership will be developed, in addition to the on-going informational and activist exchanges, which will be continued.
• A program of Spanish instruction for Steelworker staff who desire to become fluent in Spanish will be explored, as will a program of English instruction for the leadership of Los Mineros.
• Councils will be created where our unions represent employees at major common employers, consisting of Steelworker and Minero local unions that will meet on a regular basis in all three countries to facilitate exchange of information, strategic cooperation, solidarity support, and organizing initiatives.
• A mechanism to support cross-national organizing will be created.
• The joint commission established in 2010 will be expanded to include the General Counsel and Director of International Affairs of the Steelworkers and two additional representatives of the Mineros. The joint commission is charged with recommending all necessary actions to advance the initiatives described above.
Approved and executed in Las Vegas, August 16, 2011
(For an in depth discussion of the USW/Minero relationship see our July 2010 issue at: http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/mlna_articles.php?id=172#1146 )
Miners Continue to Fight Repression, Negotiate Good Congracts
The Mexican Mine Workers Union (SNTMMRM) continues to resist the Mexican government’s attempt to break and eliminate the union, with strong support from the United Steel Workers of Canada and the United States. Miners marched in early August in the city of Zacatecas as a demonstration of their continuing commitment to the four-year strike at the Sombrerete Mine in the State of Zacatecas.
The Miners Union also continues to be on strike now for four-years as well at Cananea, Sonora and Taxco, Guerrero, though the employers claim that they are now working Cananea with scab contractors. None of the strikes has been declared illegal.
The General Secretary of the Mexican Mine Workers Union, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia hopes to be able to return to Mexico as soon as all legal charges against him have been dropped and the situation is safe. He has been running the union from exile in Vancouver, British Columbia for four years, after the Mexican government brought charges against him for embezzling millions of dollars in union funds. He, the Mexican Mine Workers and the Steelworkers have argued that the charges were concocted to destroy him and the union.
At the same time, Gómez Urrutia continues to lead the union to negotiate some of the best contracts in the country. At the end of July he and local union leaders concluded negotiations and arrived at a contract for the 3,500 workers employed at the Arcelor Mittal steelworkers in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. The agreement provides for 6.5 percent in wage increases and another 8 percent in benefits. The union’s members meeting in assembly approved the contract unanimously.
Workers Killed in Fight Between Official and Independent Union
Some 800 members of the Independent Union of Workers at the Empresa Impulsora del Papaloapan S.A. de C.V. sugar mill, (also known as Ingenio San Cristóbal 508) armed with guns, pipes, and stones, attacked the rival members of the National Sugar Union (SNA) affiliated with the Mexican Confederation of Workers (CTM). The other side was similarly armed. Two workers were killed, two wounded by gunshots, and others injured in the confrontation. Several cars, motorcycles and buildings were burned and destroyed.
The independent union led by Clemente Pacheco Mora was attempting to take control of the union offices from Mario Hernández, the former leader of Local 21 of the CTM sugar workers union. The independents had won the right to administer the contract in a representation election held at the end of 2010. The CTM union succeeded in defending the office and keeping the duly elected union from taking control. However, when the Secretary of Public Security police fired tear gas at both bands, the CTM was forced to abandon the offices.
Pachero Mora of the independent union said that state officials had ignored his calls for them to intervene and remove the CTM earlier. He said that appeals to the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Interior had also failed.
The independent union leader said that he would go with 1,000 union members to demand that the person responsible for the killing of the workers be brought to justice.
Public Worker Fed Calls for Audit of Health, Pension Fund
The Democratic Federation of Unions of Public Servants (FEDESSP), headed by Elba Esther Gordilla of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), has held several protests and demonstrations, calling for an audit of the ISSSTE, the public employee health and pension fund. The federation accuses Jesús Villalobos López, ISSSTE’s general secretary of the illegal use of federal funds.
Juan Manuel Garduño, head of the Independent Union of ISSSTE workers, presented the press with copies of receipts for merchandise purchased at exorbitant prices, presumably to enrich Villalobos and his allies.
The union federation also accuses him of lack of personnel, of illicit contracts and the purchase of drugs for clinics and hospitals at prices five times higher than usual, and the general deterioration of the ISSSTE system.
Gordillo, head of the teachers’ union and of this public employees federation, has broken with the administration of President Felipe Calderón and appears to be seeking an alliance with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The current attack on Villalobos may be motivated by her political ambitious.
Mexicana Unions still Fighting for their Members’ Jobs
Ricardo del Valle Solares, the new general secretary of the Union Association of Flight Attendants of Mexico (ASSA), pledged to continue to fight to restart Mexicana, the airline which closed last year leaving thousands of pilots, flight attendants, and ground workers without jobs. ASSA has 3,515 members of whom 52.6 percent or 1,849 persons voted in the election.
At the same time, Fernando Perfecto, general secretary of the Union Association of Airline Pilots (ASPA), demanded that Felipe Calderón show the political will “in acts, not words” to restructure and restart Mexicana Airlines.
The Coalition of Mexican Workers has also denounced the airlines to the Attorney General for engaging in fraud.
The various unions continue to meet with the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Communications and Transport and investors in an attempt to get the planes in the air again.
Legislator Demands Investigation into Railroad Retirement Fund
Esthela Damián Peralta of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has asked the Permanent Commission of the Congress of Mexico to reach an agreement with the government of Felipe Calderón to investigate the Mexican Railroad Retirement Fund (Fideicomiso Ferronalesjub5012-6) which last year reported a deficit of 15 billion pesos.
The Secretaries of Finance and Pubic Credit, as well as Public Function, had earlier agreed to look into the fund, but nine months later they have still not responded, said the legislator. The fund, she said, had gone from having 19 billion pesos in assets to having a deficit of 15 billion with no explanation.
Retired railroad workers have alleged that Victor Flores Morales, head of the Mexican Railroad Workers Union (STFRM) and a congressman of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has embezzled the funds. Flores Morales worked with former President Carlos Salinas and with U.S. railroad companies to sell off the Mexican railroads to foreign investors while simultaneously eliminating about 100,000 railroad workers jobs. Those workers were to have been taken care of by the fund in question.
Politics Convergence Becomes the Citizens Movement
Convergence (Convergencia), a progressive political party on the left, has changed its name to the Citizens Movement and adopted a new political strategy.
Luis Walton, one of the party’s leaders, told the party’s delegates assembled in convention that the party’s new strategy of offering 50 percent of its candidacies to non-party members “represented not only a transcendental step in the life of political parties, but also the inauguration of a new era in democracy in the country, because the Citizens Movement represents a watershed for Mexico.”
Meeting in the San Ángel Convention Center, some 586 of the 643 delegates present voted to open the party to citizen candidates who are not members of the party but share its objectives. The party also voted to get its minority members proportional representation in the leadership at all levels.
The party aims at political reforms including referendum, plebiscite, popular initiative, and recall.
Founded in 1999 as Convergence for Democracy by former members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and other likeminded individuals, in 2002 the party became simply Convergence, and now becomes Citizens Movement. Convergence has defined itself as a social democratic party, as do the PRI and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), both of which belong to the Socialist International (SI). Convergence is not a member of the SI.
Throughout its short history, Convergence was politically aligned with the left opposition parties: the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Workers Party (PT). It supported Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in his bids for the presidency.
Mexico City Mayor and Supporters Create “democratic Left”
Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City, and two thousand of his supporters met in the World Trade Center in Mexico City at the end of July to create a new political formation with the name “Democratic Left.” Ebrard is one of two figures vying for the nomination of a coalition of the Party of the Democratic Revolution and other left parties in the 2012 elections, the other being Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Ebrard was joined by the PRD governors of several states and most of the leadership of the PRD. Most of those attending the event came out of the PRD’s New Left faction. Ebrard went to pains to explain that though the PRD leadership was present at the event, that it did not represent anything like an informal nomination (destape).