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

Mexican Labor News & Analysis

February , 2013, Vol. 18, No. 2

 

Join Days of Action for Worker Rights in Mexico, February 18-24!

North American unions and worker rights supporters are joining together to defend the independent Mexican unions and support labor rights in Mexico during the week-long international Days of Action from February 18-24.

Actions in the U.S. and Canada will vary from protests to delivering letters to Mexican government consulate offices. Activities are currently being organized in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Ottawa, Portland, Raleigh, Seattle, Tuscon, Vancouver, and Washington, DC.

In Mexico City, representatives from labor organizations from the United States, Canada, Quebec, and several Global Unions will join the independent Mexican unions at a press conference, several mass actions and in delegations to embassies.

These actions are being organized by the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) with labor groups including the AFL-CIO, United Electrical Workers (UE), United Steelworkers, the United Auto Workers, CSN, CEP, CAW, UNT, SME, FAT, Mineros, ASPA, STRM STUNAM and other unions, as well as NGOs, including Austin Tan Cerca, the Cross-Border Network, National Guestworker Alliance, and the National Lawyers Guild.

See the schedule of events and contact information (which downloads as a word document and will be periodically updated)and join in an action if there is one in your city. If your city has a Mexican consulate and no action is listed on the schedule, consider organizing a delegation to the consulate the week of February 18 to deliver a letter supporting worker rights in Mexico(sample available upon request from scoats@usleap.org).

Days of Action are focusing on the need to roll back regressive labor law changes that were approved in the fall of 2012 and supporting workers at key conflicts, including the Mineworkers (Los Mineros), Bata workers, and the Electrical Workers union (SME), which just received a defeat at the hands of a Supreme Court ruling, condemned as unfair by the global union movement.

Another key demand is action by the International Labor Organization to address the pervasive protection contract system that is used by employers, company-friendly “unions,” and the government to keep out democratic unions and deny workers their basic rights. For recent labor developments in Mexico, see the 2012 Year in Review by Mexican Labor News & Analysis.

All the Global Unions and the International Trade Union Confederation are also supporting the Days of Action. In addition to making Mexican Consulates aware of their concerns, they are targeting corporations such as PKC, BATA, Corona and others to demand that they respect workers’ rights. The global union IndustriALL is taking a major lead in coordinating actions throughout the world and in providing posters, video, a model letter to send to embassies and consulates, and background materials for the Mexico Days of Action, with a dedicated webpage.

Mexico’s lower wages and the obstacles to union organizing continue to draw U.S. companies south of the border. In late January, the largest private employer in Waukegan, Illinois (Cardinal Health) announced it was cutting 650 production jobs and moving work to Mexico and South Carolina, bringing further economic devastation to one more community that has already suffered from globalization’s race to the bottom. Through the Days of Action, the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA) and organizations and activists around the world are working to promote a decent standard of living and work with dignity for working people in all of our countries.

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Massive Working Class March Against Supreme Court Decision; Demands for a New Political and Economic Direction

Tens of thousands of Mexican working people marched through the streets of Mexico City on Friday, February 1 in a demonstration if opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision against the Mexican Electrical Workers Union. (See story below).

Led by the National Union of Workers (UNT), the Mexican Union Front (FSM), and the National Council of Rural and Fishers Organizations (CONORP), and joined by dozens of smaller labor and community groups, the marchers' banners and their chants called for a new economic and political direction for the country and for an end to repression against social movements and their activists.

Organizers of the march claimed that 60,000 had marched while Federal District authorities put the number at 11,000. Arriving at the National Palace in the Mexican Plaza of the Constitution or zócalo, union leaders spoke out against the new PRI government which they feared would continue the policies of the previous National Action Party government of President Felipe Calderón.

In addition to the Electrical Workers Union which was directly affected by the decision, also marching were telephone workers, miners, university employees, public school teachers, telephone workers, airline employees, and many others. When Martín Esparza of the Electrical Workers asked his members if they would accept and abide by the Supreme Court decision which denied them the right to their jobs and accept their severance pay they shouted no! (See
video of the march.

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Mexican Supreme Court Rules Against Electrical Workers

The Mexican Supreme Court ruled on January 30 against the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), declaring that the union’s members had no right to be employed by the Federal Electrical Commission. The decision represents a powerful blow to the Electrical Workers who have been fighting for their jobs for over three years through legal, and legislative avenues, as well as through continuous mass mobilization of union members and supporters in protest marches and demonstrations.

The Court stated that the President and the executive branch were not the employer, since the Light and Power Company where the SME members had worked was a decentralized industry, and therefore the Federal Electrical Commission could not be obliged to hire former Light and Power employees. The unanimous vote overturned a lower court decision and ended the three year legal battle by the union.

Martín Esparza, the general secretary of the union, called the decision “political,” saying that it responded to the interests of the country’s dominant political parties, rather than to Mexican law. The Supreme Court, he told workers at a mass rally held the following day, represented the Mexican President, the country’s wealthy businessmen, and transnational corporations. (See
video of his speech. See also the video of the CNN interview of Martín Esparza and the attorney Carlos de Buen.) The march and rally at the zócalo, Mexico’s national plaza, involved thousands of workers from the National Union of Workers (UNT)as well as the electrical workers.

At the same time, legislators from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) expressed their indignation at the court’s decision. Alejandro Sánchez Camacho, PRD general secretary, said that the Supreme Court had made itself an accomplice to former President Felipe Calderón’s illegal actions. It was Calderón who in October of 2009 ordered the police to seize the Light and Power Facilities, then liquidated the company, and terminated 44,000 workers. Some 16,000 of those workers have continued to fight for their jobs.

World union federations, such as IndustriaALL, which had supported SME’s case with an amicus brief also
expressed their outrage at the decisions.

The Mexican Secretary of Labor, Alfonso Navarrete said that given the Supreme Court decision he could no longer negotiate the possibility of employment by the Federal Electrical Commission with the SME, but that he was still prepared to offer the workers, as he had already indicated in previous negotiations, a severance package much larger than that usually offered to such terminated workers. Two years ago, of the original 44,000 union members who were terminated by Calderón’s administration, all but 16,000 had accepted their severance, giving up any right to return to work.

Esparza said that the Supreme Court’s decision would force the struggle to be drawn out even longer, but that that the union would now make the electrical workers’ fight for jobs an international issue. Vowing to continue the fight for its members’ jobs, the national leadership of the electrical workers announced that they would file a complaint with the Federal Judiciary Council as well as taking their case to the International Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, thousands of union members protested outside the Mexican Supreme Court following the decision.

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Fight Against Labor Law Reform Floods Mexican Courts with Appeals

Following passage of a regressive labor law reform in late November, a coalition of trade unions, community organizations and lawyers have stepped forward to launch a campaign and coordinate the filing of appeals. The Unión Nacional de Trabajadores, FAT, ANAD, UNJ, SME, CROM, Congreso Nacional de Bases, La CNTE, CILAS, CEREAL, and others established a web site that provides for filing various types of appeals: by public and private sector unions and members, other types of organizations and individuals.

Patricia Juan Pineda, an attorney and member of the FAT’s national leadership explained: “We were very concerned because half the time for presenting the appeals occurred during December when people were on vacation and many unions returned in January with only a week to organize, prepare and present the appeals. It was really a tremendous effort with more than one hundred lawyers, trade unionists and representatives of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission attending the meetings. We formed a team of twelve lawyers to draft the appeal and design a strategy. We had to create a national network with groups of workers, citizens, students and others who were able to assist in completing the appeals – explaining how the person or organization was affected by the law – and filing them. In order to accomplish this we set up a web page at www.amparoreformalaboral.org and through the unions, social networks and media, did everything we could to get the word out.”

The last day for filing appeals was the 15 of January and the judicial authorities reported that some 1,200,000 appeals were filed in Mexico City and a similar number were filed in the rest of the country. According to Juan Pineda: “They are accepting all of the appeals and setting hearing dates. Also at this stage we are working in coordination in order to respond to the judicial authority and to develop additional information to post on the web site so that those people who filed appeals will be able to defend themselves.”

The next step, according to Juan Pineda, is to expand the struggle to international venues. “The point of our argument continues to be that they should not eliminate rights that exist, but rather to improve what we already have. The topic of human rights is governed by the principle of progressivity: always towards improvement, never towards the reduction or elimination of rights.”

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Explosion in Pemex Headquarters Caused by Gas Leak: 37 Dead

Mexican authorities have determined that an explosion in the headquarters of the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX) was caused by a gas leak in the basement of the building that was probably ignited by an electrical short. The explosion on February 1 killed 37 people and injured 120 in the 52-story building in Mexico City.

The PEMEX explosion was the first such disaster to test the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The Mexican government responded rapidly and efficiently to the emergency, the president and his cabinet visiting the disaster, though so far there is no explanation for the neglect or poor maintenance that allowed the incident to occur.

This major failure of the PEMEX administration, a failure in the heart of the organization, comes at a time that Peña Nieto and his party are pushing to open the petroleum industry to private and foreign investment. The accident could become a pretext for the privatization of the company or for reducing its role in the industry.

Mexico’s state-owned oil company has a long history of such safety failures and disasters. Last September an explosion and an enormous fire at a Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX) pipeline carrying natural gas left 29 dead, 7 missing, and 46 injured at a distribution center near the U.S.-Mexico border near the town of Reynosa. (See our story.

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Miners Union Leader Refutes Rumors of New Arrest Warrant

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the Mexican Mine Workers Union leader who plans to return to Mexico after his more than six-year exile in Vancouver, British Columbia, asserts that, rumors to the contrary, there are no new legal charges against him. The Mexican Miners and Metalworkers Union (SNTMMRM) represents tens of thousands of workers in those important industries.

Gómez Urrutia went into exile in 2006 after the government threatened to arrest him for allegedly embezzling US$50 million from his union’s members. The government’s false charges appeared to be in retaliation for Gómez Urrutia’s attempt to become leader of the Congress of Labor which includes most Mexican labor unions, his opposition to an earlier government attempt at labor law reform and his harsh criticism of the government at the time of the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster.

During six months of legal battles, Gómez Urrutia succeeded in proving his innocence of the charges while at the same time retaining the support of the union members who reelected him to the top office of general secretary. He has asserted repeatedly that he would return to Mexico when all charges against him have been dropped.

Gómez Urrutia, who succeeded his father in the office of general secretary, led the union in a series of militant strikes that improved workers’ wages, strengthened the union, and won him strong support among the members. His new more militant and independent Miners Union bought him into conflict with Germán Larrea, head of the powerful Grupo Mexico corporation, and with President Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) who together attempted to break the union and to destroy Gómez Urrutia.

The Miners Union leader has said he will seek to establish amicable relations with the new president Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), but this may not be easy given that Gómez Urrutia was a strong supporter of Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

As far as his return to Mexico goes, Gómez Urrutia said, “I’ve got my ticket in my pocket and I’m just waiting to get on board.”

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Teachers Protest Against Educational Reform

Throughout Mexican teachers are protesting against the educational reform passed by the Mexican Congress in December 2012 and confirmed by the states in early 2013.

In Nuevo Leon, on the U.S.-Mexico border, hundreds of members of Locals 50 and 21 marched outside of the state legislature. Similar demonstrations took place in Campeche, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.

Teachers argue that the reforms which give the Secretary of Education greater power to evaluate teacher performance will be bad for public education, for themselves as teachers, and for students.

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National Union of Workers Launches Minimum Wage Campaign

The National Union of Workers (UNT) says it is launching a national campaign to increase wages in Mexico. The “national wage recuperation campaign” will be an attempt to pressure the government to change the national economic development model to one which is more beneficial to workers.

At present, according to the UNT, a Mexican worker’s minimum wage will buy only about a third of the basic food basket. Augustín Rodríguez, head of the Union of Workers of the National Autonomous University (STUNAM) and co-president of the UNT says that they will seek a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto to discuss the measures that should be taken.

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Mexicana Unions Try Again to Get the Planes Off the Ground

Miguel Ángel Yudico, leader of the Ground Workers Union (SNTTTAS); Ricardo Del Valle, head of the Flight Attendants Union (ASSA) and Gerardo Badin, the administrator of the bankrupt and all but defunct Mexicana Airlines, together with attorney, Javier Christlieb, the legal representative of Mexicana met in January to discuss new attempt to get Mexicana’s planes back in the air.

Mexicana went bankrupt in August of 2010, shutting down operations and leading to the layoff of 6,000 workers. (See our report at: http://www.ueinternational.org/MLNA/mlna_articles.php?id=176#1179) Several attempts by a variety of financial interests to find new financing for the organization have all failed, as have efforts by various political figures and by the unions involved.

The unions are now working once again to find capitalists willing to invest, in the hope of getting back to work. The bankruptcy court extended the deadline for new proposals until Jan. 25. Candidates were required to present a $100 million financial guarantee plus a $250 million to $300 million “verifiable” financial guarantee to acquire capital and management control over Mexicana.

If the bankruptcy court does not attract or approve interested investors, it can extend the deadline, lower the financial guarantee amount, or liquidate the airline and associated companies.

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Mexico's New Social Movement: Self-defense Against Crime

Several communities in the State of Guerrero in western Mexico, mostly poor, rural, indigenous communities, have taken up arms to defend themselves against crime. Violent crime in Guerrero has increased dramatically with the wars among the drug cartels and between the cartels and the national government.

The vigilantes have so far arrested dozens of people in several towns and cities and plan to try them in village assemblies. Human rights groups say that as many as 100 communities may now be engaged in this new self-defense movement that has resulted from the inability of Mexican authorities to protect citizens from crime.

Bruno Plácido Valerio, one of the organizers of this community policing, has been working with other groups throughout the state. Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero has not moved to stop the community policing, but is promising better policing by the state police forces.
Vigilante justice in Mexico, mostly the usually spontaneous and violent linchamientos—the beating and sometimes killing—of suspected thieves, rapists, and murderers has been common in rural Mexico for decades. Suspects grabbed by angry crowds on the street receive no trials, face no accusers, have no judge or jury, and the suspect may not be the criminal and the penalty may not fit the crime.
So far as we know, this new wave of self-policing has been more restrained and there have been no killings so far.

In 1995, approximately 80 villages in Guerrero state created legally-recognized “community police” forces that allowed villagers detain and prosecute people. They also have popular courts that can mete out punishments such as doing work for the town or going through some sort of rehabilitation process. The new self-policing villages in Guerrero are not part of that older, legal system.

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Labor Shorts: University Unions Settle Contracts; Urugayan Unions Protest lack of Freedom of Association in Mexico

Two Universities Reach Agreement on New Contracts

The Independent Union of Workers of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (SITUAM) and the Union of Workers of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (STEUABJO) both reached agreement with manage on new contracts. The SITUAM won a wage increase of 3.9 percent plus other benefits, while STEUABJO won 3.4 percent and additional improvements.

During his visit to Uruguay, unions call on the Mexican president to respect freedom of association

31.01.2013
As reported by IndustriALL, Representatives of the Uruguayan union central, PIT-CNT, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Americas delivered a letter addressed to the Mexican president at the Mexican Embassy in Uruguay, anticipating the president’s official visit to Uruguay, and calling on him to intervene to settle labour disputes in Mexico.

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Social Statistics: Gas Prices, Immigration Both Increase

Gas Prices Increase

On January 5 the price of gasoline increased by just under a penny per liter, or a little less than four cents per U.S. gallon. As reported by the January 6, 2013 FNS News, “The price hike came after a reduction in federal gas subsidies, which amounted to approximately $20 billion last year…. The increase means that Mexican drivers will now pay 10 to 17 percent more for fuel than their U.S. counterparts, despite Mexico's status as an oil exporter to its northern neighbor.”

Immigration Increases to Mexico

According to the January 21, 2013 issue of FNS News: “A new study released this month by the Organization of American States (OAS) reported that the documented, foreign-born population in the country increased 45 percent from 2005 to 2010, reaching 850,000 people. Focusing on documented migrants, the OAS study reported that 65,000 immigrants came to Mexico in 2010 alone.

“In terms of the national origin breakdown of new immigrants in the three-year period from 2007 to 2010, the study found that most came from the U.S. (10,472), seconded by Colombia (5,563) and followed by Guatemala (5,563). Cuba placed fourth on the list (4,871), Argentina fifth (4,242), Venezuela (3,950) sixth and Honduras seventh (3,755). Smaller populations of between approximately 1200 and 2100 people each hailed from El Salvador, Peru, Canada, Brazil, Chile, and China.”

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Shorts: Hunger Strike Against GMO Corn; New Mexican Ambassador to US

Mexico: Hunger Strike Against GMO Corn

On January 23rd, the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA) began a new phase in their struggle against the planting of GMO maize in Mexico, when national peasant leaders from our organization from more than 20 states beginning a collective hunger strike in Mexico City. of our republic will begin a sit-in at this very symbolic location. See
letter from UNORCA to the people and Government of Mexico: and the : The Maize Manifesto: No to GMO Maize.

New Mexican Ambassador to the United States.

In early January the Mexican Senate ratified the nomination of Eduardo Medina Mora as Mexico’s new ambassador to the United States.

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Resources

FAT on Facebook.

Go like them at: http://www.facebook.com/porlaautogestion

MPI Report Examines Manufacturing in Mexico, Central America & U.S. and Implications for Competitiveness, Migration

Peter A. Crecticos and Eleanor Sohnen, Manufacturing in the United States, Mexico and Central America, Wilson Center, January 2013.
http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/RMSG-Manufacturing.pdf

The manufacturing sector is a significant source of employment for workers from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle — with an estimated 17 percent employed in manufacturing in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and immigrants from these countries making up 8 percent of the US manufacturing workforce.

The authors conclude that despite different manufacturing histories and contexts, these countries’ manufacturing sectors are increasingly interdependent, and the prospect of moving up the value chain by building human capital holds great potential for improving both individual livelihoods and overall regional competitiveness.

Mexican Mining Protests

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/gallery/2013/feb/04/mexico-mining-resistance-in-pictures

Zapatistas

Statement from the EZLN, following the silent mobilizations on December 21, 2012
Spanish original: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2012/12/30/el-ezln-anuncia-sus-pasos-siguientes-comunicado-del-30-de-diciembre-del-2012/
French: http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/jjmu/311212/comite-clandestin-revolutionnaire-indigene-commandement-general-de-l-armee-zap
English: http://mywordismyweapon.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-zapatista-army-of-national.html

Study Highlights Abuses in the Recruitment of Migrant Workers Employed under the H-2 Temporary Worker Program and Recommends Change

Over 100,00 temporary workers are recruited abroad for employment in the United States each year under the H-2 temporary worker program. Policymakers view the U.S. guestworker programs, including the H-2 temporary worker program, as a central component of immigration reform in 2013. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) released its report, Recruitment Revealed: Fundamental Flaws in the H-2 Temporary Worker Program and Recommendations for Change, which exposes substantial defects in the current H-2 program's recruitment systems and proposes changes that will prevent worker exploitation and abuse.

Contact: Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. rachel@cdmigrante.org 410-783-0236.

Mexican "side room" revealed: a group of lobbyists for industry given special access to the secret TPP negotiations

In its report (in spanish only) from the 15th round of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in New Zealand, the Ministry of Economy of Mexico (SE) boasted about the special treatment given to an obscure group of lobbyists. The SE refers to this group as "the side room." See http://english.humanrightsgeek.com/2013/01/the-side-room-mexicos-group-of.html

Cross-Border Resources for Scholars, Teachers, Students and the Public

Frontera NorteSur now has their 2012 publications available in an easy-to-use package. By simply going to FNS’ home page, readers can click on 2012 Roundup and then scroll down month-by-month for last year’s articles and radio documentaries. In keeping with FNS’ 20-year tradition, readers will find original features, news capsules of the Mexican press, analysis and exclusive interviews on the cross-border issues of our time. Stories include human rights, security, immigration, labor, economics, politics, culture, and the environment. Special coverage was devoted to the crisis in Ciudad Juarez, the 2012 Mexican and U.S. elections, the Mexican youth uprising, controversies in the New Mexico border town of Sunland Park, the U.S. leg of the Caravan for Peace and Justice, Colorado River and Rio Grande water issues, and New Mexico history, among other topics. The website can be accessed at: http://frontera.nmsu.edu/

NYT Opinion page: Mexico: The New China

Mexico: The New China By CHRIS ANDERSON Published: January 26, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/the-tijuana-connection-a-template-for-growth.html

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Up-coming Events

Tuesday, Feb. 19th 7:30PM
The Brecht Forum, 415 W. Street – New York City (between Bank and Bethune Street)

FROZEN HAPPINES recounts the struggle of a mother and children to gain the freedom of their husband and father. Charged with the 2006 assassination of New York-based Indy-reporter Brad Will, grassroots activist Juan Manuel MartÍnez endured sixteen months of imprisonment. Set against the first democratic change of government in eighty years in Oaxaca, Mexico.

FROZEN HAPPINESS is the second Video Report from Oaxaca, Mexico by Mariano Wainsztein, Gerardo Renique and Tami Gold. The screening will be followed by a discussion on the current political climate in Mexico.

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Back to Table of Contents of Mexican Labor News & Analysis articles.

Archived MLNA issues.

 

Arturo Silva Doray

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"The relationship that we've had with international organizations
-- thanks to ties with UE   --  is hugely important.

"After each international meeting, we feel more and more encouraged by the knowledge that we're backed by outside organizations as strong as the UE."

-- Arturo Silva Doray
General secretary of municipal workers union in Juarez, Mexico
& of Federation of Municipal Workers for Chihuahua, Mexico

 


 

For more Information

For information about submission of articles and all queries contact editor Dan La Botz at the following e-mail address: danlabotz@cs.com or call (513) 861-8722. The mailing address is: Dan La Botz, Mexican Labor News and Analysis, 3503 Middleton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220.

Can you reprint these articles?

Most MLNA articles may be reprinted by other electronic or print media. If the article includes a byline, republication requires the author's approval. For permission, please contact the author directly. If there is no byline, republication is authorized if the reproduction includes the following paragraph:

"This article was published by Mexican Labor News and Analysis, a monthly collaboration of the Mexico City-based Authentic Labor Front (FAT) and the Pittsburgh-based United Electrical Workers (UE)."

 

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