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Mexican Labor Dictionary

By Dan La Botz and Robin Alexander


This is a dictionary of labor terms as used in Mexico.
These terms are not necessarily the same in other Latin American countries or in the United States.

Abogado/a laboral – labor lawyer

Administrador – the manager of a plant or agency

Aguinaldo – the Christmas bonus, required by law, and expected in all workplaces; may be as much as an additional month’s wages.

Almacén, bodega – warehouse

Amparo – an injunction or writ of appeal

Artículo 123 – Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 gave workers the right to organize unions, strike, protective legislation,etc. and is the basis for all subsequent labor legislation.

Aviadores – aviators or pilots, but also used for ghost workers, that is workers who do not show up for work but collect pay, usually in government employment.

Banderas de huelga – red and black strike flags put on the door of the workplace when there is a strike.

Bandera rojinegra – the red and black union flag put up on the door of the workplace when there is a strike

Base – the rank-and-file of the union, the grassroots

Boycott – boycott as in English

Burócratas – public employees, government workers

Campesino – peasant, farmer

Chamba – slang for job

Chambear – slang for to work

Charro – corrupt, violent, union bureaucrats in collusion with government

Chofer – driver, truck driver

Cláusula de exclusion – permits the union to expel those who violate its discipline, often used against opponents of the charros; the employer then fires the worker because s/he is not a member of the union. 

Compañero/a – friend, comrade, union, brother or sister

Confección – garment manufacture

Contrato colectivo – collective bargaining agreement or contract

Contrato de proteción – contract, generally with charro union, that protects the employer, signed without knowledge or consent by workers, or before workers are hired

Contrato individual – in Mexico, workers sometimes sign an individual employment contract, which is not a union agreement

Contrato ley – a pattern bargaining agreement required by Federal Labor Law in some industries – that is a contract covering many enterprises, workplaces

Corporativism – the system of state-party control which includes government controlled unions.

Correr – fire

Costura – garment industry

Costurera – garment worker, seamstress

Cuotas – union dues

De planta – to be a permanent, full-time worker

Delegado – union representative, could be translated as steward

Demanda por firma de contrato – legal petition to require recognition of the union and the signing of a contract. It is the legal procedure which must be followed if there is no certified union in a work place.

Demanda por titularidad – This is the legal procedure which must be followed if there is already a certified union in a work place, and will result in an election to determine which union represents a majority of the work force and is therefore entitled to administer the already existing contract.

Despedir – layoff or fire

Destajo – piecework, pay for the piece

Dueño – owner of property, landlord

Emplazar una huelga – file the notice with the government, required for a legal strike

Empresa – the firm or company

Estallar una huelga – to go out on strike in accordance with the notice

Esquirol – scab, strikebreaker

Estado (Estatal) – 1) the Federal government, the state; 2) a state, such as Chihuahua

Fábrica – factory

Flexibilidad – the employers’ demand for more flexibility in the disposition of labor, generally getting rid of contractual protections

Gerente – company manager

Golpeadores – goons, thugs

Gremio – a trade or craft; also a guild

Guardias blancas – employer goon squad, especially in the countryside, but also in urban areas – boss’s gangsters

Guarruras – riot police

Huelga – strike

Huelga de hambre – hunger strike

IMSS – the Mexican Institute of Social Security, the national health care and retirement plan for most industrial workers

Jornalero – day laborer usually in agriculture

Junta – labor board

Junta Federal/Local de Conciliación y Arbitraje –   the Federal or Local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, could be referred to as the labor board, comparable to the National Labor Relations Board in the United States.

Ley Federal de Trabajo or LFT – Federal Labor Law – basic labor law for all workers, based on Articulo 123 above.

Libertad sindical – union independence or union democracy, as opposed to corporativism.

Limpieza – cleaning – a trabajador/a de la limpieza is a cleaning worker

Liquidación – severance pay, as provided for in the Federal labor law

Maestros – teachers

Magisterio – teachers

Maquila – assembly or manufacturing plant

Maqiladora – assembly or manufacturing plant

Maquinista – machinist

Mayordomo – the foreman

Mecánico – mechanic

Menores de edad – minors

Mesa directiva– executive board of a union or other organization

Montacarga –   Forklift -  (Driver - montacarguista)

Negociaciones colectivas salariales – contract  negotiations over wages (generally take place annually).

Negociaciones colectivas contractuales – contract  negotiations over language (generally take place every other year).

Obrero/a – worker

Oficio – a trade or craft

Oficinista – office worker, clerical worker

Operador/a – operative, machine operator in a factory

Pago / pagar  – pay

Pagar por hora – to pay by the hour – not legal in Mexico where workers must be given a full   week’s work. Part-time, hourly work is not legal, although it is increasingly common

Paracaidista – squatter

Paro – a work stoppage

Paro de brazos caídos – a work stoppage at the machine or in the workplace, a sit-down strike

Paro técnico – a temporary plant shut down for a period of time where workers receive a portion of their pay

Patrón – boss

Pistolero – gunman, gun thug

Planta – the plant or factory (see de planta above)

Plantón – protest, usually a sit-in, in front of a factory

Porros – union or political loyalists, cheerleaders, can mean goon squad

Prestaciones – benefits provided by law or by contract, usually such things as transportation, food, clothing, etc. (Health coverage is provided by government.)

Profesor – teacher, higher education

Profesionista – professional worker

Registro – The legal prerequisite for participation in a representation proceeding, registration of the union with the government is an extremely difficult hurdle for independent unions to overcome. 

Registros may be limited to a particular workplace or company, or may be based on a type of industry within either a defined geographic area or the entire Republic of Mexico.

Requiza – government take-over of a communications or transportation company or industry during a threatened or actual strike   I thought this was an order preventing a strike, not necessarily a take over. 

Riesgos de trabajo – safety risks on the job

Salario – wages

Salud y seguridad – health and safety on the job

Secretaría de Trabajo y Previsión Social – the Mexican government’s Secretary of Labor, a cabinet minister position

Secretario general – general secretary, the top officer of a labor union

Sector Obrero – the parliamentary representation from unions in the old Institutional Revolutionary Party governments, that is union leaders who were also congressmen or senators

Seguridad Social – see IMSS above, the Mexican national health plan and retirement program for industrial workers

Sindicato – union

Sindicato blanco – company union, a union controlled by the bosses, most common in Monterrey. Not democratic or good for workers.

Sindicato charro – a union run by corrupt, violent union bureaucrats in collusion with government.  Not democratic or good for workers.

Sindicato democrático – democratic union where workers run the unionSindicato fantasma – a union known only to the boss and union bureaucrats, which issues protection contracts

Sindicato independiente – independent unions, including unions affiliated with the FAT, which are not controlled by the government, the company or the “official” unions or charros.  The term "Independent union" is also used by the employers to refer to the sindicatos blancos or company unions, and sometimes appears in government, employer or news publications that way.

Sindicato oficial – an “official” union, that is a government controlled “charro” union

Sueldo – salary or wages

Taller – a shop, a workshop

Temporada – season

Temporal – temporary worker

Titularidad – a union’s legal right to represent workers and engage in collective bargaining with an employer

Toma de nota – government approval of union officials, usually a difficult hurdle for independent unions

Turno – shift

Tortuguismo – from tortuga, turtle, to go slow, a slowdown. 

Trabajador/a – worker

Trabajar – to work

Unión – the union, used in some places on the northern border and in the United States. Sindicato is the preferred Spanish word in Mexico. 

Utilidades – profit sharing, all workers are entitled to profit sharing under the law

 

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 Juárez, Mexico

 
For more Information

Organizing in Mexico:
Tough, often brutal

The UE alliance with FAT

Pancho villa on horseback
Short history of Mexican labor

Mexican calendar

Key to Mexican labor terms & expressions:
From English to Spanish

From Spanish to English

Bibliography

Interactive
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Mexican Labor
News & Analysis

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