DAYS OF ACTION IN SOLIDARITY WITH TRADE UNIONS IN MEXICO
FEBRUARY 18-24, 2013
GUILD ACTIVISTS ASSAIL ATTACKS ON WORKERS' RIGHTS IN MEXICO
NLG members were instrumental in coordinating last week's global Days of Action in solidarity with workers in Mexico, from the international to the local levels. NLG International Labor Justice Working Group coordinator Robin Alexander was a fulcrum of the global actions, which took place not only in the 3 countries of the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (Mexico, Canada and the U.S.), but all over the world, in countries ranging from Russia to South Africa to Thailand, Japan, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Belgium, Korea, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and many more.
L&E Steering Committee members Dean Hubbard (Chair), Cristina Gallo (NYC Chair) and Ursula Levelt helped organize several dozen New York City supporters of the human rights of workers in Mexico, who rallied outside the Consulate February 22 before sending a delegation to convey the demand to the Consulate staff for an immediate halt to the attacks on workers and independent unions in every region and sector of Mexico.
Labor, human rights and faith-based participants in the New York City event included leaders of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Asociación Tepeyac,1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East, the United Federation of Teachers, District Council 37 Locals 372 and 371, LIUNA Local 79 and Eastern Region, District Council 9 of the Painters and Allied Trades, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, CWA Local 1180, UAW Locals 2110 and 2320, Transport Workers Union Local 100, the Cornell University Global Labor Institute, and Middle Collegiate Church.
Several of the NYC participants entered the Consulate and delivered a letter detailing their demands, as well as a copy of the 2012 Resolution of the International Tribunal on Freedom of Association, which investigated the dire situation of workers' rights in Mexico.
In the meeting with Cónsul Alonso Martínez and other consulate staff, Sonia Ivany, the President of New York City LCLAA, acknowledged that the United States has many problems with the way it is treating workers, especially workers from Mexico. But she pointed out that with a global economy and serious talk about comprehensive immigration reform, what happens to workers in Mexico affects workers here, and what happens to workers in the United States impacts Mexico.
Dean Hubbard raised not only the overall problem with attacks on independent unions and their supporters in Mexico, but the specific cases of the cover-up of the deaths of 65 miners in the Pasta de Conchos disaster, the forced exile of Mineros leader Napoleon Gomez Urrutia in Canada, the continued refusal to reinstate 16,599 members of SME (the electrical workers union) who were fired at gunpoint in 2009, and the specific issues of anti-worker labor law "reform" and protection contracts.
Joel Magallan, the Executive Director of Asociación Tepeyac, pointed out that the so-called labor law reform was passed in the waning days of the administration of former President Calderon, and suggested that the new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, should revisit this ill-advised legislation.
Martínez and the consulate staff agreed to convey the concerns to the President of the Republic and to the Ambassador in Washington DC, and to respond point by point in writing to the specific issues raised by the activists.
Workers' human rights activists from around the world are calling on the Mexican government to:
- Provide justice for the families of the 65 miners killed at Pasta de Conchos on February 19, 2006
- End the use of employer-dominated protection contracts
- Repeal the labour laws enacted on December 1, 2012
- Reinstate unlawfully fired union activists (SME, PKC, Vidriera de Potosi/Grupo Modelo, Honda, Calzado Sandak/Bata, UNTyPP) and allow free and fair elections (PKC, Excellon, Honda, Atento)
The days of action mark the anniversary of the terrible Pasta de Conchos mine disaster in 2006 that killed 65 miners. The refusal of the Mexican government and employer Grupo Mexico to recover the bodies of 63 miners who remain entombed is widely suspected to be an effort to cover up the real causes of the disaster and the inadequacy of rescue efforts.
Democratic trade unions and the workers they represent in Mexico continually struggle to exercise their labor rights. They are consistently persecuted, arrested, and "criminalized" when they protest and mobilize against attacks from companies and federal and local authorities. Egregious examples include the leader of the Mexican miners' union, Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, who has been forced to live in exile since 2006 after calling for justice for the families of the 65 miners killed in the Pasta de Conchos explosion; the 16,599 members of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) who refused severance after their union was dismantled via a presidential decree enforced by the military at gunpoint, and have stood in resistance for three years; and the Atento call center workers organized in the Mexican Telephone Workers Union (STRM) who continue to be controlled by a union that does not represent their interests.
The NLG Labor & Employment committee stands in absolute solidarity with workers in Mexico and around the world.