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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

May , 2011, Vol. 16, No. 5


May Day: Mexican Unions Stand Together Against Labor Law Reform

In a rare show of solidarity, Mexico’s official unions and its independent unions stood together, even if only briefly on the national plaza on May 1, International May Day, in opposition to President Felipe Calderón’s proposed labor law reform. For decades the official unions which generally cooperate with both the government and the employers, and the independent unions which fight to maintain their independence from both the state and the bosses, have been at odds on almost every issue of importance to Mexican workers. On May 1 they agreed that Calderón’s proposed change in the country’s labor laws would benefit the bosses, hurt workers, and be bad for the country.

The Congress of Labor, the umbrella organization of the official unions, Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), and the Federation of Unions of Workers at the Service of the State (FTSTE)—all official unions historically associated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the government—stood beside the independent Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) in opposition to the proposed pro-employer labor law reforms. All of the unions stood together to demand that workers must retain the right to have a union, to collective bargaining, and the right to strike. The official unions turned out their base of railroad workers, textile workers, autoworkers, and members of other smaller unions.

The independent union contingent, made up of the National Union of Workers (UNT) and the Mexican Union Front (FSM) was led by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). Among the unions in this contingent were telephone workers, streetcar workers, pilots and flight attendants, miners, dissident petroleum workers, nuclear workers, trade unionists from many of the unions affiliated to the Frente Aútentico de Trabajo and many others.

In other states throughout Mexico there were May Day demonstrations that opposed both Calderón’s labor law reform and his war on drugs which has taken 40,000 lives. In several states, from Aguascalientes in central Mexico to Yucatan on the peninsula, tens of thousands marched. In many, state labor unions marched with community groups, and everywhere the issues of workers’ rights were raised together with concern about the drug war violence.

While the official and independent unions stood together on the national plaza on May 1, no one should think that this necessarily presages continued cooperation between the two. Continued attacks by the government and management could lead to further cooperation, but only time will tell if that will be possible.

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Labor Law Reform—a Key Battle for Mexican Labor Unions Today

Published by the Americas Program on: May 26, 2011

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article and subsequent installments 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.

Changing Mexico's labor law threatens the lives of millions of workers. It would cement the power of a group of industrialists who have been on the political offensive for decades, and who now control Mexico's presidency and national government. "Labor law reform will only benefit the country's oligarchs," claims Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who most Mexicans think won the last presidential election in 2006, as candidate of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution. Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, head of the miner's union who was forced into exile in Canada in 2006, says Mexico's old governing party, the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI), which lost control of the presidency in 2000, "is trying to assure its return by making this gift to big business, putting an end to labor rights."

In part, the change is drastic because on paper, at least, the rights of Mexican workers are extensive, deriving from the Revolution that ended in 1920. At a time when workers in the U.S. still had no law that recognized the legality of unions, Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution spelled out labor rights. Workers have the right to jobs and permanent status once they're hired. If they're laid off, they have the right to severance pay. They have rights to housing, health care, and training. In a legal strike, they can string flags across the doors of a factory or workplace, and even the owner can't enter until the dispute is settled. Strikebreaking is prohibited.

A new labor law would change most of that.

Companies would be able to hire workers in a six-month probationary status, and then fire them at the end without penalty. Even firing workers with 20 or 30 years on the job would suddenly become much easier and cheaper, by limiting the penalty for unjust termination to one year's severance pay. "That's an open invitation to employers," according to Arturo Alcalde, Mexico's most respected labor lawyer and past president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers. "The bosses themselves say the PRI reform is the road to a 'paradise of firings.' It will make it much cheaper for companies to terminate workers."

The justification, of course, is that by reducing the number of workers at a worksite, while requiring those remaining to work harder, productivity increases and profits go up. For workers, though, a permanent job and stable income become a dream, while the fear of firing grows, hours get longer, and work gets faster, harder and more dangerous.

The PRI labor law reform proposal deepens those changes. The 40-hour workweek was written into the Federal Labor Law, which codified the rights in Article 123. That limit would end. Even the current 7-peso/hour minimum wage ($5/day) would be undermined, as employers would gain the unilateral right to set wages. The independent review of safe working conditions would be heavily restricted.

Mexican workers aren't passive and organize work stoppages and protests much more frequently than do workers in the U.S. Greater activity by angry workers, therefore, wouldn't be hard to predict. So the labor law reform takes this into account as well.

Even in union workplaces with a collective agreement setting wages and conditions, an employer could force workers to sign individual agreements with fewer rights or lower wages. Companies could subcontract work with no limit, giving employers the ability to find low-cost contractors with no union to replace unionized, higher-wage employees. And it would become much more difficult to go on strike.

THE proposed labor law reform is the fourth in a series of basic changes in Mexico's economic, legal and political framework over the last decade. A fiscal reform began the process of privatizing the country's pension system, much like the Social Security privatization plans proposed for the U.S. Teachers charge that Mexican education reform is intended to remove their influence over the curriculum, which still espouses values that would seem very progressive in a U.S. classroom. In many cases, they say, it will remove them from their jobs also. Current Mexican President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) proposed an energy reform aimed at privatizing the national oil company, Pemex. Fierce opposition, however, was able to restrict it to some degree.

All the reforms have been part of a program of economic liberalization opening Mexico to private, domestic, and especially foreign capital. López Obrador calls the labor law reform "part of a series imposed on Mexico from outside over the last two decades, including the energy reform, fiscal reform and education reform." The World Bank pressured Mexico to adopt an earlier labor law reform after the PRI lost the presidency in 2000, and Calderon's predecessor, Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox, won it. The two labor law reform proposals are very similar. Both reflect the surging power of corporate employers in Mexico, and the way the PRI and PAN often trade places, pursuing the same political and economic agenda.

"At the same time," López Obrador notes, "the fight against inequality and poverty is not on the national agenda." Mexican poverty contradicts claims by its leaders, who insist its economic growth merits a seat in the "first world." Changing labor law would make poverty more permanent, however, as well as rendering unions more impotent to challenge it. Juan Manuel Sandoval, a leader of the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade, predicts, "We will become part of the first world - the back yard."

In 2010 Mexico had 53 million people living in poverty, according to the Monterrey Institute of Technology. The CIA says half the country's population lives in poverty, and almost 20% in extreme poverty. The government's unemployment figures are low - 5-6% - but a huge number of working-age Mexicans are part of the informal economy, selling articles on the street or working in jobs where the employer doesn't pay into the official funds (the basis for counting employed workers.) Some estimate that there are more workers in the informal sector than in the formal one.

Even formal jobs don't pay a wage capable of supporting a family. According to the Bank of Mexico, 95% of the 800,000 jobs created in 2010 paid only $10 a day. Yet when a maquiladora worker buys a gallon of milk in a Tijuana or Juárez supermarket, she pays even more than she would on the U.S. side. Prices are a little lower further south, but not much. The price of milk used to be fixed and subsidized, along with tortillas, bus fare and other basic necessities. Previous waves of economic reforms decontrolled prices and ended consumer subsidies, as Mexico was pressured to create more favorable conditions for private investment.

Investors have done very well. In one of the recent diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks, the U.S. government admits "The net wealth of the 10 richest people in Mexico - a country where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty - represents roughly 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product." Carlos Slim became the world's richest man when a previous PRI President, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, privatized the national telephone company and sold it to him. Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who owns TV Azteca, is now worth $8 billion, and Emilio Azcárraga Jean, who owns Televisa, is worth $2.3 billion. Both helped current Mexican President Felipe Calderón get elected in 2006.

German Larrea and his company Grupo Mexico got concessions to operate some of the world's largest copper mines. Grupo Mexico was accused of industrial homicide by miners' union president Gomez Urrutia after 65 people (many of them contract workers) died in an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in February 2006. Since June 2007 the Grupo Mexico copper mine in Cananea has been on strike. Last year Larrea and the Mexican government cooperated in using armed force to open its gates and bring in strikebreakers.

Much of the PRI's labor law reform is already the reality on the ground in Cananea, at other mines, and among maquiladora workers near the U.S. Mexico border. For years the rights of workers in northern Mexico, even the rule of law itself, have been undermined by the growing power of corporations.

The corporate transformation of the Mexican economy began long ago, moving the country away from nationalist ideas about development, which were dominant from the end of the Mexican Revolution through the 1970s. Nationalists advocated an economic system in which oil fields, copper mines, railroads, the telephone system, great tracts of land, and other key economic resources would be controlled by Mexicans and used for their benefit.

Under President Lázaro Cárdenas in the late 1930s, Mexico established a corporatist system in which one political party, the PRI, controlled the main sectors of Mexican society - workers, farmers, the military and the "popular" sector. PRI governments administered a network of social services, providing healthcare and housing, at least for people in those organized sectors. Cardenas also nationalized Mexico's most important resource - oil - in a popular campaign.

National ownership of oil, and later electrical generation, was written into the Constitution. Land redistribution and nationalization had a political as well as economic purpose - the creation of a section of workers and farmers who would defend the government and its political party, into which their unions and producer organizations were incorporated.

After World War Two, Mexico officially adopted a policy of industrialization through import substitution. Factories produced products for the domestic market, while imports of those products were restricted. The purpose was to develop a national industrial base, provide jobs, and increase the domestic market. Large state-owned enterprises eventually employed hundreds of thousands of Mexican industrial workers in mines, mills, transportation and other strategic industries. Unions had their greatest strength in the public sector. Foreign investment was limited.

Enrique Dávalos, professor and teachers' union activist at San Diego City College, calls the system "nationalism in rhetoric, selling out the country in practice." Under successive PRI administrations a vast gulf widened between the political and economic elite, who managed the state's assets and controlled government policy in their own interest, and workers and farmers, especially those not in the formal sector. To protect this elite, the country's political system became increasingly repressive.

In the 1970s, to finance growth while the price of oil was high, Mexico opened up its financial system to foreign capital (mostly from the U.S.), and the country's foreign debt soared. Managers of state enterprises, like the oil company, ran private businesses on the side, along with politically connected union officials. Rackets and corruption proliferated while labor and campesino leaders who challenged the system were imprisoned or worse.

The debt and the hold it gave to foreign financial interests spelled the end of nationalist development. Oil prices fell, the U.S. Treasury jacked up interest rates, and in 1982 the system collapsed when Mexico could no longer make debt payments. The government devalued the peso in what is still infamously remembered as the great "peso shock."

In the Constitution Mexicans still had the right to housing, healthcare, employment and education, but millions of people went hungry, had no homes, were sick and unemployed, and couldn't read. The anger and cynicism felt by many Mexicans toward their political system is in great part a product of the contradiction between the constitutional promises of the revolution a century ago, plus the nationalist rhetoric that followed, and the reality of life for most people.

In a desperate attempt to generate jobs and revenue for debt payments, the government encouraged the growth of maquiladoras, the foreign-owned factories on the northern border. By 2005 over 3000 border plants employed over 2 million workers making products for shoppers from Los Angeles to New York. In 1992 they already accounted for over half of Mexican exports, and in the NAFTA era, became the main sector of the economy producing employment growth.

Maquiladora development undermined the legal rights of workers in the border area, and any laws viewed as discouraging investment. The government had a growing interest in keeping wages low as an attraction to foreign corporations, instead of high enough that people could buy what they were making. The old official unions, including the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), controlled restive workers rather than organizing them to win better conditions.

ONE of the most important methods of control is the protection contract. Cooperative unions sign agreements with factory owners, who pay "dues" for workers who often have no idea that the union and contract even exist. They find out quickly, however, when they try to organize any independent effort to raise wages or improve conditions. The company and official union claim a contract is already in place. If workers try to protest, they're forced into a process before "tripartite" labor boards dominated by business owners, politicians dependent on them, and the official unions.

Labor history in Mexico for decades has been dominated by valiant battles fought by workers to organize independent unions and rid themselves of protection contracts. Thousands have been fired, and some even killed. Despite defeats, organizations like the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM), the Border Committee of Women Workers (CFO), Enlace, and the Workers Support Committee (CAT), have helped workers challenge this system. Some of these battles, fought together with independent unions like the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), have won union contracts, slowly building an independent and progressive sector of Mexican labor.

The FAT and the National Union of Workers, to which it belongs, have made their own proposals for labor law reform. They've suggested making all contracts public to let workers know what union they belong to, and to shine a light on the corruption of the present system. They see the tripartite labor boards as so compromised that they'd do away with them, while removing some of the government controls used to punish independent unions.

The PRI proposal would not make protection contracts public or limit them, nor would it change the labor boards or enhance union rights. Instead, it takes direct aim at those independent unions, some of which have been organized in fierce fights against shutdowns and privatization, like the recent one at the government-owned Mexicana Airline. New private businesses don't want to see these unions spread, organizing their workers. A new private airline, Volaris, for instance, recently started service to the U.S. Now that the government has forced Mexicana into bankruptcy and laid off its workers, Volaris hopes to take over the old airline's routes, and perhaps even its assets. What it doesn't want is the Mexicana union.

The PRI labor law reform would restrict unions to the one company or enterprise where they began. Industrial, or even craft, unions, representing workers at many employers, would become impossible to organize. New private businesses, like Volaris, would face no challenge by a union seeking to set a base wage for a particular industry. Unions would have much greater difficulty in organizing solidarity among workers, in any effort like the ones that led to the large industrial unions in the U.S. and Mexico.

Progressive unions in Mexico today are fighting for their survival. The state institutions that enforce Mexican labor law are already heavily stacked against them. PRI's reforms would turn the struggle for survival into a desperate labor war.

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Call for Action: Labor Rights and Freedom of Association Violations at Platosa Mine, Site Owned by Excellon Resources Inc.

This alert was provided by PRODESC


Early in 2010, the Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC) started to document the labor conditions workers faced in the “La Platosa” mine, property of the Canadian company Excellon Resouces Inc.

For several months ProDESC gave various workshops and trainings to the workers in order to provide workers with information regarding their labor rights and labor law. Through interviews and surveys, ProDESC identified health and safety violations, such as the missing adequate equipment for the job, the absence of training needed to operate machinery, the lack of health monitoring after gas exposures; no profit sharing; the discrimination towards workers; and the violations regarding freedom of association.

During the months of October and November, the workers had meetings in which they were informed about the National Mining, Metallurgical and Similar Workers Union of Mexico and collective bargaining.

On November 21st of 2010, in both a collective and anonymous way, more than 100 workers, from a staff of 123, exercised their right to freedom of association and chose to join this union, thus forming Section 309. That same day, as their statutes determined, they elected Jorge Mora as the General Secretary of the Local Executive Committee and the rest of corresponding portfolios.

As a consequence of this occurrence, during the following months the members of the Local Committee and many other workers have been the target of threats and harassment from management and mine supervisors. Specifically, Ing. Pablo Gurrola, the General Manager, pressured 65 workers to sign a document stating their disinterest in unionizing and has offered increases in wages and benefits if they sign.

Despite the efforts of the National Mining Union and ProDESC to communicate with Excellon Executives in order to reach an agreement, the company has not responded to these allegations and continues to carry out their threats and harassments.

In April 2011, ProDESC requested a Review Process to the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. The Review Process of the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor is a voluntary way for overseas communities affected by projects and Canadian companies to generate solutions to overcome disputes. The objective of this Process is to foster dialogue and create constructive paths forward for all parties.

Through this process the Mining Union, the workers and ProDESC hope that Excellon Resources Inc. will respect labor rights and the company can more fruitfully live up to its stated aim to “contribute to economic and social development for all those that work and live with Excellon.”

Please Write Immediately in English or in Your Own Language:

• Urging that the company, Excellon Resources Inc., guarantee integrity, security and labor rights to its mining workers.
• Calling for the company and the State to recognize the will of the majority of workers, who freely and democratically have chosen to affiliate themselves with the National Mining, Metallurgical and Similar Workers Union of Mexico.
• Calling for the company, Excellon Resources Inc., to commit itself to the highest labor rights standards and that it permit all of its workers to freely, and without threats or harassment, exercise their freedom of association.
• Insisting that Jorge Mora, General Secretary of Section 309, be reinstalled immediately and that his labor rights be safeguarded.
• Urging that the Mexican state guarantee the right to freedom of association for workers of the “La Platosa” mine, as established by Agreement 87 of the ILO and the Freedom of Association Committee of the same organism. As well as articles 6 (freedom to work), article 7.d (satisfactory working conditions) and 8, 8.1, 8.1b (union rights) of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on the subject of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was signed and ratified by the Mexican state in 1996.
• Insisting that Excellon participate actively in the Review Process to the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counselor to find amicable and just solutions for both parties.


Peter A.Crossgrove, Chairman
Suite #900, 20 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario M5C2N
Sprott Asset Management
Royal Bank Plaza, South Tower
200 Bay Street
Suite 2700, PO Box 27
Toronto, Ontario
M5J 2J1

Robert Whittall, CFO
Crystal Fund Management Aktiengesellschaft, Postfach 13, Landstrasse 14, FL-9496 Balzers, Fürstentum Liechtenstein
Tel: +423-(0)388 99 99; Fax: +423-(0)388 99 90

Rob Moore, VP Operations
Lic. Javier Lozano Alarcón
Secretario de Trabajo y Previsión Social
Periférico Sur No. 4271, Col. Fuentes del Pedregal, Tlalpan 14149, México D.F Conmutador 3000-2100 Correo:

Also send copies to:
Marketa D.Evans, Phd
Coorporate Social Responsability Counsellor
Government of Canada

Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales A.C.
Zamora 169 despacho 2-B, Colonia Condesa, C.P. 06140 México, D. F.
Tel. (55) 5212-2229
Tel y fax. (55) 5212-2230

Lynn Hartery, Segunda Secretaria Asuntos Políticos
Embassy of Canada in Mexico
Schiller No. 529 Col. Polanco 11560 México, D.F. México
Tel: 52 55 5724-7900 Fax: 52 55 5724-7983

Sample Letter

I write to express my grave concern regarding threats and harassment by the local management of Excellon Resources Inc directed against workers at the La Platosa mine in the state of Durango, Mexico.
On November 21st,2010 workers at the mine democratically decided to affiliate to the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM). The workers elected a Local Executive Committee including Mr. Jorge Mora as the General Secretary.

As a consequence of this occurrence, during the following months the members of the Local Committee and many other workers have been the target of threats and harassment from management and mine supervisors. Specifically, Ing Pablo Gurrola, the General Manager, pressured 65 workers to sign a document stating their disinterest in unionizing, and offered increases in wages and benefits if they would sign.

In addition, we have been informed that Excellon Resources is not complying with health and safety standards established in the Mexican Labor Law and in specific industry norms.

We are also aware that despite the efforts of the National Mining Union and ProDESC to communicate with Excellon Executives in order to reach an agreement, the company has not responded to these allegations and continues to carry out their threats and harassments.

These actions, which are corroborated by a reputable human rights organization, constitute serious violations of Mexican and international labor law.

We take these allegations very seriously, and thus urge your company, Excellon Resources Inc., to respect your worker’s human rights by:

1. Immediately ceasing threats or harassment of any kind of workers who freely chose to join their union, and appropriately penalizing any staff member who engages in such conduct.
2. Immediately reinstalling Mr. Jorge Mora, General Secretary of Section 309, and safeguarding his labor rights.
3. Recognizing the will of the majority of workers who have freely and democratically chose to affiliate themselves with the National Mining, Metallurgical and Similar Workers Union of Mexico.
4. Pledging to respect and uphold the workers’ human rights to integrity, to security, and to freedom of association in the “La Platosa” mine, as established by Agreement 87 of the ILO and its Freedom of Association Committee as well as articles 6 (freedom to work), article 7.d (satisfactory working conditions) and 8, 8.1, 8.1b (union rights) of the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on the subject of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
5. Guaranteeing your workers’ freedom of association and other labor rights unconditionally.
6. Actively participate in the Review Process to the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor to find amicable and just solutions for both parties.

We look forward to your timely response in this matter, and ask that you keep us updated about any measures you adopt.

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Mexican President and Teachers Union Leader Sign New Ed Pact

Mexican President Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful and political head of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), signed an agreement in Puebla on May 26 intended to transform Mexican education by rewarding teachers for their students’ success in passing national achievement tests. Also present was Puebla governor Rafael Moreno Valle who was elected as the coalition candidate of the PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

The agreement, called the Reform of the Guides of the National Program of Career Teachers will reward successful teachers with more points in their evaluations, as well as with bonuses and prizes. About 775 thousand teachers or 65 percent of all teachers participate in the Career Teachers program which was first established in 1993. This new pact forms part of the broader Alliance for Quality Education (ACE) which Calderón and Gordillo have been pursuing since the president’s election.

Under this new reform out of 100 points in their annual evaluations, teachers will receive 50 points for their students’ achievement, with 40 of those points being based on the students’ scores on the national achievement test. Until now student stores on the exam represented only 20 points on the evaluation. Teachers will also receive 20 points for their participation in continuing education programs, 20 points for their “vocation as social leaders” in their communities, and 10 points for their years of service.

President Calderón defined “vocation as social leaders” as referring to teachers’ roles in their communities, whether in organizing a group in the school to discuss the problems of drugs or responsible sex or of going with a group of citizens to ask the governor or the president to bring a highway, water, or greater security to a school.

The National Evaluation of Academic Achievement in Scholastic Centers (Enlace) is administered to students throughout Mexico and forms the basis both for evaluating students and now teachers. President Calderón and union leader Gordillo both agree that this reform will modernize Mexico’s school system, improve education for students, and will provide a fairer career path for Mexico’s public school educators.

The Program’s Critics

The National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE), the longstanding opposition caucus within the teachers union, rejected the national achievement test, the new teacher evaluation system, and the broader Alliance for Quality of Education arguing that they will be bad for both students and teachers. The opposition also argues that Gordillo’s election to head the teachers union violated the union’s statutes and that she has no standing to negotiate such a pact on behalf of the teachers.

Speaking at a press conference, Sergio Espinal, the general secretary of la CNTE explained, “Enlace is not designed to measure the capacity and the critical attitude of the students toward this deadly model, but rather their acceptance and adaptation to the system. It is the final point in the application and justification of business discourse. It measures the degree to which the child has learned to be neoliberal….It measures their familiarity and competence in the market.”

“The test,” said Espinal, “does not measure the human, communitarian, collective and social relationship that is constructed in the schools, but rather objects, individuals, and things.”
He also objected to the 20,000 peso bonus for teachers whose students do best on the test. (US$1.00=MX$11.6). Some outstanding teachers will be rewarded with houses.

Another CNTE founder and leader, José González Figueroa, said that instead of spending resources for these programs, money should go to “resolve the chaos in Mexico’s education system, and to open school breakfast centers for students, and to repair the schools.”

The CNTE leaders, whose caucus represents a majority of teachers in several states and significant numbers in others, said that they will be carrying out demonstrations both in Mexico City and in other states as they build toward a general strike by teachers against the new program. The movement has been strongest in the Federal District (Mexico City), Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Michoacán.

In protest, schools and teachers in some areas have refused to administer the text.

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Teachers Strike, Shut Down Schools in Oaxaca

Teachers in Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) in the state of Oaxaca went on strike on May 23 over the local education budget and programs for students. Teachers are making no new wage demands, though they do call for cost of living increases for some teachers who have been transferred to areas with higher prices. Some 1.3 million students are affected.

The strike of 70,000 teachers began with a march from four different points to the city’s square where the educators rallied and then spread out to put pressure on government and business. Teachers blockaded government offices and private companies, closed major intersections, and “liberated” the toll booths on the privately owned highway to Mexico City. They also attempted to shut down the airport.

The Oaxaca teachers are demanding from the Oaxaca state government increased uniform allowances for students, computers in all elementary schools, and that the state pay the school electric bills. According to union spokespersons the utility bills are currently paid by parents.

Oaxaca is a stronghold of the National Coordinating Committee of the Teacher Union (la CNTE), and while the strike is over local issues, it also gives expression to the teachers’ opposition to Elba Esther Gordillo who recently signed a new agreement which will reward educators for teaching to the test. (See above article).

Gov. Gambino Cue says that he has offered 1.5 billion pesos (about US$128 million) to the union. The union says that the offer was only about 700 million pesos (US$59 million) which is entirely inadequate. The governor says the state can afford no more and asked the union to keep the strike “as brief as possible” and to “think about the children.” Strikes in Oaxaca have taken place virtually every year since the mid-1970s and have often gone on for weeks and sometimes for months. Azael Santiago Chepi, a union leader, said that the government’s offers were “minimal and insufficient.”

In 2006, then Governor Ulises Ruíz turned out the police to attack the teachers as they slept in the square, and many believe that he also created death squads that killed more than 20 teachers and their supporters during the protracted strikes and protests. In July 2010 Ruíz was defeated in the election for governor by Gambino Cue who ran as the candidate of United for Peace and Progress, an alliance between the National Action Party (PAN), the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Convergence, and the Workers Party (PT), defeated former governor Ulises Ruíz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

While Oaxaca Local 22 is out on strike over local demands, other locals in Chiapas, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Baja California Sur, and the Federal District could become involved over a combination of local and national issues.

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Oil Workers Demand Removal of Union Leader Romero Dechamps

Mexican oil workers marched through Mexico city at 5:30 a.m. carrying candles and bearing placards and banners calling for the removal of Carlos Romero Deschampas as general secretary of the Mexican Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM).

The march, organized by the National Union for the Social Development of the Petroleum Industry and headed by Omar Toledo, was protesting the Secretary of Labor’s recent decision to recognize and authorize the union leadership through the process known as “taking note” (toma de nota).

The dissident oil workers argue that Romero Deschamps, who was installed as leader of the union more than 20 years ago, has been reelected in fraudulent elections four times. They claim that the toma de nota which confirmed him as the union’s legal general secretary in 2018 was illegal.

The leader of an altogether different sort of dissident petroleum workers’ movement, Pablo Pavón Vinales, head of the Liberal Union Front, was detained on charges of fraud at the end of May. Pavón Vinales, part of the union leadership, had created the Front in an attempt to challenge Deschamps Romero for union leadership, but failed. He is accused of embezzling one million pesos from the Front.

Some dissident oil workers have been politically persecuted in the union and unjustly fired, they claim.

On a related matter, President Felipe Calderón plans to push forward a reform of the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX) which would allow for greater private capital participation in the state-owned oil company.

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Mexico Approves Law to Protect Migrants in Mexico

The Mexican legislature passed a new law to protect migrants in Mexico at the end of April. Responding to complaints and protests over many years of the abuse of migrants at the hands of the migration authorities, federal, state and local police, and by criminal gangs, Mexico’s Congress has created a new federal border authority.

Organized under the Public Prosecutors office (Ministerio Público), the new border police will have responsibility for dealing with customs, arms trafficking and explosives, as well as control of medicines, alcohol and other substances, organ trafficking, and, finally, human rights issues. The law establishes that undocumented migration alone does not constitute a crime. The National Migration Institute can issue migrants a 180 tourist visa or a four-year residence visa depending on the case. Such four-year visas would be available to political asylees and permit family reunification.

Every year tens of thousands of Central Americans migrate to work in Mexico or pass through Mexico to get to the United States to find work. Rubén Figueroa of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, called the passage of the law a positive sign, saying that it was the result of years of lobbying by human rights organizations and by migrants themselves. “We want to give a more human character to this law,” he said, “making it clear that no human being is illegal and that we have an inalienable right to migrate.”

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Charges Allege Mexican Consulate Blacklisted Unionized Mexican Migrant Workers in B.C.

A UFCW Canada Human Rights Department Release

A leaked document has been deposited with the British Columbia Labour Board (BCLRB) to back up charges that the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver allegedly blacklisted Mexican migrant workers who were union sympathizers from returning to Canada this season to the two Lower Mainland farms where those workers had successfully unionized.

The charges were filed by UFCW Canada Local 1518 — the union which represents migrant farm workers at Floralia Farms, and Sidhu Nurseries near Surrey, B.C. Both agriculture operations employ migrant workers from Mexico who come to Canada each season under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (CSAWP).

Union organizing drives at both locations succeeded after a majority of migrant workers at each location voted to unionize. Collective agreements were reached with both employers that guaranteed the migrant workers seniority, and first right of recall to be hired each season and return to Canada.

But in charges now in front of the BCLRB, UFCW Local 1518 has deposited evidence that the Mexican consulate in Vancouver allegedly blacklisted some workers from returning because they were union sympathizers, and warned some workers at the two farms to stop visiting support centres for farm workers run by the union in the Lower Mainland.

“We believe the evidence now before the board clearly indicates that the Mexican consulate in Vancouver attempted to blacklist union sympathizers from returning to Canada,” says Ivan Limpright, the president of UFCW Canada Local 1518. “It is a reprisal against workers for exercising their labour rights, and a license for employers to ignore the union contracts they signed that guaranteed the CSAWP workers at both farms the right to be recalled each season.”

“The workers at Floralia and Sidhu wanted a union and we will continue to fight for their rights, and their safety, and their guarantee under their contract to return to Canada,” said the Local 1518 president.

UFCW Local 1518 is part of UFCW Canada — the country’s largest private-sector union and a leading advocate for farm worker rights, which along with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) operates ten agriculture worker support centres across the country.

“Mexican consulate officials in Vancouver better understand that Free Trade doesn’t mean they are free to abuse the labour rights of their citizens working here,” says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. “The courts have upheld that migrant workers have just as much right to unionize as any other worker in Canada. The consulate must respect that, along with the farms that are part of the CSAWP program.”

The BCLRB is expected to hold hearings on the charges later this month.

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Mexico’s Anti-drug War March Demands Far-reaching Political Reforms

Americas Updater Vol.9, No.7, Posted on: 09/05/2011 by Laura Carlsen

Thousands of Mexicans changed the face of national and international politics May 8 in the world’s first mass protest against the drug war.
Following a four-day march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City, an estimated 90,000 protesters poured into the central plaza (see Americas Program coverage of the entire march at the Americas Program’s MexicoBlog). The march was led by relatives of victims and convoked by the poet, Javier Sicilia, whose son was brutally assassinated in March.

Protesters in the march demanded far-reaching changes in Mexico’s security policy and an end to the “war on drugs”. In speeches and documents they also called for political reforms to go the root of the alarming deterioration in public safety and well-being since President Felipe Calderón deployed the army in an offensive against organized crime in December of 2006.

The historic demonstration presented a “citizen’s pact” to replace the “absurd war that has cost 40,000 lives and left millions of Mexicans in fear and uncertainty”, in the words of Sicilia.
The pact demands that the victims of the recent violence be named and that their memory serve as a catalyst for restoring lasting peace with justice in Mexico. Two women directly affected by the violence and impunity that characterizes the current crisis read the pact aloud to the crowd. Olga Reyes Salazar of Ciudad Juarez lost six family members–including her sister Josefina Reyes, a prominent anti-militarization activist, her brothers Ruben and Elias, sister Magdalena, sister-in-law Luisa Ornelas and a nephew–to assassinations in the past year and a half. Not a single suspect has been apprehended in the cases. Patricia Duarte’s child was killed in a fire in the ABC daycare center. The case, unsolved after two years, has become a symbol of impunity in the country.

The six-point pact demands: 1) Resolution of the assassinations and disappearances and the naming of victims; 2) An end to the war strategy and adoption of a “citizen security” strategy; 3) Effective measures against corruption and impunity; 4) A focused attack on the economic roots and criminal revenue streams, including money laundering; 5) Immediate attention to the plight of youth and effective actions to rebuild a broken society, including reorienting the budget to education, health, culture and employment; 6) Participatory democracy.

The pact “seeks to promote a new way of living together and establish the basis of legality. The proposals are the beginning of the path, not the end.”

Sicilia, who has become the figurehead for the new movement against the drug war, called the pact “a fundamental commitment to peace with justice and dignity that allows the nation to be restored.” The mobilization, he noted, seeks to replace a government policy that “assumes that there are only two ways to confront this threat [of organized crime]: illegally administering it as was common in the past and still common in many places today, or declaring war with the army in the streets, which is happening today.

“It ignores that drugs are an historical phenomenon that… should be treated as a problem of urban sociology and public health and not as a criminal matter to be confronted with violence.”

The demonstration in downtown Mexico City capped a march of hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands from Cuernavaca to the Zócalo, or central plaza. Signs along the way signs expressed gratitude to Sicilia for catalyzing widespread discontent—“Gracias, Sicilia, for shaking my spirit out of lethargy, Today the people cry in unison-No More Blood!” – and opposition to the president and his policies. Indigenous communities joined students and workers, middle class professionals and artists in the protest.

Call for Change in U.s. Actions

Mexico’s new civil pact concludes with a call to Mexicans living in the U.S. and other U.S. citizens to support the movement by demanding that the U.S. government stop the flow of arms to Mexico and crack down on money laundering.

In his speech to the crowd, Sicilia also attacked U.S. policies and actions as part of the problem.

“Their multi-million dollar market for drug consumption, their banks and businesses that launder money in complicity with ours, their arms industry—more lethal than drugs, for being so evident and expansionist—whose weapons come into our country, not only strengthen criminal groups, but also provide them with an immense capacity for carnage. The United States has designed a security policy whose logic responds fundamentally to its global interests and Mexico has been trapped within it.”

In an open letter to Javier Sicilia, a group of prominent Mexican intellectuals and organizations states, “There is more and more evidence that policies and actions relative to U.S. national security have been disguised as public safety issues, under the euphemism of the joint security of both countries.

“The instruments and commitments that form part of this linkage between the two governments are the Merida Initiative, the North American Security and Prosperity Agreement, and the reorganization of the Federal Police along the lines of the U.S. Patriot Act, implemented in Mexico by the Minister of Public Security, Genaro García Luna… In effect, Mexico is not –as has been posited–a ‘failed state’ but a state that has been infiltrated to such a degree that it is losing its independence and true sovereignty.”

Signs along the march referred to the U.S. role: One showed a map of the United States and Mexico-“They provide the arms, Mexico the dead”; another read simply: “This isn’t a war; it’s a business”.

Demands for Change

In the downtown Zócalo, Sicilia called for the resignation of Security Secretary García Luna as a sign that the Calderón administration has heard the demands of the populace. He urged a profound clean-up within the political system and all political parties of those who, “disguised in legality, are in collusion with criminals and have the State’s hands tied and co-opted by using its own instruments to erode citizens’ hopes for change.

“Without an honorable cleansing of their ranks and a total commitment to political ethics, citizens will be forced to ask ourselves in the next elections which cartel to vote for.”

As thousands demanded an end to the violence in front of the National Palace, the government responded in a communiqué from the Ministry of the Interior.

“Without the permanent effort of the Mexican Army, the Navy and the Federal Police in localities with a high incidence of crime, the populations there would be subject to the will of the criminals and it would be impossible to begin to rebuild a damaged society.”

The communiqué responded indirectly to the demands of youth and other sectors represented in the march for the immediate withdrawal of the armed forces from communities across Mexico. This demand is strongest in places like Ciudad Juarez, high crime areas where much of the population has come to view the presence of the army as a factor of conflict rather than its solution.

The drug-related homicide rate went from an average of 2,000 a year before the Calderón drug war to 15,000 murders last year.

Yesterday’s massive demonstration set the terms of debate in Mexico. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Mexico City and other cities throughout the country to demand an end to the drug war model imposed by the Calderon administration with the support and encouragement of the U.S. government. They have established the outlines of a far-reaching civil pact and specific proposals to attack organized crime at the roots by addressing the failure of the political and judicial systems and the inequality, poverty and lack of full democracy that weaken society.

The response from the government has been a reaffirmation of the military strategy. There are no signs of flexibility with regard to the demands of the demonstrators and signs point to a retrenchment, as more troops are dispatched to a growing number of hot spots in the country.

The March for Peace with Justice and Dignity marks a sea change in Mexican politics. A significant part of the population has demanded an end to the drug war, identifying the security strategy itself as a major part of the problem, not part of the solution. The citizens’ pact goes beyond the fight against organized crime and puts on the table political reforms including the elimination of immunity from prosecution for government officials, real autonomy for the judicial branch, participation in referendums and plebiscites, and a focus on social programs and expansion of educational opportunities.

This clash of paradigms on security implies much more than a difference of opinion on how to fight organized crime. A little over a year before the next presidential elections and in the midst of the worst crisis in Mexico since war, citizens are taking the lead in establishing the framework for rebuilding their society on their terms.

As the pact makes clear, the first step is to demand actions from political leadership across the spectrum that indicate a willingness to clean up corruption and respond to social needs that have been building up and have come to a head in the peace movement. It defines a starting point for constructing ground-up solutions, moving beyond mere protest or opposition.

The victims remain at the moral center of the movement, while urging society to rise above the status of victimhood—as they have in leading the movement.

Javier Sicilia summed up the convictions of the marchers:
“We are here to say that we will not convert this pain in our souls into hate or more violence, but into a tool that helps to restore the love, the peace, the justice, the dignity of the ailing democracy that we are losing… To show the lords of death that we are standing up and we will not stop defending the lives of all our sons and daughters in this country, that we still believe it’s possible to rescue and rebuild our people’s society, our neighborhoods and our cities.”


Video from the March for Peace with Justice and Dignity can be viewed here.

Laura Carlson, Author

Laura Carlsen is director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy in Mexico City.

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Icem Support Mexican Glass Workers ILO Complaint

The ICEM has decided to support the case of the Mexican union, Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Empresa Industria Vidriera del Potosí S.A. de C.V. (SUTEIVP) in a complaint about violations of trade union rights at the International Labour Organization (ILO).

SUTEIVP represents workers employed by Industria Vidriera del Potosi S.A., (part of Grupo Modelo) a manufacturer of glass bottles used by Mexico's famous Corona beer.

In early 2008, the company summarily dismissed 220 workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, including the executive committee of SUTEIVP. The company then entered into "negotiations" with a "union" that they invited in to create a sub-standard agreement and to act as a shield to keep out the real union. Such practices are common in Mexico, and are known as employer protection contracts. The yellow union and its corrupt leadership are generally invisible - often unknown to the workers - until a real union attempts to organize the workforce.

SUTEIVP attempted to file a complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, using Mexico's OECD National Contact Point. In 2010, the Mexican NCP dismissed their case for "insufficient evidence".

Manfred Warda, ICEM's General Secretary, will highlight the SUTEIVP situation in a speech to the upcoming International Labour Conference. The case will then be reviewed by ILO's Freedom of Association committee.

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International Tribunal Condemns Anti-union Violence and Repression by Mexican Government

by Dean Hubbard

The International Tribunal on Union Freedom, a non-governmental organization, ended its work in Mexico City at the end of April, finding once again as it did in a previous session did, that Mexico violates workers’ rights at every turn. The Tribunal not only criticized the Mexican government and employers, but also called into question both the proposed labor law reform bill and the new National Security Laws. A document presenting the most significant of the Tribunal’s findings can be found at:
A video of the Tribunal’s findings being presented at the May Day rally can be found at:

The International Tribunal for Trade Union Freedom of Association (TILS) carried out its third session to investigate the state of union freedom of association in Mexico from April 28-30, 2011.
The Tribunal, composed of prominent labor and human rights experts from all over the Americas and Europe, was formed in September 2009 to investigate allegations of gross violations of fundamental human rights by the Mexican government, acting in complicity with transnational corporations and official unions, against the workers and leaders of Mexico's independent trade union movement. The accusations range from armed attacks on independent unions by the army, police and paramilitaries to mass firings, including the firing of all 44,000 members of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union. The Tribunal has heard testimony and received documentary evidence from over twenty different independent unions and workers’ rights organizations in three public sessions over the course of eighteen months.

On April 29, in the third public session of the Tribunal, testimony was presented on behalf of 11 different labor organizations about violations ranging from anti-union labor law “reform” to violence, from the imposition of protection contracts (in which employers pay corrupt unions to sign sweetheart agreements) to the mis-use of a process known as “toma de nota” (taking note) to prevent workers from being represented by the union leaders they democratically elect.
Patricia Juan (labor lawyer and leader of the independent union federation FAT) facilitated the presentation of evidence by the unions. She highlighting the structural nature of the many forms of violence inflicted by the Mexican government and its corporate and “charro” union allies on workers and independent unions, and emphasized the leadership of women and the struggle of women workers.

The Tribunal issued a public Declaration on May 1 during the large demonstration by independent unions in the Zócalo (main plaza) of Mexico City.

The Declaration opened with the following words:

A year after its last session, this Tribunal observes with alarm that not only has there been no improvement, the systematic violation of fundamental labour rights has both worsened and deepened, in the midst of a climate of generalized violence which contributes to the existence of the structural violence exercised by the Mexican State against workers and their organizations.

The International Tribunal on Trade Union Freedom has confirmed that the Mexican State, far from complying with its international and constitutional obligations, has persisted in its non-compliance with international norms and has contributed to the deepening of the violations of these fundamental rights.

The Tribunal noted, among other developments,

• [That] the trade unionists affiliated with the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas, “SME”) who are currently in prison, are political prisoners or prisoners of conscience…

• [That] the crime committed against the mineworkers of Pasta de Conchos and their families remains unpunished. The bodies of the 63 miners have not yet been rescued from the mine.

• [The] “regressive direction in terms of fundamental labor rights” of the labor reform bill and the national security bill currently before Congress.

The Tribunal demanded, in part, that the Mexican Government “immediately cease and desist from its anti-union conduct… [and] from any violent practices, such as those deployed in the community of Cananea…”

The live delivery of the Declaration can be viewed here:

The Tribunal also adopted its second detailed Resolution, which documents grave violations of Mexican workers’ union rights, and condemns the Mexican state for these systematic violations. The Resolution culminates with a set of conclusions, demands and recommendations.

Héctor de la Cueva, the coordinator of the Tribunal, explained, "We have just issued a Resolution, the second Resolution, which reports serious violations of the freedom of workers to organize in trade unions and the climate of violence in Mexico, not only in the country as a whole, but specifically against unionized workers. The violence against workers' organizations in Mexico is being promoted in various ways by the Mexican government itself and the Tribunal demands an end to this state of affairs."

He added, “This Resolution covers practically all the international human rights agreements, particularly the ILO conventions, that are being violated in the country. ... The Tribunal notes that all the rights that the ILO holds as being fundamental for the freedom of association are being violated in the case of the Miners' Union and also in the case of the SME and many other movements that are unfortunately the victims of labor rights violations."

As a “court of conscience” in the tradition of the Russell Tribunal (which condemned crimes committed by the United States in Vietnam) and the Independent International Tribunal on Child Labor, the Resolutions of the TILS are not binding. Given the eminence and international character of the members of the Tribunal and the broad participation by Mexican independent unions and civil society, the Resolutions do, however, have substantial moral and normative weight.

The Tribunal also issued a set of recommendations to unions and civil society, in hopes of giving the Resolution maximum force and utility. These recommendations include:

• With respect to the ILO: Filing Complaints before the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association; making comments to the report the Mexican government must make to the ILO; and promoting technical assistance from the ILO to harmonize national legislation with ILO Conventions ratified by Mexico.

• A call for unions and civil society organizations to endorse the Resolution and make it known publicly.

• Presenting the Resolution to the Rapporteur of the UN Economic and Social Council regarding Judicial Independence who is currently preparing a report on Mexico.

• Filing complaints before the Human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Covenant of the same name, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

• Promoting, due to the gravity of the violations of Freedom of association, an in situ visit by the Inter-American Commission to investigate those violations.

On May 30, the TILS issued a letter inviting national and international organizations to formally endorse and make use of the Resolution

Next steps for the TILS include

• Making a special presentation at the June sessions of the ILO in Geneva.

• Preparing a letter and making a formal presentation to the Mexican Supreme Court specifically regarding the practice of “toma de nota,” as amicus in the Miners Case presently pending before the court.

• Making presentations to the Mexican Congress, and to the National and DF Human Rights Commissions.

• Delivering the Resolution to the Secretary of Labor, and the Federal and Local Conciliation and Arbitration Boards.

• Delivering the resolution to the ILO offices in Mexico, make a presentation to the international Human Rights Commission, the UN High Commission in Mexico.

A Permanent Tribunal?

Finally, the members of the TILS discussed establishing a Permanent Tribunal for Latin America. On this question, Héctor De la Cueva explained that requests have been made to take the Tribunal to other countries where there are serious violations of basic labor rights, especially the freedom of association. In this context, "a discussion has begun to see which international organizations are willing to fund the Tribunal's work in Latin America and further afield; some trade unions say that a Tribunal on the Freedom of Association should consider the situation in the United States. So the situation is that we are in discussions to define the scope of the Tribunal and the composition of the organizing committee, that is, which organizations would fund the Tribunal's work if it were to also address the situation in other countries. We have had a request to take the Tribunal to Colombia, for example, where it would be necessary to create a broad, diverse and plural national committee and an international committee that would be able to continue the Tribunal's work and we are working for that to happen," he concluded.

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Human Rights Issues

Demand for Justice in Atenco Case

More than a hundred international human rights organizations and European elected representatives called upon the Mexican government to investigate and to bring justice to those whom the police assaulted in Sal Salvador Atenco in May of 2006. The events left 2 dead and saw 207 arrested, among them 47 women of whom 26 were sexually tortured by the police during the operation. Eleven of the women denounced the police for the sexual torture, but no one in authority has been held responsible and punished.

Mexican Senate Approves Registrar for the Disappeared

The Mexican Senate voted to approve a national registration of lost and disappeared persons. During the 1970s some 700 people were disappeared, presumably kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the police or the military during Mexico’s “dirty war” against the left. Today the National Commission on Human Rights estimates that there are 5,397 disappeared people in Mexico. In addition there are another 8,898 dead who have not been identify, many of them killed in the drug wars.

Journalists Murdered

The Mexican government’s National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) reports that 68 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2005.

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Social Statistics

Economic Growth Moderate

Augustín Carstens, head of Mexico’s central bank, predicts that the economy will grow by 4 to 5 percent this year. Most put predicted growth around 4.3 percent.

Unemployment Up

Mexico’s unemployment rate reached 5.17 percent in April, higher than a year ago. Unemployment is highest in the northern border states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, and Sonora where it is around 7 percent.

Wages Down

Workers take home pay has fallen by 6.8 percent in manufacturing and 10.8 percent in sales, this is without taking inflation into consideration, according to the Bank of Mexico.


Inflation in April was growing at an annual rate of 3.36 percent, according to the Bank of Mexico.

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Going South, Coming North: Migration and Union Organizing in Morristown, Tennessee

Going South, Coming North: Migration and Union Organizing in Morristown, Tennessee by Anne Lewis, University of Texas, Austin Published May 19, 2011 Overview: This multimedia essay augments the 2007 Appalshop film Morristown: In the Air and Sun, a documentary about the migration of industrial capital and the arrival of immigrant labor in and around Morristown, Tennessee. Fran Ansley and Anne Lewis situate the film within the context of workers’ responses to globalization, particularly the effects of NAFTA after 1994. They follow the two-way currents now so evident in many southern towns where industrial plants move south and migrant labor comes north across the international border. As a way to examine the connections between labor rights and immigrant rights, the essay juxtaposes a local labor union campaign with anti-immigrant legislation across the state and the country, through text, still images, and video.

Heartland Labor Forum on Kkfi on Labor Law Reform and Cananea

Heartland Labor Forum on KKFI 90.1 FM streamed at Listen to May 26th Show archived here. The Mexican Revolution started with a copper strike in Cananea 103 years ago. It may be undone there too. The major parties’ labor law reform proposal would wipe out the right to organize and strike. Hear about it and the four year old Cananea copper strike as Judy Ancel interviews Robin Alexander, director of International Affairs for the United Electrical Workers Union and a labor educator and students who went with her to Cananea last year to investigate the strike.

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Up-coming Events

Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that on June 12 he will hold his first meeting outside of the country in Los Angeles, California at City Hall Plaza to speak of his Alternative National Proposal for 2012. "The neighbors from California are invited to participate in this meeting that we will have with those people from our country who, due to necessity, have had to go to the United States in search of better working and living conditions,” he said. The topic of human rights will be addressed in the meeting. "We will speak with them, because we are also going to continue to defend human rights, we are going to defend migrant workers who shouldn’t be mistreated or deported,” he emphasized.

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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: or call (513) 861-8722. The mailing address is: Dan La Botz, Mexican Labor News and Analysis, 3503 Middleton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220.

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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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