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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

November , 2012, Vol. 17, No. 11

 

Introduction to this issue:

As MLNA readers are aware, in the last legislative session political reforms were approved to allow the president to designate two initiatives under a thirty day process at the opening of each legislative session. Labor Law reform legislation was introduced in this way.

The proposal as originally introduced was severely criticized by the independent unions, primarily on three grounds: 1) procedural requirements would have made it virtually impossible to ever win an election or conduct a legal strike; 2) back pay for unjustified discharges was capped at a year plus interest, when proceedings often took four to five years; 3) the law would permit outsourcing, payment by the hour and probationary periods, undercutting workers’ rights, encouraging exploitation and ultimately leading to a decline in living and working standards.

The bill moved rapidly back and forth between the House of Deputies and Senate several times, resulting in some major changes along the way. The procedural limitations on elections and strikes were dropped before the bill even reached the House floor – perhaps in recognition that the provisions constituted a clear violation of international law. However, provisions requiring transparency in internal union elections and finances were eliminated at the same time. The House also imposed restrictions on outsourcing before sending the proposed law to the Senate.

In the Senate, a surprising alliance between the PRD and PAN reintroduced the transparency provisions, but once the bill was returned to the house, the PAN re-aligned once again with the PRI, resulting further revisions (these provisions were strongly opposed by the Congress of Labor and Official Unions, historical allies of the PRI).

Once again the bill was returned to the Senate, where most of it was approved and sent on to the President. However, one hotly contested provision that would have given workers the right to vote on first contracts – designed to force ghost unions and protection contracts into the light of day – was ultimately sent back to the House of Deputies for consideration at a future time.

During the rapid transfer back and forth, several provisions that had been approved, including protections for miners, disappeared from the text entirely.

As described in the first article, the independent unions, left political parties and their allies have vowed to continue the fight both in the courts and in the streets.

As indicated in the column by Arturo Alcalde, translated below, there is now a process of assessment and evaluation. It is clear that some of the worst provisions in terms of restrictions on freedom of association were removed from the bill prior to passage, a remarkable accomplishment that still leaves a tiny space within which independent unions can operate. Moreover, the employers who have been promoting a neo-liberal vision of legal, unrestricted outsourcing were far from pleased with the restrictions that were imposed.

The independent unions and their national and international allies all deserve major credit for their indefatigable struggle against vastly superior odds and for wresting even limited victories in the process.

Workers, unions and their lawyers will undoubtedly spend the next years sorting out what this law will mean in practice. Some provisions that were criticized as being inadequate, such as those on sexual harassment and health and safety, may turn out to be of some benefit.

Yet, overall, there can be no doubt that passage of this law was a serious step backward – both because it allowed a neo-liberal frame to be imposed on labor relations in Mexico and because it failed to remedy the serious problems that deprive workers of their fundamental rights, including protection contracts and a government bureaucracy designed to support them rather than to provide a fair and impartial system of labor justice.

The struggle will continue!

Robin Alexander
Director of International Affairs, UE

 

Contents for this issue:

Mexico Passes Pro-business Labor Law Reform; Independent Unions Promise Resistance

Introduction:

As MLNA readers are aware, in the last legislative session political reforms were approved to allow the president to designate two initiatives under a thirty day process at the opening of each legislative session. Labor Law reform legislation was introduced in this way.

The proposal as originally introduced was severely criticized by the independent unions, primarily on three grounds: 1) procedural requirements would have made it virtually impossible to ever win an election or conduct a legal strike; 2) back pay for unjustified discharges was capped at a year plus interest, when proceedings often took four to five years; 3) the law would permit outsourcing, payment by the hour and probationary periods, undercutting workers’ rights, encouraging exploitation and ultimately leading to a decline in living and working standards.

The bill moved rapidly back and forth between the House of Deputies and Senate several times, resulting in some major changes along the way. The procedural limitations on elections and strikes were dropped before the bill even reached the House floor – perhaps in recognition that the provisions constituted a clear violation of international law. However, provisions requiring transparency in internal union elections and finances were eliminated at the same time. The House also imposed restrictions on outsourcing before sending the proposed law to the Senate.

In the Senate, a surprising alliance between the PRD and PAN reintroduced the transparency provisions, but once the bill was returned to the house, the PAN re-aligned once again with the PRI, resulting further revisions (these provisions were strongly opposed by the Congress of Labor and Official Unions, historical allies of the PRI).

Once again the bill was returned to the Senate, where most of it was approved and sent on to the President. However, one hotly contested provision that would have given workers the right to vote on first contracts – designed to force ghost unions and protection contracts into the light of day – was ultimately sent back to the House of Deputies for consideration at a future time.

During the rapid transfer back and forth, several provisions that had been approved, including protections for miners, disappeared from the text entirely.

As described in the first article, the independent unions, left political parties and their allies have vowed to continue the fight both in the courts and in the streets.

As indicated in the column by Arturo Alcalde, translated below, there is now a process of assessment and evaluation. It is clear that some of the worst provisions in terms of restrictions on freedom of association were removed from the bill prior to passage, a remarkable accomplishment that still leaves a tiny space within which independent unions can operate. Moreover, the employers who have been promoting a neo-liberal vision of legal, unrestricted outsourcing were far from pleased with the restrictions that were imposed.

The independent unions and their national and international allies all deserve major credit for their indefatigable struggle against vastly superior odds and for wresting even limited victories in the process.

Workers, unions and their lawyers will undoubtedly spend the next years sorting out what this law will mean in practice. Some provisions that were criticized as being inadequate, such as those on sexual harassment and health and safety, may turn out to be of some benefit.

Yet, overall, there can be no doubt that passage of this law was a serious step backward – both because it allowed a neo-liberal frame to be imposed on labor relations in Mexico and because it failed to remedy the serious problems that deprive workers of their fundamental rights, including protection contracts and a government bureaucracy designed to support them rather than to provide a fair and impartial system of labor justice.

The struggle will continue!

Robin Alexander
Director of International Affairs, UE

Mexico’s national legislature passed a new labor law, the first major labor law reform in decades, that will make it easier to hire and fire workers, will permit out-sourcing and part-time employment but which does not democratize the country’s notoriously authoritarian and corrupt labor unions. Employer organizations and conservative parties argued that the new law would lead to a more vibrant economy and create jobs, while independent unions and left parties asserted that it would be devastating to the Mexican working class.

The law, put forward by out-going President Felipe Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN) and supported by in-coming President Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), represents the culmination of twenty-five years of lobbying by Mexico’s business associations. Attempts by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) to introduce democratic reforms demanded by the country’s independent labor unions failed, blocked by the PRI which controls most of the country’s labor unions.

Independent Unions and Left Parties to Oppose New Law

Alejandra Barrales, a former leader of the flight attendants union and a legislator from the PRD, told the press, “This law is going to affect the rights of young workers to get seniority. It is generating the loss of rights for a whole generation of workers.” Opponents of the law say that it will lead to more out-sourcing and therefore to lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job security.

Mexico’s labor federations—both official and independent—have vowed to flood the courts with law suits and left political parties have said that they will continue to do all in their power to keep the new law from taking effect. Héctor Barba, an attorney who represents independent unions, said that the unions will “inundate” the courts with suits seeking injunctions. The Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM) which is part of the Congress of Labor (CT), the National Union of Workers (UNT), and the Mexican Electrical Workers have all said they will be taking the new law to court. At the same time the leftist political parties, the PRD, the Workers Party (PT), and the Citizens Movement (MC) said that they will seek relief from the National Human Rights Commission, arguing that the law is Unconstitutional.

Unions to Seek Relief in International Fora

The unions and leftist parties have indicated that they will also present complaints to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of which Mexico is a member and to the Inter-American Court, as well as under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Congress of Labor, which represents the majority of Mexico’s labor unions, and which workers closely with the PRI, reached an accommodation with the government, generally supporting the labor law reform, so long as the reform did not jeopardize the unions’ control over their industries, members, and dues.

In addition, Francisco Hernández Juárez and Agustín Rodríguez Fuentes, leaders of the National Union of Workers, said that they would begin a new round of labor union protests on November 20, the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

For the text of the law in Spanish following the last revisions by the Senate, see: http://www.senado.gob.mx/sgsp/gaceta/62/1/2012-11-13-1/assets/documentos/Decreto_aprobado_LFT.pdf

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New Labor Law, Initial Evaluation

By Arturo Alcalde Justiniani; Translation by Robin Alexander

La Jornada, Saturday, November 17, 2012

Now that the labor law reform process has concluded it is necessary to evaluate the results. A good law would be that which resolves the principle problems in the world of work in our country: rescuing collective bargaining from corruption and the appearance of legality; to be able to count on impartial justice; and to compensate for measures providing flexibility with social protections. None of these three objectives were reached; consequently, we are dealing with a bad law.

Nonetheless, today it is necessary to identify the content and reach of this new law, above all because its degree of compliance will depend to a large extent on the interpretation that is provided by those it directly addresses, the labor authorities, and in due course, the courts that hear appeals.

One initial aspect to consider is that the legislative proposal from the Federal Executive was not based on a diagnosis of the needs of the labor market or of the country; it basically attempted to respond to the exigencies of a sector of employers who claimed that there existed excessive rigidity and job security, and therefore proposed to liberate and cheapen discharges, create new forms of contracting both in terms of duration and payment by the hour, and to recognize the legality of a subcontracting without limitations, replacing the general principles of law regarding the responsibilities of an employer with respect to its employees. In order to accomplish these ends, the employer organizations not only allied themselves with the Panista government but also with the government elect.

The true objectives of the reform were concealed through a false discourse, repeated all over the place, that the intention was to increase employment, competitiveness, improve the provision of justice, and raise the standard of living of workers. Specialists demonstrated that the market was not as rigid as they claimed, that the reforms would not create the promised jobs and that the proposals for change not only lacked structural merit, but that they maintained the essence of the vices and deficiencies of the current labor spectrum.

A second matter is that the legislative process succeeded in marking an important difference between the Calderón proposal and the final text of the law in a variety of its central aspects. On the topic of subcontracting, contrast the presidential initiative which is lacking in requirements with the changes that were approved; among others the law establishes four new requirements for the legal recognition of this exceptional form of contracting: it cannot cover all activities; it must be justified based on [the work’s] specialized character; it cannot include tasks that are the same or similar to those performed by the rest of the workers for the service of the real employer; and this regime is not permitted when workers are transferred for the purpose of diminishing their labor rights. This regulation is without a doubt incomplete and should have been more precise to delimit its exceptional character, as it should not cover that which constitutes the social objective of a company; in addition it was necessary to regulate the registration [of subcontracted workers] and to sanction abuse in a more concrete way. But the changes that were made limit the great abuses that are committed today; it is enough to indicate the thousands of businesses that are referred to as services, created under the principle of a general subcontracting, that today would evidently be illegal. For this reason, there are increasing employer complaints about this regulation.

Regarding the topic of pay by the hour that, it may be remembered, already existed in the law in the form of pay by a unit of time. The initiative proposed the recognition of a form of contracting under this modality with the sole limitation that it could not exceed maximum day established by law. In the text that was approved, three additional conditions were added: that wages must be paid, that labor rights must be respected as well as the health care benefits of the applicable position, and that the income in no case can be less than what corresponds to a day’s wages. No doubt the text is confusing and its interpretation will generate great controversy, a matter that will no doubt inhibit the action of employers due to the risks implied in utilizing this form of contracting; it is clear that the consistent aspiration that they had of obtaining legal security in order to follow this path was not obtained.

With respect to the limitation of back pay to one year in the case of unjustified discharge, the blow to workers is severe, because this constitutes an incentive for easy and cheap discharges. This point is without a doubt the most damaging of the reform, because it forces un-salaried workers to bear the burden of delay in a proceeding that is caused by the State; now it is necessary to insist that instead of four or five years, that labor proceedings be completed within the time that is provided for by the law, that is less than one year and not now complied with in practice.

In the matter of collective rights, the proposal in this initiative to limit the right to strike and the possibility of changing unions through representation election proceedings (titularidad), were cast aside from the beginning. The topics of transparency and access to public information contained in the registries of labor authorities were approved; nevertheless, the text that refers to secret elections remains obscure, because although the secret character of the direct or indirect vote is recognized, it is then left for the assemblies to decide, and given the absence of democracy in the labor arena, this constitutes gibberish. With respect to the question of financial disclosure, the main paragraph that mandated that union leaders provide workers with financial reports was replaced with language that requires workers to request the information, an absurdity if one considers the risks that they would encounter including repression and discharge.

Finally, in the Collective chapter, the most unfortunate part was to have failed to attend to the now famous Article 388 Bis, that permits workers to intervene in the signing of Collective bargaining agreements, thus avoiding the collective bargaining agreements that protect employers (protection contracts) and the so-called ghost unions, a burden that we have been bearing for many years.

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Students, Youth to Carry Out Referendum on Labor Law Reform

The #IAm132 student and youth movement that began a few months ago to protest the candidacy and campaign of president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto plans to carry out an “independent national referendum and collection of signatures” regarding the recently passed reforms to the Federal Labor Law in the hope of overturning them. The students have been supported by some of the independent university unions as well.
The students’ referendum asks if the individual is in favor of or against the law and then also if they are in favor of or against its various components such as sub-contracting and hourly pay.

Spokespersons for the student group said that if they can get two percent of eligible voters to sign such a petition that they can then appeal to Congress to carry out an official referendum. If 40 percent of those voting in such an official referendum rejected the law, then it would not take effect.

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Two Decades of "free Trade" Is Enough: Mexican Organizations Meet, Say No to Expansion Through the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Introduction and translation were provided by Melinda St. Louis from Public Citizen

In October, Mexico and Canada both officially joined the intensive, closed door negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “free trade” agreement, which the U.S. has been negotiating for the past 2 ½ years with a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. The TPP would extend the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model to 11 Pacific Rim countries (and eventually every nation in the Pacific Rim from China to Russia to Japan could be included).

In mid-November, Mexican officials for the first time hosted negotiators from the 10 other TPP nations in secretive talks in Los Cabos, Baja California. In response, on November 14, 2012, Mexican labor, farmer and fair trade advocates, including the National Union of Workers (Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), the National Council of Rural and Fisher Organizations (Consejo Nacional de Organismos Rurales y Pesqueros (CONORP), and the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade (Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC), organized a half day seminar raising concerns about Mexico’s participation in the TPP in the Mexican Senate building. The seminar launched a regional political alliance with partners from Canada (Common Frontiers), and from the United States, (AFL-CIO and Public Citizen), and various Mexican organizations. Senators Fidel Demedicis Hidalgo and Isidro Pedraza Chavez also participated in the seminar and expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the TPP process. The organizers presented the following statement to the Mexican press at the end of the seminar.

ALSO, PLEASE SEE SEPARATE TPP ACTION ITEM AT THE BOTTOM

Statement of UNT, CONORP and RMALC of Mexico

November 14, 2012

According to the United States government, big business and the Mexican Ministry of Economy, the TPP is the most ambitious free trade agreement that has ever been proposed in terms of the extent of issues it aims to address, but what the enthusiastic promoters of the trade agreement are hiding is that the true intention is to deepen and complete the commitment made by our country in NAFTA and other free trade agreements signed with various countries.

Through TPP the sectors and powers that have benefited from the previous generation of trade agreements will be strengthened and even larger swaths of our economy will be at the disposal of transnational corporate monopolies. This is the trend of the new era of trade liberalization in the 21st century.

The 2008 global crisis, the negative effects of which are still being felt in many parts of the world, began in part as a result of a lack of regulation of the powerful speculative financial sector. Instead of engaging in a crucial shift in direction of the management of our economy to solve this and other problems such as global food scarcity, the environmental crisis, the cultural crisis, or the energy crisis, international financial institutions insist on maintaining a model of globalization designed according to the needs of big corporations, dragging Mexico and other countries to the cliff of savage capitalism.

To do this, these institutions count on the eager cooperation of our own government who, despite the proven failure of the strategy of liberalization through NAFTA in terms of development and social welfare (Mexico is the country that has grown the least in all of Latin America- the average annual growth in GDP per capita during the last thirty years has only been 0.57%, millions of Mexicans have been forced to emigrate, its food dependency increased, etc.), continues to assert that the only way to combat the stagnation of the global economy is to apply a new dose of the same neoliberal medicine, but now with an even more aggressive version than the trade agreements of the 20th century.

In fact, since 2011, Mexican government officials have solicited secret meetings to request the inclusion of our country in the TPP negotiations. This objective materialized at the G20 meetings last year on June 18, and, after consultations, Mexico was formally allowed to join the TPP negotiations.

We are extremely worried at the lack of transparency with which these discussions have been conducted and the requirements that were placed on Mexico and Canada that force them to negotiate under disadvantageous and inferior conditions, given that according to the assertions of organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Mexico will have to automatically accept, without discussion or the opportunity to introduce changes, all of that which has already been agreed in the past by the founding countries, as well as putting on the negotiating table all of the issues that might represent an obstacle for business or investment.

In addition, diverse sectors of big business and governments have expressed in multiple documents their priorities in these negotiations. The following are some of these priorities:

1. – Expand intellectual property rights and perfect the enforcement mechanisms. This includes the option to patent products, biological material, and processes. It intends to protect copyright authors against the vulnerability of the internet and extend the duration of patents.

2. –Broaden the scope of investment from the FTAs and Bilateral Agreements by opening strategic sectors which are currently protected by the constitution. This proposition will strengthen the rights of investors and the mechanisms of international dispute settlement.

3. –Remove technical barriers to trade, such as technical regulations and approval of product sales from one country into the territory of another, such as genetically modified organisms and medicines, which implicates the loss of sovereignty in phytosanitary regulations. This includes U.S. manufacturers requesting that governments are not able to implement technical methods which will create obstacles to free trade.

4. –Restrict state-owned enterprises from undermining global competition.
In response to this, we demand that the Mexican government openly inform the public about the conditions under which they joined the TPP negotiations. We urge the Senate to demand that the executive branch report in detail the state of the negotiations, assumed commitments and their positions. We are pleased that the Senate is working on a resolution directed at relevant officials to share information with them about this issue.

We demand that the actual draft of the negotiations be made public. The past 14 rounds of negotiations indicate that Mexico will have to adopt the terms already discussed, which is unacceptable. The public and the Senate should know the content of the text of the negotiations. Finally, we demand a process of broad discussion that involves the Senate and includes the option of requesting consultation from society about possible participation of our country in the TPP.

The undersigned organizations demand a serious and informed discussion. We are alerting the public about this new danger and are beginning consultations and processes to develop a joint national and international strategy to fight against it. Today, as the Calderón government is meeting with TPP countries and preparing to participate in the 15th round of negotiations during the month of December, we are calling to organize ourselves democratically to change the direction of our country.

To do this we are creating a fair trade framework that should be based on the following principles, among others:

1. Recognition of the economic and social asymmetries among the different countries involved.

2. Transparency so that the citizens of these nations know the reach and restrictions of possible trade agreements, which requires mechanisms of consultation and social participation.

3. Promotion of food sovereignty by incentivizing domestic production of nutritional and quality foods, and promoting social and economic sustainable development that respects indigenous and rural communities.

4. Protection of human, social and labor rights which require rules that are as strong as those commercial rights that are currently granted to big corporations through trade. A clear commitment should be established to respect core labor standards outlined in the ILO conventions including all provisions related to the concept of decent work and for the rights of women, youth and other social sectors. All this of course requires a binding mechanism to enforce these rights.

5. The establishment of frameworks for effective regulation of speculative financial capital and the prioritization of the development of productive domestic market sectors of every country.

6. Guaranteed access of services of broad band and Internet for the entire population, combating in every form overt or covert censorship, and

7. Putting the interests of the people of every nation before those of big corporations to shine a light on this principal and to solve problems such as energy, intellectual property, tariff policies, immigration, and the protection of the environment, as well as protecting the rights of Mother Earth.

* Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), Consejo Nacional de Organismos Rurales y Pesqueros (CONORP), Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) / Statement read at the press conference on the TPP seminar that took place in the Senate of the Republic of Mexico on November 14, 2012. The seminar was organized by the PRD, the UNT, CONORP and RMALC, with the participation of partners from Canada (Common Frontiers), from the United States, (AFL-CIO and Public Citizen), and other Mexican organizations which launched a regional political alliance in the fight against the corporate project of the 21st century, the TPP.

Take a Moment to Oppose the TPP!

Last week, President Obama and other heads of state set a deadline of the coming year to complete their massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. Please urge your Senators to weigh in with the President now and demand that the TPP focus on workers' rights and job creation rather than corporate profits.

If it continues on its current course, there is no question that the TPP will become a job killer. Big corporations hope to use the TPP to undercut working conditions at home and abroad, furthering the global race to the bottom that enriches the few at the expense of the many. TPP countries like Vietnam are being specifically marketed as low-cost labor alternatives to China, giving manufacturers and retailers alike improved access to exploited sweatshop workers who are paid only a fraction of what Chinese sweatshop workers are paid.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has drafted a letter to President Obama demanding that the TPP include enforceable obligations to protect fundamental labor rights and safeguard against investment and service sector rules that provide incentives for offshoring. Please urge your Senators to sign onto Senator Franken's TPP letter today.

The letter will delivered to the President at the end of the week — and will also be shared with negotiators from other countries during the 15th major round of TPP negotiations in New Zealand next week. Together, we can prevent a NAFTA of the Pacific, but we must act now while we still can.

In solidarity,

Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director
CITIZENS TRADE CAMPAIGN

More Information on TPP

For more information on the TPP, see: http://truth-out.org/news/item/12934-why-so-secretive?-the-trans-pacific-partnership-as-global-coup

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Left Parties Will Demonstrate Against New President on Dec. 1

Mexico’s left political parties—the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Workers Party (PT), the Citizens Movement (MC), and the new Movement of National Regeneration Party (MORENA)—will organize political protests on Dec. 1, inauguration day, against President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Some of these protests may take place in the legislature itself, though it appears that most of the parties have ruled out attempts to take and hold the podium to prevent the president from swearing the oath of office, as some left legislators attempted to do when Felipe Calderón was elected in 2006.

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity led by the poet Javier Sicilia, which has principally focused on the drug war, has also called for protests as have some of the independent unions. The #IAm132 student and youth movement has called for mass demonstration to encircle the legislature.

The opposition parties will be protesting what they see as an election marred by fraud and a new president who promises to carry out what the left sees as a rightwing and pro-business political agenda.

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Labor Board Rejects Lower House’s Appeal on Behalf of Electrical Workers

The Federal Labor Board (JFCA) has rejected the appeal by the Mexican lower house that it recognize a court injunction that would have forced the Federal Electrical Commission to hire workers of the former Light and Power Company. Some 440,000 worker lost their jobs in October 2009 when President Felipe Calderón seized the plants, liquidated the company, and terminated 44,000 workers.

A Mexican court ruled in October that the CFE should hired 14,000 electrical workers who have continued to fight for their jobs. The Labor Board said it could not act on this case because it forms part of a broader issue now before the Mexican Supreme Court.

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Morena Takes Next Steps to Establish Itself as a New Party on the Mexican Left

By Dan La Botz

The process of forming a new party includes both moving forward to create a structure and satisfying the requirements of the Mexican electoral commission (IFE). The Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA) took important political steps as described in the article below. Procedurally, however, to obtain a registration, in January of 2013 it must submit to IFE a membership list equal to at least .26% of the national election roll in 2012 (219,608), and distributed throughout the country (it must include at the least 3000 members in 20 federal entities or 300 members in 200 districts) as well as meet other requirements including the issuance of monthly financial reports and presentation of a declaration of principles that governs its activities. Upon its issuance, the registration would be valid beginning August 1, 2014, and MORENA could compete in the federal election of 2015 when it would have to obtain at least 2% of the votes cast nationally.

The Movement of National Regeneration (MORENA), which served as the campaign organization of Andrés Manuel López Obrador for president of Mexico in the election held this past summer, has taken steps to transform itself into a new political party on the Mexican left. López Obrador is bringing into existence a new party that will compete with the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution that put him forward for president in 2006 and 2012. The party has adopted a nationalist, democratic, and neoliberal program; little distinguishes it from the Party of the Democratic Revolution of which it is an off-spring.

López Obrador told the assembly that this would be a new kind of party, “Without individualism, opportunism, nepotism, cronyism, favoritism, sectarianism, clientelism, or any of those political scars.” The new party would avoid factionalism and cliques, said the former presidential candidate. Members of the new party he said, would not be required to follow a leader’s line, but could freely exercise their consciences and their votes.

Delegates Adopt Programs, Elect President

At the new party’s founding convention held in the Six Year Plan Sports Center in Mexico City, 1,676 party activists elected a 204 member National Council that adopted the party’s statutes, a declaration of principles and an action program. Altogether the National Council is made up of 300 members, the 204 elected at the Congress and the 32 state presidents, general secretaries and organizational secretaries. Also attending the founding Congress were representatives of other left parties and of the governments of Cuba and the United States.

The Congress elected Martí Bartres Guadarrama president of MORENA. Bartres began his career as a student activist in the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM) in 1981 and later in the Unified Socialist Party of Mexico (PSUM), a fusion of the Communist with other left parties. Together with PSUM he became part of the Party of the Democratic Revolution playing a leadership role in the Federal District and in the administration of its mayor, López Obrador. Bertha Luján, a former national leader of the Authentic Labor front (FAT) and member of López Obrador’s cabinet when he was Mayor of Mexico City, was elected General Secretary.

The party members present included labor union and peasant activists, prominent intellectuals, human rights activists, and professional politicians who had given up their memberships in other parties to join MORENA. Many of those present had been members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

A Neoliberal Program

The new party’s program has a fundamentally neoliberal, or at best social liberal character, as can be seen in some of its positions on the economy. MORENA calls for “A new economic model in which the state assumes responsibility for guiding development without extreme interference. Pushing [the development of] productive chains among the private and social sectors, maximizing employment and value added, pushing support for education science and technology. Strengthening the internal economy with just wages and compensation for workers, while promoting union democracy and the right of workers to choose their own unions, without state intervention. A model which in its entirety promotes a strong national economy with greater internal and external competitiveness, where the state promotes the national economy and at the same time balanced and reciprocal foreign commercial relations.”

While MORENA defines itself as a left party and many of its leaders come out of various socialist organizations, the new party defines itself fundamentally as nationalist and democratic, modernizing and developmental, but nowhere mentions socialism or even social democracy. (See the MORENA program at: http://www.regeneracion.mx/morena/325-organizacion/2521-por-que-luchamos-programa-del-movimiento-regeneracion-nacional-)

The Political Organization of the People and the Workers (OPT), a coalition made up of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) and a variety of social movements and left parties that had supported López Obrador in the presidential election, decided not to work within the new MORENA political party, but rather to continue to build its own organization. (For the OPT’s position see: http://optmex.org/?p=1933. For a discussion of the OPT by a leader of a Mexican socialist see: http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2378)

While López Obrador has proclaimed the noble and high ideals of MORENA and its leaders and activists, it remains to be seen whether Mexico needs another center-left, multi-class party.

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama's Meeting with Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto

http://www.aflcio.org/Press-Room/Press-Releases/Statement-by-AFL-CIO-President-Richard-Trumka-on-President-Obama-s-meeting-wit

November 27, 2012

Today President Obama meets with President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who will take office on December 1. Both leaders have expressed interest in strengthening the partnership between the two countries by, among other things, increasing economic competitiveness, promoting regional development, advancing bilateral efforts to develop a secure and efficient 21st century border and addressing common security challenges. Mr. Peña Nieto has also emphasized the importance to both countries of comprehensive immigration process reform.

While the AFL-CIO shares these concerns, we would like to see the priorities of working people on both sides of the border better reflected in this discussion. In our view, the fundamental right of workers to democratically organize and bargain with their employers is central to achieving “economic competitiveness.” The Mexican government’s continuing attacks on these rights greatly reduces protections for Mexico’s most vulnerable workers and is of grave concern.

The following concerns related to workers’ rights should be addressed at the upcoming meeting:

• On November 13, the Mexican Congress approved labor law reform legislation that actually reduces protections for Mexican workers. The law limits seniority, weakens remedies for unjust dismissal and promotes subcontracting, temporary contracts and payment by the hour. This legislation reflects an overly simplistic view of “economic competitiveness” as simply the reduction of labor costs, without regard to social consequences or workforce development. An additional ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court greatly weakens the right to strike. These reforms are likely to increase poverty and marginalization and force more workers to emigrate and seek precarious work.

• Over the past few months, the National Union of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) has documented increased use of repression through direct use of security forces to undermine workers’ organizing campaigns. Despite rulings from five separate appeals courts, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the elected leader of the SNTMMSSRM, continues to live in exile.

• The Government of Mexico is opposing an October 9 appellate court ruling in favor of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) and more than 44,000 of its members, who were summarily dismissed three years ago when the Central Light and Power Company (LFC) was dissolved by decree. The court ruled that both the workers’ individual labor relationships and the union’s collective bargaining agreement with LFC continue in effect and apply to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) as LFC’s successor employer.

All of these examples, along with many more well-documented cases, demonstrate that Mexico is continuing to pursue a path of low-wage development. Far from achieving competitiveness, security or respect for the rule of law, this path is exacerbating economic marginalization and insecurity for a large part of the workforce while systematically violating international labor standards. The accession of Mexico to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations based on this low-road model will do little to improve the economic reality for Mexico’s workers.

Our relationship with Mexico is enormously important for all Americans, and we must therefore pursue a common agenda that includes comprehensive immigration process reform, security based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, and measures to grow the middle class while protecting the poor.

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Fight over Leadership of the National Union of Social Security Workers

A fight over the top office of general secretary of the National union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS) has broken out. The former head of the union Valdemar Gutiérrez Fragoso was declared “medically incapacitated” earlier this year after he suffered a series of heart attacks. He was removed by the national executive committee from the top office and replaced by Manuel Vallejo Barragán.

Had he not been removed from office, Gutiérrez Fragoso would have continued as the head of the union until 2018. As leader of the SNTSS he had led the union out of its traditional relationship with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and attempted to bring it into alignment with the National Action Party (PAN). He served as a PAN Representative in Mexico’s lower house.

Now Gutiérrez Fragoso has gone to the labor courts to seek an injunction and to have Vallejo Barragán removed and to be restored to the top leadership post.

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OECD Pushing Mexico to Adopt Stronger Education Measures

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of which Mexico is a member has recently been pushing the Mexican government to take stronger positions regardiong the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) and on the employment of teachers. Founded in 1961, the OECD is an international organization of many countries from various regions of the world which was created to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”

In mid-November, the OECD suggested that Mexico separate what it called the “co-management” of the Teachers Union and the Secretary of Education (SEP). In particular, the OECD wants the union to give up its involvement in the process of evaluations, rewards for performance, the contracting of teachers and principals, and the assignment of jobs.

El SNTE, headed by Elba Esther Gordillo, has used its power to become involved in all of those areas, leading to corrupt practices which have been criticized by both the left and the right, as well as by rank-and-file teachers.

Toward the end of November, in a document titled “Advances in the Reform of Basic Education in Mexico, a View from the OECD,” the international organization suggested that teachers who perform poorly should be terminated. The country’s teacher colleges are “not efficient,” and “many aspiring teachers do not pass the national competition for teaching jobs,” according to the document. At the same time, more than 70 percent of the country’s 220,000 schools “suffer from a scarcity of qualified teachers.”

The OECD suggested that in-coming President Enrique Peña Nieto “re-launch” the National Evaluation of Academic Achievement in Educational Centers (ENLACE) and that teachers who perform poorly should be terminated and excluded from teaching.

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PRI and PRD Reach Agreement to Lay Off 4,000 Public Employees

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) have reached an agreement to push forward a piece of legislation, the Law of Professional Career Service, that will lead to the layoff of about 4,000 general directors and aides in Federal Public Service. They will be working to push this bill through the Mexican legislature after Enrique Peña Nieto takes office on Dec. 1.

The head of the Federation of Unions of Workers at the Service of the States (FSTSE), Joel Ayala, who is also a PRI senator, told his members that they need not fear for their jobs, as this law will only affect those who are general directors. He also assured his union’s members that if the new government should abolish governmental departments, their jobs would be safe as they would be relocated to other departments.

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Mexico: when the Center Will Not Hold

Review by Dan La Botz

Book Review
Jo Tuckman. Mexico: Democracy Interrupted. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012). 311 Pages. Photos. Bibliographic Essay. Index. $35.00 Hardback, $19.25 Kindle

If you want an overview of Mexico today—either because you’re planning a trip and have never been there, or because you haven’t kept up on Mexico for the last few years, or because you follow Mexico pretty regularly but would like to see an overview of the general situation—you couldn’t do better than Jo Tuckman’s Mexico: Democracy Interrupted. Tuckman, a journalist who works for the London Guardian and has written for a number of other publications as well, brings to this book not only her nose for news but also an intellectual depth often not always found in such works, which may be why this book is published by Yale and not a commercial publishing house. In nearly every chapter she brings into her account a Mexican historian, sociologist or political scientist whose book she has read or whom she interviews for this project.

This is a good read held together by one strong idea. The central thesis of the book is that the end of the seventy-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with the election in 2000 of President Vicente Fox of the conservative National Action Party led to a fundamental change in Mexico, and not just a change in its political system. The end of the PRI era, the break-up of the one-party state, and the weakening of the gravitational pull of the center led to the rise, in politics and society, of what she calls the “de facto powers.” Tuckman uses this analysis of the debilitated central power and the strengthening de facto powers to explain the changes in Mexican politics, in the drug cartels, and in the Catholic Church. Her argument is both convincing and illuminating, providing us with a useful perspective from which to examine contemporary Mexico.

Around that strong intellectual armature, Tuckman winds the sometimes bizarre, often frightening, and frequently moving stories of Mexico today, taking up politics, the legal system, religion, the drug wars, and environmental issues. While Tuckman herself does not make a strong political argument, her book is informed by a liberal sensibility. Over the years I have read many such journalistic accounts of Mexico in both English and Spanish. The classic and still the best—though now quite dated—remains New York Times reporter Alan Riding’s Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans published in 1985, a monumental 560-page account that combined journalistic savvy with a deep understanding of Mexican history and culture. Tuckman’s book does not pretend to be the same sort of encyclopedic account, but within the parameters she set herself, she has done a fine job. If you want a sense of what Mexico is like today, read this book.

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Labor Shorts: SME, Honda and SANDAK Updates

SME Receives Strong Support

Hundreds of labor organizations and individuals from around the world signed a letter presented to the president of Mexico, President of the Supreme Court and other officials demanding compliance with the recent court decision ordering reinstatement of the fired SME members.

Honda Registro Revoked

The Mexican labor and Arbitration Board has revoked the registration of the Honda union.

SANDAK Strike Legal

SANDAK workers strike once again determined to be legal.

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Shorts: Remittances and Calderón's Next Job

Remittances

According to the World Bank, Mexico ranks third, along with the Philippines as one of the countries that receives the largest amount of remittances. Mexico received 24 billion dollars, exceeded only by China and India.

Calderón Moves on... to Harvard

Out-going President of Mexico,Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, has announced that he has accepted a position at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University during 2013.

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Up-coming Events: U.S.LEAP Turns 25

U.S.LEAP Turns 25

25th Anniversary of the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project
Thursday, December 6, 2012 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
25 Louisiana Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC
with special guest Yessika Hoyos Colombian labor rights lawyer, Collectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR)




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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

 

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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.

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