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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

December , 2012, Vol. 17, No. 12

 

Introduction to this issue:

Dear Union Sisters and Brothers, Activists and Friends:

Every month the United Electrical Workers (UE) brings you Mexican Labor News and Analysis. With the invaluable assistance of editor Dan LaBotz, MLNA is still going strong at 17 years!

This year, Professor Ness has decided to support the cross-border work of UE and FAT by donating multiple copies of his book Ours to Master and to Own, Workers Control from the Commune to the Present.

Here is why: “I have come to the conclusion that the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) represents the wave of the future in Mexico. While the Charro unions are dominant, I think that independent unions have demonstrated the success and necessity of democratic representation. If FAT and its union affiliates could continue to successfully resist, they will capture the imagination of the Mexican working class… UE, FAT, and other unions require more resources. I am interested in helping to achieve this goal.” -Prof. Immanuel Ness

For each contribution of $25.00 or more, we will send you a copy of this book. Please give generously either on-line at http://www.ueinternational.org/support/index.php or by returning your check with the information at that link. You can make a one-time, tax-deductible gift before the end of the year. Or join our monthly sustainers’ program by going online – from $5 per month to wherever your generosity takes you!
We thank you in advance for your support and for all you do to advance labor rights!

In Solidarity,
Robin Alexander
UE Director of International Affairs

 

Contents for this issue:

A First Look at the New Administration of Enrique Peña Nieto

Since taking office on Dec. 1, President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has been aggressively pushing an agenda which is intended to break dramatically with the previous administration. Under ex-President Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party, Mexico had been mired in economic stagnation, debilitated by a bloody war on drugs, and—until the last months of a six year term—paralyzed by legislative gridlock. In an attempt to change the direction of the government, to lift the country’s spirits, and to carry forward a conservative (neoliberal) agenda Peña Nieto has placed a series of legislative initiatives on a fast track.

In the first month of his administration the new president has:

• Passed a new tax law that will ensure adequate revenues while continuing to protect privileged corporations.
• Pushed forward its proposal for education reform intended to take back control of the education system from the powerful Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE).
• Made clear its own plans to tackle the drug cartels.
• Proposed to extend social security, that is, health coverage to the 60 percent of Mexican workers in the informal economy.
• Proposed to create the nation’s first national old age pension system for all people over 65.

First impressions might suggest that, breaking with Calderón’s more conservative policies, these proposals would appear to set Mexico on a track more along the lines of Brazil under Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff who combined pro-business, free market policies with social welfare programs.

At the same time, it should be noted that as governor of the State of Mexico Peña Nieto and the staff he has brought with him to Los Pinos, the presidential residence and offices, used a heavy hand to deal with social protests. In the case of the suppression of civil unrest in San Salvador Atenco in 2006, the Mexican Human Rights Commission found that police had engaged in brutality. Some the 207 people (including ten minors) were victims of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, 145 were arbitrarily arrested; 26 women were sexually assaulted, and five foreigners suffered violence and were then illegally expelled from the country.

So we may see an administration that offers both “pan y palo” to use the Mexican expression from the era of the Dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, that is “bread and the stick,” offering social welfare programs but perhaps also responding to social resistance with an iron fist.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Peña Nieto Pushes Plan for Education Reform; Workers Wary

By Dan La Botz

Still stunned and reeling from the passage of a pro-business labor law reform in the last days of Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) government, teachers and other education workers now face an education reform being pushed by the new President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Mexico’s lower house, in a swift process culminating in a stormy session, voted on Dec. 19 to approve the educational reform, adding amendments that called for teachers’ employment rights to be respected, for the President to appoint and the Senate to approve the independent board that will evaluate teachers, and for the views of the 32 governmental entities (the 31 states and the Federal District) to be taken into account. That is, teachers who failed the national teacher evaluation would not necessarily be terminated. The Senate is expected to pass the reform this week.

The proposed reform has already received support in principle from the PRI, the PAN, and the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), though it is being opposed by some PRD legislators, by the new Party of National Regeneration (Morena), as well as by both the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) and the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE) an opposition caucus in the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE).

In presenting his legislative proposal, Peña Nieto said that he wanted to reestablish the Mexican government’s role as the leader and director of the country’s education system. He would create, he indicated, a system based on genuine merit. His plan would take teacher hiring out of the hands of the union which now often plays a strong role in hiring decisions.

The Un-named Target

While her name was never mentioned and the union only alluded to, everyone was aware that when Peña Nieto talked about the government retaking control of the schools he meant taking them back from Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the Mexican Teachers Union and a powerful figure in national politics for thirty years. Virtually every major group in the country from government officials to business leaders, politicians left, right and center -- including the leftwing National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union as well as many other rank-and-file teachers -- agree that her power and the power of the corrupt bureaucracy that she commands must be broken.

Many of the organizations mentioned have criticized and condemned the role of the Teachers Union in the affairs of the Secretary of Public Education (SEP), a relationship that involves intimate collusion and rampant corruption in the running of the schools. Most believe that Gordillo and the Teachers union usually have the upper hand, exerting the union’s power to provide management position and teaching jobs for Gordillo loyalists. Yet, while many groups in society are interested in breaking her powerful grip on the union, there is little agreement about how to go about it. Peña Nieto appears to have decided that structural and procedural changes in the union will be necessary.

Reform Would Modify the Constitution

The reform would modify Article 3 of the Mexican Constitution, one of the three virtually sacrosanct articles that arose from the demands of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, leading to the establishment of free, public, lay education. (The other two articles are Article 123 recognizing workers’ right to organize labor unions and Article 27 providing for redistribution of land to indigenous and peasant communities in the form of ejidos and giving Mexico ownership of the country’s subsoil. In 1992, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s government amended Article 27 to permit peasant communities to sell their land.)

At the center of the education reform is the establishment of a national teacher evaluation. The new Secretary of Public Education, Emilio Chuayffet told the press that the examination will be obligatory and that failure to administer or take the exam will be subject to “legal consequences.” The new law would affect teachers’ job security, their wages, and their opportunities for promotion. Other important elements of the reform are a census of schools, teachers, and students and the standardization of the responsibilities and salaries of school principals and other supervisors.

Supporters and Opponents

Several years ago, Mexico decentralized its national education system, giving somewhat greater latitude to state governments, which means that Peña Nieto must win their support, a task he has already succeeded in carrying out. The state secretaries of education of all 32 federal entities—the 31 states and the Federal Districts—have endorsed the educational reform proposal after being lobbied by Secretary of Education Chuayfett.

Juan Díaz de la Torre, general secretary of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), initially said that his union would support the reform, while at the same time expressing his concern that business interests “see an opportunity to push toward privatization of education.” Yet the next day his boss Gordillo, head of the union, said that el SNTE rejected the educational reform because it was contrary to the interests of the teachers. She was reacting to Secretary of Education Emillio Chuayffet who had stated that any teacher who failed the exam would be fired. “You don’t improve the system with threats,” she said.
Gordillo—whose opposition could be decisive—has not yet made clear what sort of deal she is seeking, though she surely will and soon.

The National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE), an opposition caucus within the teachers union, opposed the education reform proposal. Rubén Núñez Ginés of SNTE Local 22 in Oaxaca told the press that the “reform will not pass” in Oaxaca or in other areas where the CNTE is strong. “We consider the educational reform, and especially any changes to Article 3 of the Constitution, to be an attack on the Mexican people.” It was also, he added, treason to the Mexican Revolution.

Núñez Ginés said the reform was driven by right-wing business interests. “The project hides its real objective: the labor issue. It is an attempt to do away with collective bargaining in education and to institute instead individual contracts based on evaluations with a punitive character in order to justify firings.” He objected to the notion of a “universal evaluation” given the diverse character of Mexico and states such as Oaxaca which have many different indigenous cultures.

Not content with merely criticizing the reform project, the CNTE has also begun to organize protest demonstrations, beginning with a demonstration against the reform in mid-December by three thousand teachers in Morelia, Michoacán. La CNTE has also gone to court to seek an injunction against the national teacher evaluation.

La Jornada's Editorial

The leftwing Mexico City daily La Jornada responded to Peña Nieto education reform with a strong editorial criticizing the proposal. “Perhaps the most objectionable part of the reform is that it insists on presenting the teachers as the ones ultimately and almost exclusively responsible for the existing deficiencies in the government educational system…” Those proposing the reform failed to take into account other significant factors such as “corruption, inequity and lagging social groups, budgetary neglect, and the involvement of the powers-that-be—particularly the mass media—and the complex relation in recent years between the federal authorities and the corrupt and bureaucratic leadership that controls the teachers union.”

La Jornada suggested to its readers that it was the United States which was pusing these sorts of reforms based on teacher evaluation which it has become clear is driven by the business class and its politicians who are attacking public education and encouraging an “educational market place.” It will be a disaster, concluded the editorial, if educational reform becomes a vehicle for attacking public education.

Dissident Voices in the Prd and Other Critics

While the PRD leadership is supporting the educational reform, not all PRD members are in agreement. PRD Congressman Alejandro Sánchez Camacho, for example, opposes the reform because he believes it is part of an attempt to privatize public education.

Martí Batres, president of the new left party Morena also opposes the plan because, he says, it is an attack on the teachers’ job security. The proposed education reform makes scape goats of the teachers, he said.

[This article relies heavily on information from stories on the educational reform in recent issues of La Jornada.]

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

New Administration’s Cabinet Reflects President’s History, Goals

President Enrique Peña Nieto has chosen a cabinet that reflects both his political history and his party’s political goals. Several are the president’s longtime political operatives from his days as governor of the State of Mexico while others are pillars of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), former governors and cabinet members, many of them with connections to former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

The new 20-member cabinet is made up of 17 men and 3 women; 18 are members of the PRI, while one comes from the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and another from the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The cabinet choices reflect a commitment to continuing the neoliberal policies that have dominated Mexican politics since the late 1980s.

Top Posts

Holding the most important political posts are Miguel Osario Chong who will serve as Secretary of the Interior and Luis Videgaray who will become the Secretary of Finance, both of whom have worked closely with Peña Nieto in the past. Videgaray holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); his job will be to triple the country’s sickly economic rate of growth. The Secretary of the Economy will be Ildefonso Guajardo, an economiist who worked for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as holding various government posts.

The head of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell will give up that job to become Secretary of Energy and will work closely with Emilio Lozoya who will head up the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX). Lozoya is the son of the man who served as Secretary of Energy in the Salinas government. Heading up the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), the state-owned electric energy company, will be Francisco Rojas who served as the head of PEMEX in the Salinas cabinet.

A Panista in Foreign Relations

José Antonio Meade, who studied economics at Yale, will serve as Secretary of Foreign Relations. A member of the National Action Party, he has previously served as Secretary of Finance in the cabinet of President Felipe Calderón. Jesús Murillo Karam, who served as Secretary of Public Security in the cabinet of Ernesto Zedillo, will become the Attorney General of Mexico. Gerardo Ruiz, who served Peña Nieto in the State of Mexico, will become Secretary of Communications and Transportation.

Alfonso Navarrete Prida, former Attorney General of the State of Mexico, will become Secretary of Labor. He has been in government since 1991, initially serving as an attorney for the National Human Rights Commission and then holding a series of positions as attorney for a variety of governmental organizations, and finally coming to work for Peña Nieto in the State of Mexico where her served as the state’s chief prosecutor and then as his Secretary of Metropolitan Development before being elected a Federal Deputy in his own right.

Most Controversial Appointment

Emilio Chuayffet, who served as Secretary of the Interior in the Zedillo administration, will become Secretary of Education. He will have the job of negotiating with Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) whom he ousted from her role as coordinator of the PRI’s Federal Deputies in 2003.

Chuayffet, the most controversial figure in the new cabinet, is held responsible by many for his failure to prevent the Acteal massacre of Dec. 22, 1997 when 45 peasant members of Las Abejas, a group supportive of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) were murdered in the village of Acteal in the state of Chipas by gunmen whom many believe were operating under orders of the PRI. Eighteen men, all members of the Tzotzil ethnic group were eventually convicted of the murders. Chuayffet had been warned in advance of the likelihood of violence.

Three Women


Rosario Robles will become Secretary of Social Development. She is a former Mayor of Mexico City and a controversial figure in the PRD because of her alleged favors for Argentine businessman Carlos Ahumada Kurtz. Robles introduced Ahumada to leading figures in Mexico City Mayor López Obrador’s administraton, and Ahumada’s bribery of the officials was caught on tape in the famous video-scandals of 2004. López Obrador concluded that the video-taping and the scandal had been a plot by his political enemies, presumably involving an alliance between Salinas and Robles.

There are two other women cabinet members. Dr. Mercedes Juan López who will become Secretary of Health; she served as under-secretary in the Zedillo Administration and as Secretary of the Council of General Health in the administration of president Vicente Fox. Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas will become Secretary of Tourism; she is the daughter of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, former head of the PRI and the brother-in-law of Salinas, who was assassinated in 1994.

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda will become the new Secretary of Defense and Videl Soberón Sans will become the Secretary of the Navy.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

PeÑa Nieto Lays Out Plans to Deal with Drug Cartels: More Police

For the six years of former President Felipe Calderón’s administration (2006-12), Mexico was embroiled in a bloody drug war that took 60,000 lives, 2,000 disappearances, 24,000 persons whose whereabouts are unaccounted for, and thousands who fled their homes along the border. The 40,000 troops and tens of thousands of police involved in the fight against the cartels committed hundreds of violations of human rights, including murder, torture, illegal detentions, beatings, and threats. While initially popular with the Mexican people, the public turned against the President and his drug war, contributing to the defeat of his party and its candidate in the last elections.

Now the new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, has laid out his plans for the war on drugs, attempting to differentiate his approach from what his administration has characterized as the faults and failures of the previous administration. Both Secretary of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong and Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam accused the previous administration of having shattered the drug cartels into scores of smaller and more dangerous units. Osorio Chong said that, under Calderón, kidnapping had increased by 83 percent, robberies by 65 percent, and extortions by 40 percent.

The new president’s plans include:
• The continuing use of the Army to support police in the fight against the drug cartels.
• The division of Mexico into five regions to simplify and make security operations within the country more efficient.
• The establishment of an inter-secretarial commission for crime prevention.
• The creation of a new national gendarmerie of 10,000 police, perhaps eventually totaling 40,000.
• Fifteen new Federal police units will be created to focus on kidnapping and extortion.
• The consolidation and restructuring of state police forces.
• A purging and restructuring of the National Migration Institute, which has been accused of a failure to protect the rights of Central American migrant workers.

President Peña Nieto has also said that improving economic growth and providing jobs will also work to reduce criminal activity.

In a meeting held in mid-December between Mexican Secretary of the Interior Osorio Chong and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the United States and Mexico pledged to continue their common efforts to bring security to both countries. In a joint statement, the two security chiefs vowed to continue to make the borders secure, to fight drug trafficking and terrorism, and transnational crime.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Congress Passes New Tax Law; Critics Say It Favors Business

Mexico’s Congress passed a new law, the Income Law for 2013, that will bring in 3.9 billion pesos, an amount somewhat larger than President Peña Nieto requested. Dolores Padierna of the Party of the Democratic (PRD) complained that the law’s special regimes for large contributors protect corporations from paying their fair share of taxes.

She said that the government won’t reveal what corporations benefit from these special considerations that amount to 700 billion pesos. The special provisions are the result of a law passed in 2007, taking effect in 2008 and schedule to last five years.

Padierna also complained that the privately owned mining companies, some of them foreign owned, pay only 1.2 percent on their production, while the Mexican Petroleum Company (PEMEX), pays 71 percent. PEMEX is one of the principal sources of Mexican government revenues.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Secretary of Labor Proposes Social Security for Informal Workers

Alfonso Navarrete Prida, the new Secretary of Labor in the cabinet of President Enrique Peña Nieto, has proposed creating a new social security program (health programs) to cover the 60 percent of Mexico’s workers, some 30 million, who labor in the informal market. (See Economic Shorts below.)

Navarrete Prida made his proposal in a meeting with the National Confederation of the Chambers of Industry, an employer group, telling them that the new social security system would take its place alongside those that serve industrial workers and public employees (IMSS and ISSSTE).

The proposal, he said, was based on the Pact for Mexico which has been signed by Mexico’s three largest political parties.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Senate Proposes Pensions for All Adults over 65

The Mexican Senate took the first steps in mid December toward the passage of the Law of Rights of Older Adult Persons which would create Mexico’s first national old age pension. The pension would be equivalent to the minimum wage or 1,690 pesos or about US$132 per month.

It is estimated that the some 7,620,000 elderly Mexicans citizens would receive such benefits. Until the law is passed, the Secretary of Social Development would continue with its “70 and Above” assistance program.

As Mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution was the first politician and government leader to provide pensions for the elderly.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Mexico Increases Minimum Wage by 4.2 Percent

The National Minimum Wage Commission (CNSM) has raised the Mexican minimum wage by 4.2 percent, an amount the commission says which is somewhat above the increase in inflation this year and that projected for next year.

Secretary of Labor announced in a press release that the increase will bring the minimum wage in Zone A, which includes areas such as Mexico City with a higher cost of living, to 62.33 pesos or about US$4.60 a day. The minimum wage is slightly lower in other geographic zones.

The CNSM is made up of a tripartite panel of government, business, and union representatives. The union representatives come from the “official” unions most loyal to the government. The commission said that unemployment and under-employment remain serious problems that need to be addressed.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Mexican Electrical Workers Union Seeks relief from New Government

Martín Esparza Flores, general secretary of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), speaking to thousands of union members at the convention celebrating the SME’s 98th anniversary in the Mexico City bullring, called upon the new president, Enrique Peña Nieto to reach a political agreement and end the longstanding dispute between the union and the government.

The Convention was attended by thousands of union members, retirees, and several representatives of unions from other countries who had come to express their solidarity with the beleaguered electrical workers.

In October 2009 President Felipe Calderón ordered the police and army units to take over the Light and Power Company’s electrical facilities, liquidated the company, and terminated 44,000 workers, most of them SME union members. For the last three years 16,000 SME members have continued to fight for their jobs, receiving no satisfaction from the Calderón government.

The union has been asking that the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), which took over the Light and Power facilities be declared the successor company, giving workers the right to follow their jobs to the new employer.

Esparza Flores also demanded the release of the ten “political prisoners” of the union being held in a Federal penitentiary. They were arrested and imprisoned because of crimes allegedly committed during union organized protests. The Assembly of the Federal District, Mexico City’s legislative body, also passed a resolution asking the new president to release the prisoners by December 24 so that they could return to their families by Christmas.

A Federal judge meanwhile ordered that one of the prisoners, Alejandro Muñoz Reséndiz be released from prison where he was being held on charges of fraud. The judge said that his detention violated the principle of presumption of innocence.

Esparza Flores also asked the government to continue to provide Social Security (IMSS) coverage for the workers for another year.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

The State of Mexican Agriculture and Farmers

The Independent Federation of Agricultural Workers and Peasant (CIOAC) stated in mid- December that the elimination of the Secretariat of Agrarian Reform and its replacement by the new Secretariat of Agricultural Development, Territorial and Urban Order represents the culmination of a process of privatization. Since the reform in 1992 of Constitutional Article 27 which governed communal landholding, permitting peasants to sell their communal property, and Mexico’s entrance in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the country’s agricultural has been drawn into the market as never before.

US producers have dumped agricultural products on Mexico—selling them below the cost of production because of government subsidies—since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The result has been a loss to Mexican farmers of about one billion per year according to a study published in 2011. (See summary of study)

Some 12 million of the country’s 26 million cultivatable hectares have been abandoned by farmers who cannot make a living on the land and have migrated to the cities or to the United States. Mexican researchers at the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh) say this is because of a failure of the government to provide the farmers with adequate assistance. Raúl Nieto Ángel of UACh says that today 83 percent of the rural population, unable to earn their livelihood from farming, is supported by government assistance programs. Today 55 percent of the food eaten in Mexico is imported from other countries, principally the United States. (See story in
La Jornada)

Now scientists warn that Mexican agriculture and the country’s farmers, a hundred years ago the backbone of the national economy, face enormous problems. Scientists predict that Mexico is among the nation’s most vulnerable to global warming could devastate the country’s two most important traditional crops, corn and beans, and affect its coffee production. Mexico might lose between a quarter and a third of its production of agricultural products. (For greater detail see article).

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

UNI World Executive Board Issues Statement on Protection Contracts and Labor Reform in Mexico

The UNI World Executive Board, meeting in Nyon on 13-14 November 2012:

1. Considers that protection contracts are a threat not only to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Mexican workers but to those of workers in the region and in the whole world.
2. States that there is a serious, systematic, constant violation of workers’ fundamental rights in Mexico, and that protection contracts are one of the main causes of these violations.
3. States that protection contracts represent one of the worst models for imposing neoliberal policies in the region. They have notably negative consequences: they create a greater inequality and job insecurity for workers, and they hinder economic development and productivity in companies where they exist.
4. Warns of the proliferation of this type of contract in different countries in the region. They are largely introduced by Mexican companies that select unions for their own benefit, and pretend to engage in collective bargaining and respect workers’ representation.
5. Rejects both the existence and the spread of these contracts inside and outside of Mexico.
6. Stands in full solidarity with Mexican democratic and independent unions in their fight against these kinds of contracts and in favor of the reform of structural, legal and institutional provisions that have made their existence possible.
7. Calls on the Mexican Government and companies to acknowledge their responsibility and contribution to the existence of protection contracts, as well as their negative impact on workers, and to the deterioration and degradation of the living conditions of Mexican people.
8. Calls on the Mexican Government and companies to consider the elimination of these contracts as a key, clear objective in their proposed labor reforms, and to set as minimum standards in these reforms the ILO international core labor standards.
9. Calls on the Mexican Government to begin a national campaign to end all violence, extortion, intimidation, kidnapping, murders and other crimes associated with protection contracts, so that employers, unions and workers can work in a climate free from fear.
10. Demands that Mexican multinationals put an end to company-controlled unions and protection contracts in their regional and global expansion processes.
11. Urges the Mexican Government to sign ILO Convention No. 98 and to incorporate it into Mexican labor law in compliance with the Human Rights Act passed by Congress in 2011.
12. Pledges to participate in the Global Union action during the week of 18 to 24 February 2013.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Mexican NAO Recommends That USDOL Take Action to Ensure Respect for Labor Rights in North Carolina

On November 28, 2012, the National Administrative Office issued a 40 page report finding merit to the complaint filed by the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) and fifty other petitioners six years ago. The complaint filed under the Labor Side Agreement of NAFTA (the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation or NAALC) challenged the prohibition on collective bargaining and violation of other labor rights in North Carolina.

Patricia Juan Pineda, the attorney for the FAT who assisted in presenting the complaint said, “The recommendation issued by the Mexican NAO is very important, as it reminds the government of the United States that when it signed the NAALC it made a commitment to respect the labor principles contained in that agreement.”

The Mexican NAO requested that the US Department of Labor “attend to the arguments of the petitioners regarding whether the rights of public employees in North Carolina have been violated by not guaranteeing them their full exercise (of rights); not being able to count on government measures for the effective application of labor legislation; not have adequate access to procedures for the application of the legislation, nor the corresponding procedural guarantees; as well as lack of knowledge of the laws, regulations and procedures that workers have in order to effectuate their rights regarding:

• Freedom of association and protection of the right to organize;
• Right to collective bargaining;
• Minimum Conditions of work;
• Elimination of discrimination at work;
• Equal pay for men and women;
• Prevention of occupational injuries and diseases; and
• Compensation in the case of occupational injuries or diseases”

Referring extensively to the previous decision of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that ordered the US government to repeal NCGS 95-98 and to set up a framework for collective bargaining, the Mexican NAO noted that it “places particular emphasis on the topics of freedom of association and the right to Collective bargaining,” and stated: “if freedom of association exists for the public workers of North Carolina, the prohibition on Collective bargaining limits the exercise of that freedom. In this respect, there are recommendations and follow-up reports from the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization to the effect that North Carolina must repeal the statute NCGS 95-98 and permit public employees of that state to negotiate collectively, as well as to promulgate a legislative framework that promotes that result.”

The report urged the US to “continue its efforts in order to establish a legitimate means for collective bargaining in North Carolina” and stated that the Mexican NAO “indicates its interest in knowing of the actions taken by the government of the US in order to promote the right to Collective bargaining by public workers North Carolina, as well as requesting that it be maintained informed about the presentation of new initiatives on this subject …”

The Mexican NAO also recommended cooperative consultations on the question of health and safety, finding that “it is not clear what actions are taken by the government of that country and concretely by that of North Carolina, in order to guarantee the protection of the health and safety of public employees in that state.” In holding the US responsible for the failure of North Carolina to provide the information it had requested during its investigation, the Mexican NAO stated: “the NAALC established the obligation of the Parties to comply with their commitments, without considering as an obstacle the autonomy of the states.”

Saladin Muhammad, Coordinator of the North Carolina International Worker Justice Campaign, responded to the news, saying “The recent announcement by the Mexican NAO is a positive step for all public sector workers who have been denied collective bargaining rights and further highlights the need for the US to honor the ruling of the UN’s International Labor Organization that called for the US to come into compliance with international law and conventions.”

Juan Pineda added: “The decision reiterates that collective bargaining is the effective way through which workers employed by that state can enjoy the possibility of improving their working conditions, health and safety, and eliminate discrimination based on gender or race: in other words, to fully enjoy their human and labor rights, resolving their conflicts in the workplace rather than through inefficient and expensive judicial channels.”

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Mexican Government Sides with Migrant Workers and Seeks Consultation with the U.S. DOL to Remedy Violations

Press Release from Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.

The Mexican National Administrative Office (NAO) issued an opinion in response to petitions filed by U.S. and Mexican workers' rights advocates for violations of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). In its decision, the NAO agreed that apparent violations had occurred denying workers protection under the NAALC. The opinion calls on the Mexican Department of Labor to meet and confer with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to examine what is being done to guarantee H-2 workers' rights. Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., (CDM), stated, "This opinion is groundbreaking and comes at an incredibly important time - on the heels of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's visit last week with President Obama, and the renewed bipartisan interest in addressing immigration reform."

The petition by CDM, former migrant workers, and a bi-national coalition of workers' rights advocates was filed on behalf of traveling fair and carnival workers who were recruited to work in the United States on temporary H-2B visas. The petition alleged that the United States is in violation of the NAALC because the United States routinely has allowed companies to pay H-2B workers less than the minimum hourly wage and has denied them overtime and reimbursement for travel, visa and recruitment costs. In addition, the petition stated that workers face multiple barriers in asserting their rights or enforcing the existing worker protection laws, in violation of the NAALC.

CDM and co-petitioners filed the original petition on September 19, 2011, along with a supplemental memorandum that was filed on August 16, 2012. The NAO's opinion was in response to three separate petitions filed under the NAALC in 2003, 2005 and 2011. The 2003 petition raised issues about the treatment of agricultural workers in North Carolina. In 2005 human rights organizations in the United States and Mexico joined 17 forestry workers to complain that temporary workers admitted under the H-2B program do not have adequate access to U.S. courts to address grievances as called for under the NAALC.

For More Information, Contact:

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

Art Read, General Counsel
Friends of Farmworkers
aread@friendsfw.org
215-733-0878, ext. 150

Michael Dale, Executive Director
Northwest Workers' Justice Project
michael@nwjp.org
503-525-8454
(for the 2005 petition only)

Amelia Furrow, Economic Justice Advocate,
Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project,
Proyecto de Derechos Civiles Paso del Norte
915-532-3799 ext. 10

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Co-op Workers from the U.S. and Mexico Share Experiences in UE-FAT Exchange

By Elizabeth Jesdale, Sam Cliff, Ali St. Onge, Adam Trott, Armando Robles and Robin Alexander

Mexico City

On November 10, five UE members who work in co-ops landed in Mexico City, eager to participate in the first-ever exchange between UE and FAT co-ops. We were accompanied by UE’s International Affairs Director Robin Alexander.

One of the things that became clear very quickly was that there are different kinds of co-ops, and that they vary in size, experience, and in their views of what it means to be a co-operative.

Armando Robles, a founding member of the New Era Co-op in Chicago, IL, that is just getting off the ground as a co-op manufacturing windows and doors, observed, "It was really interesting to learn that there are different types of co-ops, not just production co-ops but consumer and savings and loan co-ops also. We met people from savings and loan co-ops that belong to the FAT from Puebla and Saltillo, and I was really impressed that they lend money to help workers establish production co-ops. We don't have anything like that in the US, and it is really needed."

In Mexico, we met with small production co-ops formed by family members or friends who produce ceramics, woven or embroidered handicrafts and vegetables, as well as Mexico’s best known production co-op, Pascual Boing, which has several production and multiple distribution facilities. We also met with representatives from three savings and loans co-ops of varying sizes, providing both necessary financial expertise as well as micro lending capabilities. Some are affiliated directly with the FAT; others have recently become familiar with FAT and participate in an informal network built through the hard work of Enrique Lozcano, Coordinator of the FAT’s cooperative sector; while some simply have friendly relations with the FAT.

"It was very useful to me to see in detail that there is a whole world of co-ops, said Robles. “ I had imagined that co-ops could only be formed by workers who took over huge plants when they closed and re-opened them as cooperatives. But I learned that co-ops can be smaller and of different types and that by working together workers can generate employment for themselves. It gave me a much broader view of what is possible. It was really helpful to actually go and visit the co-ops, which ranged from very poor ones to grand ones like Pascual-Boing. I was able to see how people supported each other, although they had different opinions and ways of functioning."

Over the course of the week, we were privileged to travel with FAT national officer Benedicto Martínez, organizer Lenin González, and Cooperative sector Coordinator Enrique Lozcano. Sam Cliff, Chief Steward at the City Market Food Co-op in Burlington explained: “The three taught us about the philosophy behind the FATs involvement with cooperative businesses and guided us around Mexico City and the neighboring cities of Tlaxcala and Cuernavaca. Our delegation was warmly welcomed by the various Mexican co-ops we visited, where we were able to share stories and see for ourselves where and how they did their work. The delegation spent time at the FAT office in Mexico City, meeting with the independent federation's leadership and with workers from FAT- affiliated coops from throughout Mexico. There we discussed developing a system separate from the current capitalistic model that focused on cooperatively owned business, something the FAT has been involved with for years.”

Members of our delegation were excited to learn that the FAT includes a co-operative sector and supports the organizing work of Lazcano. “I think the FAT’s perspective on the importance of co-ops is awesome and that they support the work of Enrique,” said Adam Trott, a member of Collective Copies, a printing co-op in Massachusetts and part time staff for the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives where he assists in the development of new co-ops. “ I was really impressed by the informal network he is creating and the concept of unifying co-operatives across sectors with a focus on emancipating labor and empowering workers.” Lazcano’s approach involves linking savings and loan co-ops with production coops and we were able to see how this provides the financial support the production co-ops need to get off the ground, while providing jobs to members of the savings and loan co-ops. We also met with several unions that are affiliated with the FAT who shared their plans to establish a consumer co-op for union members in Aguascalientes and a housing co-op in Nayarit.

“In the UE we work as a democratic union that is part of creating a better world for workers through our organizing and ongoing educational efforts, and it was enlightening to learn about the FAT’s efforts to extend this into building co-operative workplace models where the employees are running their own businesses, making the decisions that affect their livelihoods and business growth,” said Elizabeth Jesdale, President of UE Local 255 at the Hunger Mountain Food Co-op in Montpelier, Vermont and member of the UE National General Executive Board.

Ali St. Onge, Chief Steward at Local 255 and member of the Northeast Regional Board enthused: “It was an inspiring experience to see how the coops really stick together in Mexico to make things work for them. I was particularly impressed by the pottery co-op because they built everything themselves from the ground up and continue to make beautiful pieces of art to support themselves.”

The trip also included a visit to striking workers at the SANDAK shoe factory where we were able to personally express our international solidarity. “Witnessing their struggle was very humbling,” observed Cliff. We also met with the FAT-affiliated union at Met-Life, and learned how they had organized against incredible odds. “Meeting with Met-Life was inspiring for me,” said St. Onge, “especially how they kept their union and solidarity going.”

But this trip may be the beginning of something much bigger. “Being on this delegation let us step out of our day-to-day work and talk about our ideals and learn from each others’ practical experiences,” observed Jesdale. “Spending a whole week with a group of workers and organizers who are very committed to building a better world allowed us to have the time to build trusting relationships. This allowed us to really talk about both the bigger picture and dive into some deeper conversations and talk further strategies. Not only were we able to make valuable and inspiring connections with workers in Mexico, the UE delegation was able to form new connections with each other as we stay in touch back here in the U.S., continuing to strengthen our union.”

Trott agreed. “The delegation very moving and well organized," he said. "It created new ideas and fresh concepts for our union and our respective co-ops.” It also raised questions: “How can unions and co-operatives – seemingly two sides of the same coin struggling for equitable, dignified work – utilize each other, build our movements and grow membership? What needs to happen for co-op development to be successfully undertaken by unions like the UE that already have several coops as part of its membership? What would the relationship between the UE and FAT co-ops have to look like to support both organizations? What are the short term and long term strategies that can be proposed to our respective organizations? I look forward to continuing the collective effort of marshaling our resources to propose ideas in the near future.”

“As the economics in the global world economy continue to change it is time for workers to start looking at ways to have some control on how we earn our livelihoods,” reflected Jesdale. “This is something unions and coops are learning to do together and the FAT gave us a good model to build from as the delegation evaluates where we can go next with what we learned and the connections made on this trip.”

“The entire experience was amazing and I feel we built some lasting connections that will benefit everyone in this difficult time for labor," St. Onge added. “When we read about Mexico, the stories are filled with violence, drugs, and corruption, and it was truly inspiring to meet the people who are trying to change that.”

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Political Shorts: Morena to Become Legal Party, PRD Criticized for Supporting Pact; New Guerrilla Movement

Morena to Become Legal Party

The Movement of National Regeneration or Morena, has successfully met the requirements to become a political party and will be given its official registration in mid-2014 and be able to articipate in elections in 2015. Morena, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, split from the left-of-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

PRD Leaders Criticize Party Chief for Pact

Several Senators of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) met with national leader Jesús Zambrano to express their indignation and opposition to his having signed the Pact for Mexico put forward by President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and also signed by leaders of the National Action Party (PAN).

New Guerrilla Movement Appears

Shortly after Enrique Peña Neito was sworn into office as president, the People’s Magonista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Popular Magonista de Liberación Nacional – EPM-LN) revealed its existence after what it said were years of clandestine activity and, calling the election a fraud, called upon workers, peasants, the indigenous people and the student movement #IAM132 to join it in fighting against Mexico’s political military dictatorship.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Labor Shorts: New Labor Law; Mexicana Pilots; Radio Trece Noticias Fires All Staff

New Mexican Labor Law Takes Effect, Legal Challenges Planned

The pro-business labor law reform passed in the last days of the administration of President Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) took effect on Dec. 1. The National Association of Democratic Attorneys (ANAD), the Mexican Union of Jurists (UJM) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as a number of labor unions are preparing law suits challenging the new law. The union federations and other organizations involved include the National Union of Workers (UNT), the Mexican Union Front (FSM), the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers (COR), the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM), and others. View the new law in Spanish.

Mexicana Pilots Hope for Help from New Administration

Mexican pilots, members of the Union Association of Airline Pilots (ASPA) are hoping for help from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s new administration. The Calderón administration shut down Mexicana in August of 2010, leading to the layoff of 8,000 workers, some 6,000 of them union members. ASPA says that 500 pilots are still out of work while many others have had to move to other regions, such as the Arab Emirates, China and nations in Africa, to find jobs.

Radio Trece Noticias Fires Staff

Radio Trece Noticias, owned by businessman Carlos Quiñones Armendárez, fired the entire staff of reporters, editors, producers, cleaning staff and others rather than pay back wages owed to its workers. Workers are demanding that they be paid their back wages and severance monies due them.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Economic Shorts: Informal Economy; Prices Rise

Informal Economy

Mexico has revised its definition of workers in the informal economy, bringing its methods into line with those of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The new definition is based on anyone who does not have access to social security (health services and pensions). Using its new definition, the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) reports that a shocking 60 percent of Mexican workers—a little less than 30 million—labor in the informal economy. Wages of those in the informal market are reported to be 35.4 percent less than those who work in the formal economy.

Prices Rise

Prices in Mexico rose by 6.8 percent between December 2011 and December 2012, according to government statistics. The price rises were highest for food.

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

Resources: Drug War Toll Exceeds 120,000

Fueled by War on Drugs, Mexican Death Toll Could Exceed 120,000 As Calderon Ends Six-Year Reign Wednesday, 28 November 2012 09:11 By Mark Karlin, Truthout http://truth-out.org/news/item/13001-calderon-reign-ends-with-six-year-mexican-death-toll-near-120000

Back to December , 2012 Table of Contents

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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

 

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