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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

April  31, 2015, Vol. 4, No. 20

 

Introduction to this issue:

MEXICAN LABOR NEWS AND ANALYSIS – April 2015
IN THIS ISSUE:
*Baja California Farm Workers Continue Battle with Growers
*Miners and Farmers Challenge Mexico’s Copper Giant by David Bacon
*Baja Bristles with Labor Protests from Frontera Norte Sur
*Teachers to Strike 0ver Wages, Resources, Cut-Backs
*Industrial Calls for “Safe and Smooth” Return of Miners’ Leader
*Social Statistics

 

Contents for this issue:

BAJA CALIFORNIA FARM WORKERS CONTINUE BATTLE WITH GROWERS
By Dan La Botz

The farm workers who went on strike in San Quintín, Baja California on March 17 continue their fight for a wage of 200 pesos or about $13 per day, with thousands marching in protest along the Trans- Peninsular Highway that connects San Quintín to the U.S. border and American markets. Since the workers went on strike, nearly every relevant Mexican governmental body or agency has been to San Quintín from the state governor to the federal Secretary of Labor and from the National Commission of Human Rights to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Communities. But after meeting with farm workers on April 25, the federal government said it would not return to the table for 15 days. Every delay, of course, is intended to starve out the strikers, weaken the movement, and bring victory to the growers.
Now the National Alliance of National, State, and Municipal Organizations for Social Justice (AONEMJS or Alliance) which leads the movement has through one of its fives spokesmen, Fidel Sánchez Gabriel, called for a boycott of strawberries, blackberries, and vegetables. Some leaders of the San Quintín strike had previous experience working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the United States, a farm workers organization that has used boycotts to force fast food companies to in turn get farmers to pay higher wages to workers. Other U.S. unions, such as United Farm Workers UFW) in the 1960s and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) have also used boycotts successfully to pressure employers, farmers and ranchers to raise wages.
Several labor unions in Mexico and the United States have expressed their solidarity with the San Quintín strikes, among them the Mexican National Union of Workers (UNT), the National Coordinating Committee of University Unions (CNUESIC), the Telephone Workers (STRM), and U.S. unions such as the United Farm Workers and Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a Washington State farm workers union.

How the Strike Began
Thousands of farmworkers in the San Quintín Valley of Baja California, just 185 miles south of the U.S. border, struck some 230 farms, including the twelve largest that dominate production in the region, on March 17 interrupting the picking, packing, and shipping of zucchini, tomatoes, berries and other products to stores and restaurants in the United States. The strikers, acting at the peak of the harvest, were demanding higher wages and other benefits to which they are legally entitled such as membership in the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), the public health system. While there have over the last two decades been several large scale protests by workers in San Quintín, usually riots over the employers failure to pay their employees on time, this is the first attempt by workers to carry out a such strategic strike.
The farm workers reportedly succeeded within three days in negotiating with employers and the government an agreement of the existing unions, the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and the Regional Confederation of Workers of Mexico (CROM), both corrupt organizations affiliated with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that had colluded with employers to keep wages low. The agreement reached on March 20 will give the workers the right to create their own union and negotiate directly with the owners. If this agreement holds, it represents a tremendous achievement for these workers and establishes a precedent for other workers throughout Mexico who would like to get rid of their corrupt government- or employer- controlled unions. The strike and negotiations over wages and other issues continue.
While there is peace in the valley at the moment, the Mexican government has for decades deployed the army and police against miners, electrical workers, telephone workers, and any others, and it is altogether possible that they will send in large forces to break this strike. The ability of these workers to hold their ground will depend upon solidarity from other workers in northern Mexico particularly in Baja California and Sonora.

Indigenous Organizers
The strike was organized by the Alliance of National, State, and Municipal Organizations for Social Justice (AONEMJS or Alliance) made up of indigenous groups from Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and other areas whose members work in the San Quintín Valley. The Alliance combined a call for a general strike in the valley’s fields with the blocking of the Trans-Peninsular Highway that leads north to San Diego, California. Creating roadblocks and burning tires along a stretch of some 120 kilometers of the highway, they succeeded for 26 hours in stopping the delivery of the ripe produce to markets in the United States, with immediate repercussions for grocery stores and restaurants. Costco, for example, reported that its shipments were down. Strikes also seized government buildings and a police station.
The Mexican government sent hundreds of federal police and soldiers to open the highway, which they did using tear gas and rubber bullets as well as clubs and curses. Strikers responded by throwing stones at the police. Reportedly 200 were arrested. Baja California Governor Francisco Vega de Lamadrid traveled to San Quintín to begin negotiations with the employers and with the Alliance.

San Quintín – The Cornucopia
The San Quintín Valley has over the past couple of decades been transformed into one of the most productive agricultural regions of Mexico where large scale irrigation systems, modern buildings, and large scale truck transportation have been combined by employers with low wage indigenous workers to produce an abundance of fruit and vegetable for American consumers—hundreds of thousands of tons of berries, tomatoes, and vegetables each year—and to make fortunes for the transnational and Mexican companies that own and manage the farms.
Many Baja California and Mexican government officials are actually owners or investors in the twelve largest farms as well as in some of the smaller one. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, for example, is an investor in one of the companies. The near fusion between corporate executives and the Baja California government has made it difficult for workers to achieve even the minimal wages, benefits and conditions to which they are entitled under the law. Last December The Los Angeles Times published a series of articles and produced video revealing workers’ onerous conditions in San Quintin in December. As a result of those articles, Wal-Mart and the Mexican government announced joint program to improve farm workers lives, but apparently the workers thought they should take matters into their own hands.
Some estimate that there are as many as 80,000 workers in the valley, though other estimates put the number at closer to the 42,000 registered permanent workers. According to one report only 11,000 of those workers, mostly employed by the transnational companies, have enjoyed IMSS health benefits. BerryMex, for example, which is affiliated with the American Driscoll company, reportedly registers 100 percent of its employees.
Under employer contracts with the CTM and the CROM first negotiated in 1994, most workers are paid only 100 pesos or US$6.64 dollars per day. Wage rates have not improved for years. One of the causes of the strike appears to have been the falling value of the peso vis-à-vis the dollar, while at the same time many basic necessities are rising in price. The negotiators are discussing other demand such as Sundays and holidays either off, overtime pay, seniority, and other benefits. The Alliance demands include:
1. Revocation of the agreement signed by the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM) with the Agricultural Association of Baja California, especially regarding “agreed upon wages.”
2. Respect for seniority.
3. Affiliation with the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) from the first day of work at a company and medical coverage for both the worker and his or her dependents.
4. Payment to workers of all benefits due under the law.
5. After eight hours of work, double pay for each addtional hour and tripe pay after more than 10 hours.
6. Maternity leave for six weeks during pregnancy and for another six weeks after birth for pregnant workers.
7. Five days of paid paternity leave for men.
8. Measure against sexual assault by “foremen” or “engineers.”
9. Measures against reprisals toward workers involved in protest.
10. Payment of all benefits of the law to workers (one day of rest per week, holidays, and other benefits).
11. Establishment of a state minimum wage for agricultural workers of 300 pesos per day.
12. An increase of pay to 30 pesos for each box of strawberries (since 2001 workers are being paid 10 or 12 pesos per box). Double pay on Sundays and holidays.
13. An increase to 17 pesos for bushels of blackberries, double on Sunday.
14. An increase to 8 pesos for a bucket of tomatoes.
Negotiations were scheduled to resume on March 25, but they did not. The spokesmen for the farmworkers—Fidel Sánchez Gabriel, Bonifacio Martínez, Fermín Alejandro Salazar y Justino Herrera Martínez—said that negotiations had stopped because Alberto Muñoz, the representative of the employers had asked for time to speak to consult with the bosses about the workers’ wage demands. The workers said that if the companies suffer a loss of production it the result of the incompetence of the government.
After about 30 hours of strike and highway closing, state and federal police as well as the Mexican Army moved into reopen the highway, establishing checkpoints where vehicles are searched. The state government, the employers, and the old unions first stalled negotiations for several days, ostensibly so that the bosses could come up with a common contract proposal, but effectively starving out the workers who live on their meager wages from day to day. On March 28, the union felt forced to end the strike and workers returned to the fields, but as one of their leaders, Fermín Salazar, said, they did so under duress and under protest.
At about the same time Governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega de Lamadrid together with his cabinet made a tour of the fields, announcing that production was at between 85 and 90 percent of normal. In a widely distributed press release printed in papers throughout the country, Vega de Lamadrid said that the unions and the companies participating in the Agricultural Council of Baja California had come to an agreement on 64 points among which was a wage increase of 15 percent.
The Alliance, which had initiated the strike, refused to recognize the agreement because of the involvement of the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM) and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), both affiliated with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Fermín Salazar said that the political parties and their unions were attempting to take control of the movement, and that they workers would not permit it.
While many workers have returned to work, it was unclear how many had received the 15 percent wage increase or any wage increase for that matter. Driscoll’s of the Americas, announced that it had given workers raises of 20 to 40 percent. Berrymex also announced pay increases for its employees.
So the strike seems to have had mixed results. Workers have apparently won wage gains, but the government and the employers are clearly trying to marginalize the Alliance while supporting the corrupt labor unions affiliated with the PRI. The struggle for genuine labor unions and wage gains for all workers goes on.

MINERS AND FARMERS CHALLENGE MEXICO’S COPPER GIANT
by David Bacon

[April 16, 2015] Traveling west across the Sonoran desert, just south of the U.S. border on Mexico's Route 2, La Mariquita peak dominates the horizon for miles. Just below it rise huge ochre mountains of tailings from the world's second largest copper mine - Cananea.
As the highway approaches town, it passes a huge white concrete water tank and adjacent pumping station. Normally its huge pipes would be humming from the water flowing through them to the mine. For two weeks, though, the pumps have been silent and the flow halted. Instead, in what is normally empty desert, tents and busses line the highway. Dust and smoke from cooking fires fill the air. Hundreds of people walk about, listen to speeches, or just talk among themselves.

Cananea Occupation
This plantón, or occupation, has successfully shut most operations at the mine. Cananea must consume huge quantities of water pumped from 49 wells across the desert in order to process crushed ore into copper concentrate.
Many of the plantón’s residents are miners who went on strike in 2008. Two years later the mine was reopened by massive police intervention. Since then it has been operated by contracted laborers recruited from far distant parts of Mexico. Now, for the first time in six years, 80 percent of the mine is again paralyzed. This time, however, strikers didn't stop the operation by themselves. Half of the people with them here are farmers-residents of the Rio Sonora valley, angry over a toxic spill that upended their lives in August last year.
This winter groups of miners fanned out to the small towns along the river, talking about that disaster's impact. Strikers and community leaders called meetings in the town plazas, making speeches through jerry-rigged speakers on the back of pickup trucks. Finally, on March 18, busses headed from the towns toward Cananea. Mine managers, hearing they were coming, called out hundreds of police to keep strikers from blocking the mine gates.
The protestors outflanked them. Instead of heading through town to the mine itself, they roared down the highway to the pumping station. Facing hundreds of angry miners and farmers, the operators shut down the pumps and fled. And as the pumps grew quiet, so did operations at the mine itself.
The first battle of the Mexican Revolution was fought here, when a miner's insurrection challenged the mine's U.S. owner, Colonel William Green, in 1906. That earned the town its reputation as “Revolutionary Cananea.”

Grupo Mexico Copper
Over the years since, the mine first belonged to U.S. corporations, and then was taken over by the Mexican government. Its union, Section 65 of the national miners' union, the Mineros, had a strong contract. Work in the mine, while dangerous, paid better than most jobs in Mexico. Miners built small homes in the town at the foot of the mountain.
In 1990, however, the mine was sold to Grupo Mexico, a corporation owned by German Larrea, for $475 million, less than a quarter of its market value. Larrea bought the privatized national railroad as well. Capitalizing on his friendship with then President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, he became one of the wealthiest men in Mexico, worth over $15 billion
Grupo Mexico produces two-thirds of Mexico's copper and has the largest copper reserves in the world. It bought the U.S. mining corporation American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) in 1999, and now owns mines in Arizona. Grupo Mexico operates the world's fifth largest copper mine in Peru, and is negotiating to buy others in Spain.
Corporate expansion, however, came at a price. In 1998 miners struck in Cananea to stop reductions in the workforce to cut labor costs. After Grupo Mexico asked the government to call in troops to break the strike, 800 miners were laid off. Union leaders were blacklisted. According to Carlos Navarette, one of the organizers of the plantón, "the company blacklisted us throughout the whole country." In one job interview, he charges, "the person interviewing me asked me where I was from, and I told him from the south. But then he saw my name on his computer. He said, 'There's no work for you here.'"
Anger mushroomed in 2006 when 65 miners died in an explosion at Grupo Mexico's Pasta de Conchos coal mine. Workers had complained of gas leaks, and struck repeatedly over safety concerns. After five days, however, the company halted rescue efforts, and the government announced the mine would be closed.

Union Leader in Exile
The head of the Mineros, Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, accused the corporation and government of "industrial homicide." Within weeks the conservative administration of President Vicente Fox charged him with fraud, and Gómez left Mexico to escape arrest. Since then all charges against him were found groundless, and he has been reelected union president several times. Nevertheless, he continues to stay in Vancouver, Canada, worried that the government and Grupo Mexico will find another pretext for jailing him should he return.
In 2008 miners in Cananea went on strike again, over health and safety concerns. They charged that the company had disconnected the huge fans and pipes that extract dust from the buildings where the ore is crushed. Dust buildup can cause silicosis, permanently damaging miners' lungs. A study by a team of U.S. and Mexican health and safety experts found “substantial elevations in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms” among miners and that “a significant percentage of this population may have radiologic silicosis.” In one area acid mist was so prevalent it had eaten away at the structure of the building.
Under Mexican law, an enterprise that is on strike cannot continue to function, so the mine stopped operation. But Grupo Mexico asked the administration of Mexico's next president, Felipe Calderón, to declare the strike illegal. In spite of court decisions upholding its legality, the government complied. Three thousand federal police drove miners from the gates and the mine was then reopened.
Grupo Mexico created a new business entity, Buenavista de Cobre, to hire workers through contractors to replace the strikers. Sergio Martinez, who worked in the foundry for 13 years, says that before the strike miners got a base pay of 1800 pesos for working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. With a productivity bonus, they earned at least 3,000 pesos ($215). Today the contracted employees earn 1200 pesos ($85) a week, and work 12 hours a day instead of 8. Adjusted for inflation, the average wage in mining nationally is 21 percent lower today than it was in 1978.
Says another miner, “If you say you're from Cananea, you can't get a job. Ninety percent of the people now working in the mine are from far away. This is very humiliating for people here. You have kids and there's no work for them either - even more humiliating.” Like many others, this miner crossed the border without documents to find work in Arizona. “I left my family here. The pain of our separation can't be compared to anything,” he laments.

Toxic Spill
Then last August 40,000 cubic meters (10.5 million gallons) of concentrated sulfuric acid and heavy metals was released from a holding pond at the mine into the headwaters of the Sonora River. Arturo Rodriguez, of the office of the Attorney General for Environmental Protection, told the Associated Press that the cause was lax supervision at the mine, along with rains and construction defects. Grupo Mexico didn't respond to requests for comment, but according to Yahoo News, Juan Rebolledo, vice president for international relations, said that the acid wasn't toxic and "there's no problem, nor any serious consequence for the population, as long as we take adequate precautions." Grupo Mexico's solution was to pour calcium into the river to neutralize the acid.
Miners charge, however, that Grupo Mexico was using a contractor, Tecovifesa, to work on the dam. “Before the strike, experienced union members, who were direct employees, did all the work,” according to Martínez.
And although the spill began on August 6, the company didn't tell the river communities until August 8. Many only discovered what had happened when the river turned orange. “Our children were at the river that day,” remembers Reyna Valenzuela, from Ures. “We didn't know they would be affected because the company didn't tell anyone.” The children got extreme rashes, and doctors finally told her they were due to heavy metal exposure. Other residents began to experience more serious health problems.
The family’s business making sweets and cheese folded when customers in the state capital didn't want to buy any products from the river towns. Valenzuela went to the mine to ask for money to take the kids to Phoenix for tests. “The miners helped us and gave us a place to stay,” she recalls, but when they went to the mine's director, José Julian Chavira, “they wouldn't even talk with us.” She became one of the first residents of the plantón.
Another was Laura Gutiérrez. “Our town, San Rafael, is made up of farmers,” she explains. “We plant corn and peanuts, and we didn't harvest anything last year. The crops were just thrown into the trash. Now we have nothing to live on. That's why we're here.” Farmers there and elsewhere along the river aren't planting this spring because they fear the water is contaminated. So do customers for their crops.
“This was an extremely toxic brew that went into the river,” according to Garrett Brown, director of the Maquiladora Health and Safety Network, and former inspector for CalOSHA. “Lead causes serious and permanent damage to children. Cadmium is a known carcinogen. The spill deposited heavy metals along hundreds of miles, which wind up along riverbanks and leach into the aquifer. People eat the food that's grown with water from the river and aquifers. That has long term implications for their health.”
Approximately 24,000 people live along the river. Three hundred wells were closed after the spill. Grupo Mexico's website displays photos of pastoral scenes along the river and posts articles that describe its efforts to clean it up. It says the company has distributed 164 million liters of water, and installed 58 tanks of 5,500 gallons each in schools. The company set up a $150 million fund to pay damages to residents, and paid a fine of $2 million.
Many river residents, however, say they haven't received anything. “We didn't go talk with the town people right after the spill, because many believed in the promises,” says Sergio Tolano, general secretary of Section 65. “But months later most saw they would get nothing, and were willing to take action.”

Sonora River Front
The purpose of the plantón, he says, is not just to stop the mine's operation. The union and residents have organized a coalition, the Sonora River Front. It is demanding that the government force Grupo Mexico to clean up the river and take responsibility for the health and lost income of residents. It also seeks to restore the strikers to their jobs.
Some elected officials recognize that their political future could be at stake if people vote against a government they perceive as too friendly to Grupo Mexico. Alfonso Durazo, a Federal deputy from the leftwing MORENA party, came to the plantón to show support. When he tried to turn his speech into a campaign event for local candidates, however, an angry crowd told him to speak to their concerns, not his own.
“Because the miners are supporting us, we're supporting them,” Valenzuela says. “If we all get together, we can do something here. The whole Rio Sonora is with them.”

Solidarity from U.S. Workers
Part of this effort also includes the U.S. union for copper miners, the United Steel Workers (USW). Manny Armenta, a USW representative, has helped the local union in Cananea since the strike started. The night the police broke the lines at the gate in 2010, he led families out of the union hall to safety.

“You could smell the tear gas all over,” he recalls. “It was like a military occupation.” At the march to the pumping station, Armenta spoke to the crowd. “The government and Grupo Mexico are making history,” he charged, “but backwards, taking away the right to strike and the right to industrial safety.”
The U.S. union is trying to renegotiate a contract with Grupo Mexico. As a result of buying ASARCO, the company is now the new owner of mines where the Steel Workers represents the miners. Two years ago the Mineros and the USW agreed to join to form a single union. The merger has not been completed, but they now support each other in dealing with their common employers, and look to the day when their bargaining can be coordinated.

Tolano credits this alliance with keeping the strike in Cananea alive. “Some of us have had a very hard time, but due to our tradition of supporting each other we've been able to take care of ourselves,” he says. “There have been divorces. Some people have lost their homes. But we're still here.”


BAJA BRISTLES WITH LABOR PROTESTS
From FronteraNorteSur

[April 26, 2015] On the eve of May Day 2015, the Baja California Peninsula bristles with labor protests. Thousands of farmworkers and teachers have staged work stoppages, marches and occupations of government offices in recent days as they press demands for better wages and working conditions, back pay and dignified treatment.

Earlier declared extinguished by some observers, the farmworker uprising that shook the San Quintin Valley last month showed it was far from dead on Friday, April 24, when upwards of 10,000 workers staged a 15-mile protest march along the Trans-Peninsula Highway.

Many farmworkers hail from Triqui, Mixtec, Zapotec, Purepecha and other indigenous groups of southern and southwestern Mexico that have migrated to the fertile San Quintin Valley and now form the backbone of the labor force that produces strawberries, grapes and other products for the lucrative U.S. export market. Women workers were especially visible in the April 24 mobilization.

Farmworker leader Lucila Hernández Garcia urged her co-workers to give the movement an extra “push” at a critical juncture. Placards carried by the workers demanded better treatment, benefits and the ouster of Baja California Governor Francisco “Kiki” Vega de Lamadrid.

At one point during the hours-long march, workers waved Mexican flags as they passed by a property of Driscoll’s, the U.S.-based transnational that contracts many of the berries produced in the San Quintin Valley. Shouted the workers, “Our country, our countryside, the land belongs to those who work it!”

The San Quintin movement has crossed borders, inspiring the largest Mexico-U.S. labor solidarity campaign of recent years.

U.S. supporters, including farmworkers in Washington state who are immersed in a lengthy dispute involving Driscoll’s, have been picketing company sites and urging boycotts during the past few weeks. The movement is especially active in California, where the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB) connects Mexican communities that serve as a labor sources for both Baja California and California.
Among upcoming solidarity actions, the FIOB plans a demonstration at the large strawberry festival scheduled May 15 and 16 in Oxnard, California.

“The indigenous peoples’ social values of solidarity and community sense run into a system that treats them more as units of production than as human beings,” wrote Bertha Rodríguez-Santos, media coordinator for the FIOB. “And, in the words of Mixtec Francisco Lozano, who has worked in San Quintin as well as California, ‘it treats us like animals.’”

At the conclusion of their April 24 march the workers sat down in the town of San Quintin for negotiations with Mexico’s Interior Ministry and Governor Vega. The session was observed by officials from various government agencies, delegations from both chambers of the Mexican Congress, the National Human Rights Commission, the state human rights commission, and several unions.

Represented by the Alliance of National, State and Municipal Social Justice Organizations, the farmworkers seek a minimum daily pay rate of $15, access to social security and other benefits, and an end to sexual harassment of female workers. They also demand the revocation of sweetheart contracts between growers and unions affiliated with President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, and respect for an independent union.

Luis Enrique Miranda Nava, Interior Ministry undersecretary, pledged the federal government will intensify field inspections to ensure compliance with labor law and health standards; promote legal action against sexual harassment; enroll workers in social security and education programs; construct a daycare center and a hospital; and work for the creation of a new fund to help cover workers’ necessities.
But the key worker demand of an effective doubling of the daily wage was rejected by Alfredo Munoz, representative of the Baja California Agricultural Council, who repeated earlier employer offers of a 15 percent wage increase.

Leaders of the San Quintin workers vowed not only to maintain their demands in Baja California but to take their message and movement to the other states of the Mexican Republic in the coming days as well. More than two million farm laborers, with about 60 percent of them indigenous migrants from southern Mexico, are currently estimated as working in the country.

“The same situation of the violation of workers’ rights prevails in many places,” said Alliance leader Fidel Sánchez Gabriel. Talks among the different actors involved in the San Quintin conflict are expected to resume on May 8.

In April, Governor Vega found labor-related matters filling his agenda. On April 24, before he returned home for the San Quintin negotiations, Vega met in Mexico City with Education Secretary Emilio Chuayfett over the controversy of back pay owed to Baja California’s public school teachers. For the last two weeks, the border state’s teachers have conducted rolling and indefinite strikes, camp-outs and other protest actions to further their demands.

On April 24, while farmworkers marched on San Quintin, more than 8,000 teachers rallied in the state capital of Mexicali. Thousands of current and retired educators also protested in Tijuana and Ensenada. Sections of the institutional National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and the Baja California State Resistance Movement, a left-leaning teacher grouping opposed to the 2013 education reform, both support the movement.

Part of the conflict is blamed on the education reform law that re-centralized payrolls in Mexico City and apparently caused confusion over who should get paid and for how much money. A similar problem of missing paychecks set off teachers’ strikes and protests in the southern state of Guerrero two months ago.

Juan José Ortega Madrigal, leader of the National Coordinator of Education Workers in the state of Michoacan, said teacher pay problems are also reported in Sinaloa, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Chiapas. ”We think there will be many more,” Ortega added.

In Baja California, an estimated $60 million is owed to just the teachers belonging to the SNTE’s Section 2. Retired teachers are also owed back payments, according to Juan Vidauri Padilla, Mexicali coordinator of the retirees. Vidauri said 30 of his colleagues who were waiting for back pay have passed away during the first four months of 2015 alone.

The teacher protest movement has expanded to the state of Baja California Sur, in the southern half of the Baja Peninsula, where back pay owed to educators, overdue payments to the retirement system and the regularization of job assignments are boiling as hot issues. As last week drew to a close, members of the SNTE called for a general strike in Baja California Sur on Monday, April 27.

Sources: El Universal, April 25, 2015. Articles by Laura Sanchez and editorial staff. Lapolaka.com, April 24 and 25, 2015. La Jornada (Baja California edition), April 25, 2015. Article by Olga Aragon and Javier Cruz. Cimacnoticias.com, April 24, 2015. Article by Angelica Jocelyn Soto Espinosa. El Diario de Juarez/Agencia Reforma, April 24, 2015.

Ocatavo Dia, April 23, 2015. Article by Gladys Navarro. Zeta, April 21, 23 and 24, 2015. Articles by Cristian Torres Cruz and Saul Alejandro Ramirez. El Sol de Tijuana, April 24, 25 and 26, 2015. Articles by Juan Manuel Hernandez and editorial staff. La Jornada, April 5, 11, 24, 25, 26, 2015. Articles by Antonio Heras, Laura Poy Solano, Bertha Rodriguez-Santos, and editorial staff.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription: email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu


PRI NOMINATES ITS LABOR CANDIDATES

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has for decades controlled most of Mexico’s labor unions. One day it ensures the loyalty of the unions is by nominating top union leaders for the posts of congressional representative or senator in the national legislature. The PRI supports the union leaders, and the union leaders are generally among the most loyal supporters of the party and its policies.
Some of the nominees for the national congressional elections to take place in June include officials whose unions have engaged in questionable practices:
• Dr. Manuel Vallejo Barragán who was elected to head the National Union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS) in 2012. In 2014 the SNTSS was found to have violated the federal electoral law when the top leadership instructed local leaders to conduct a census and determine each worker’s party membership or political preference.
• Fernando Navarrete Pérez, the secretary of the interior of the Mexican Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM), a loyal supporter of the union’s leader Carlos Romero Deschamps who was involved in the Pemexgate scandal in which it was found that the STPRM had illegal funneled money to Francisco Labastida, the PRI candidate for president in 2000.
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Citizens Movement (MC) have also nominated some union leaders.


TEACHERS TO PROTEST, STRIKE OVER WAGES, RESOURCES, CUT-BACKS

Teachers at the Colegios de Bachilleres (Colbach) secondary schools and at the Centers for Scientific and Technical Studies (Cecyte) plan to strike in May over low wages and lack of resources at their institutions which they say “have suffered thirty years of deterioration.” Another group of basic education teachers blocked major thoroughfares in Mexico City at the end of April.
Meanwhile the Council of Public Universities and Related Institutions of the Association of Universities and Higher Education (ANUIES) is meeting in Guadalajara where one of the principal issues in the the cutback in the financing of public colleges and universities. Budgets of high schools and colleges have been cut because of the fall in petroleum prices, one of the principal sources of the Mexican government’s income.
ANUIES, using the Secretary of Public Educations’s statistics, reports that today 52.8 percent of all public university classes are now taught by professors who are paid by the hour, rather than having contacts for permanent, full-time work. Mexico has 349,000 college professors, of whom 210,000 work in public universities, of whom 110,880 are hourly employees. Most of these hourly positions are not budgeted.


INDUSTRIALL CALLS FOR “SAFE AND SMOOTH” RETURN OF MINERS’ LEADER

IndustriALL Global union has called for the “safe and smooth” return of the leader of the National Union of Miners and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMRM), Napoleón Gómez Urrutia. Gómez, the general secretary of the union fled Mexico in 2006 after being falsely charged with a US$55 million fraud. He has been leading the union ever since from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Sergio Beltrán Reyes, a spokesman for the union said that there there is now “no legal impediment to his safe return to the country.”
Gómez and the Mineros have throughout the last nine years had the support of both the United Steel Workers and the International Metalworkers Federation. IndustriALL issued the statement calling for his “safe and smooth return” at the Second Regional Meeting of Latin American and Caribbean unions.


SOCIAL STATISTICS

Wages
Some six million Mexicans earn the minimum age of 70.10 pesos or US$4.50 per day, while another 12 million earn 140 pesos or US$9.00 per day, according to the Center for Multidisciplinary Analysis of the Institute for Economic Investigations of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Child Labor
Some 2.5 million children between 5 and 17 years old labor in fields and factories, in small businesses and on the street in Mexico, according to the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination. (CONAPRED).

Poverty
Poverty in Mexico today is at about the same level as in 1992 according to the Mexican Secretary of Social Development. About 53 percent of the population was in poverty in 1992 and in 2012 there were 52.3 percent.

END

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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

 


 

For more Information

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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