Mexican Labor Dictionary
By Dan La Botz and Robin Alexander
This is a dictionary of labor terms as used in Mexico.
These terms are not necessarily the same in other Latin American countries or in the United States.
Abogado/a laboral – labor lawyer
Administrador – the manager of a plant or agency
Aguinaldo – the Christmas bonus, required by law, and expected in all workplaces; may be as much as an additional month’s wages.
Almacén, bodega – warehouse
Amparo – an injunction or writ of appeal
Artículo 123 – Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 gave workers the right to organize unions, strike, protective legislation,etc. and is the basis for all subsequent labor legislation.
Aviadores – aviators or pilots, but also used for ghost workers, that is workers who do not show up for work but collect pay, usually in government employment.
Banderas de huelga – red and black strike flags put on the door of the workplace when there is a strike.
Bandera rojinegra – the red and black union flag put up on the door of the workplace when there is a strike
Base – the rank-and-file of the union, the grassroots
Boycott – boycott as in English
Burócratas – public employees, government workers
Campesino – peasant, farmer
Chamba – slang for job
Chambear – slang for to work
Charro – corrupt, violent, union bureaucrats in collusion with government
Chofer – driver, truck driver
Cláusula de exclusion – permits the union to expel those who violate its discipline, often used against opponents of the charros; the employer then fires the worker because s/he is not a member of the union.
Compañero/a – friend, comrade, union, brother or sister
Confección – garment manufacture
Contrato colectivo – collective bargaining agreement or contract
Contrato de proteción – contract, generally with charro union, that protects the employer, signed without knowledge or consent by workers, or before workers are hired
Contrato individual – in Mexico, workers sometimes sign an individual employment contract, which is not a union agreement
Contrato ley – a pattern bargaining agreement required by Federal Labor Law in some industries – that is a contract covering many enterprises, workplaces
Corporativism – the system of state-party control which includes government controlled unions.
Correr – fire
Costura – garment industry
Costurera – garment worker, seamstress
Cuotas – union dues
De planta – to be a permanent, full-time worker
Delegado – union representative, could be translated as steward
Demanda por firma de contrato – legal petition to require recognition of the union and the signing of a contract. It is the legal procedure which must be followed if there is no certified union in a work place.
Demanda por titularidad – This is the legal procedure which must be followed if there is already a certified union in a work place, and will result in an election to determine which union represents a majority of the work force and is therefore entitled to administer the already existing contract.
Despedir – layoff or fire
Destajo – piecework, pay for the piece
Dueño – owner of property, landlord
Emplazar una huelga – file the notice with the government, required for a legal strike
Empresa – the firm or company
Estallar una huelga – to go out on strike in accordance with the notice
Esquirol – scab, strikebreaker
Estado (Estatal) – 1) the Federal government, the state; 2) a state, such as Chihuahua
Fábrica – factory
Flexibilidad – the employers’ demand for more flexibility in the disposition of labor, generally getting rid of contractual protections
Gerente – company manager
Golpeadores – goons, thugs
Gremio – a trade or craft; also a guild
Guardias blancas – employer goon squad, especially in the countryside, but also in urban areas – boss’s gangsters
Guarruras – riot police
Huelga – strike
Huelga de hambre – hunger strike
IMSS – the Mexican Institute of Social Security, the national health care and retirement plan for most industrial workers
Jornalero – day laborer usually in agriculture
Junta – labor board
Junta Federal/Local de Conciliación y Arbitraje – the Federal or Local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, could be referred to as the labor board, comparable to the National Labor Relations Board in the United States.
Ley Federal de Trabajo or LFT – Federal Labor Law – basic labor law for all workers, based on Articulo 123 above.
Libertad sindical – union independence or union democracy, as opposed to corporativism.
Limpieza – cleaning – a trabajador/a de la limpieza is a cleaning worker
Liquidación – severance pay, as provided for in the Federal labor law
Maestros – teachers
Magisterio – teachers
Maquila – assembly or manufacturing plant
Maqiladora – assembly or manufacturing plant
Maquinista – machinist
Mayordomo – the foreman
Mecánico – mechanic
Menores de edad – minors
Mesa directiva– executive board of a union or other organization
Montacarga – Forklift - (Driver - montacarguista)
Negociaciones colectivas salariales – contract negotiations over wages (generally take place annually).
Negociaciones colectivas contractuales – contract negotiations over language (generally take place every other year).
Obrero/a – worker
Oficio – a trade or craft
Oficinista – office worker, clerical worker
Operador/a – operative, machine operator in a factory
Pago / pagar – pay
Pagar por hora – to pay by the hour – not legal in Mexico where workers must be given a full week’s work. Part-time, hourly work is not legal, although it is increasingly common
Paracaidista – squatter
Paro – a work stoppage
Paro de brazos caídos – a work stoppage at the machine or in the workplace, a sit-down strike
Paro técnico – a temporary plant shut down for a period of time where workers receive a portion of their pay
Patrón – boss
Pistolero – gunman, gun thug
Planta – the plant or factory (see de planta above)
Plantón – protest, usually a sit-in, in front of a factory
Porros – union or political loyalists, cheerleaders, can mean goon squad
Prestaciones – benefits provided by law or by contract, usually such things as transportation, food, clothing, etc. (Health coverage is provided by government.)
Profesor – teacher, higher education
Profesionista – professional worker
Registro – The legal prerequisite for participation in a representation proceeding, registration of the union with the government is an extremely difficult hurdle for independent unions to overcome.
Registros may be limited to a particular workplace or company, or may be based on a type of industry within either a defined geographic area or the entire Republic of Mexico.
Requiza – government take-over of a communications or transportation company or industry during a threatened or actual strike I thought this was an order preventing a strike, not necessarily a take over.
Riesgos de trabajo – safety risks on the job
Salario – wages
Salud y seguridad – health and safety on the job
Secretaría de Trabajo y Previsión Social – the Mexican government’s Secretary of Labor, a cabinet minister position
Secretario general – general secretary, the top officer of a labor union
Sector Obrero – the parliamentary representation from unions in the old Institutional Revolutionary Party governments, that is union leaders who were also congressmen or senators
Seguridad Social – see IMSS above, the Mexican national health plan and retirement program for industrial workers
Sindicato – union
Sindicato blanco – company union, a union controlled by the bosses, most common in Monterrey. Not democratic or good for workers.
Sindicato charro – a union run by corrupt, violent union bureaucrats in collusion with government. Not democratic or good for workers.
Sindicato democrático – democratic union where workers run the unionSindicato fantasma – a union known only to the boss and union bureaucrats, which issues protection contracts
Sindicato independiente – independent unions, including unions affiliated with the FAT, which are not controlled by the government, the company or the “official” unions or charros. The term "Independent union" is also used by the employers to refer to the sindicatos blancos or company unions, and sometimes appears in government, employer or news publications that way.
Sindicato oficial – an “official” union, that is a government controlled “charro” union
Sueldo – salary or wages
Taller – a shop, a workshop
Temporada – season
Temporal – temporary worker
Titularidad – a union’s legal right to represent workers and engage in collective bargaining with an employer
Toma de nota – government approval of union officials, usually a difficult hurdle for independent unions
Turno – shift
Tortuguismo – from tortuga, turtle, to go slow, a slowdown.
Trabajador/a – worker
Trabajar – to work
Unión – the union, used in some places on the northern border and in the United States. Sindicato is the preferred Spanish word in Mexico.
Utilidades – profit sharing, all workers are entitled to profit sharing under the law