|STIMAHCS-FAT union leaders at DMI Mexico City. L to R: Arturo Flores Olvera, chief steward; Juan García de la Cruz, general sec.; Socorro Peñaloza Garrido, recording sec.; Vicente Sánchez Grande, financial sec., José Perez San Luis, education sec.|
|Not shown: Hilario Nava Maldonado, sec. of organization|
March 13, 2012
UE Local 715 Welcomes FAT's First Contract With DMI at Mexican Plant
STIMAHCS, the metalworkers union affiliated with the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) settled its first contract in late January with DMI, formerly Metaldyne, covering workers in the Mexico City plant. Workers at the DMI plant in Edon, Ohio are members of UE Local 715, which has supported the Mexican workers' struggle.
This has been a long and tough campaign. The Mexican DMI workers won an election on October 8, 2010, following a two-year struggle to get the labor board to set an election. Both before and after their election victory, the workers had to overcome numerous legal obstacles and they experienced first-hand how workers' wishes can be thwarted by the combined power of the employer, government and Mexico's corrupt "official" unions. Many workers were fired, and at times it seemed that fear and discouragement might prevail. But new waves of workers vowed to continue the fight, and they finally won the right to a union of their own choosing and recognition from the company.
Although negotiations were not easy, as the company and negotiating committee worked through the issues, DMI management came to understand and appreciate what it means for workers to be represented by a democratic union.
Benedicto Martínez, general secretary of STIMAHCS and one of the national leaders of the FAT, commented on the victory: “After a very long organizing campaign we were able to obtain a good first contract: a 5 percent wage increase plus improvements in benefits. But the most important thing from our perspective is that despite the difficulties inherent in contract negotiations – and more so when management is prejudiced against independent unionism in general and against us in particular because of our history of struggle – we had the opportunity to engage in discussions with the general manager and were able to commit to each other to work together to try to resolve through dialog all of the problems that may occur in the plant."
Like the Mexican workers, the members of UE Local 715 also manufacture automobile suspension systems for DMI and have shown solidarity with the workers in Mexico through the long campaign.
Following the election, the DMI union leaders wrote to the leadership of Local 715: “…from now on we would like for our relationship with you to be closer and more direct, and that this will permit us to collaborate more with you. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are also aware and convinced that a change such as this is what is needed by the majority of workers in Mexico and other parts of the world. We are therefore willing whenever you ask us, to provide our testimony so that it may serve as inspiration and motivation to other workers who are experiencing a situation similar to the one we have just lived through.”
UE Local 715 Vice President Pat Berry met with the Mexican DMI workers and toured the plant last spring as part of a UE delegation to Mexico. He delivered a strong message to management – both in Mexico City and upon his return to the U.S. – that the company should respect the law, recognize STIMAHCS’s election victory, and begin negotiations with the union.
Once negotiations began, Local 715 followed them closely. When informed that a settlement had been reached, Berry quickly shot off an email “That’s Great!!!!! Did they do all right?” He was pleased to learn that the settlement was better than what workers had received the year before. Later, Local 715 President Marty Swander also congratulated the Mexican union members and wished them, "Best of luck in the future, from the Local 715 committee." The Ohio UE local is sending an official letter of congratulations with the UE delegation that will be traveling to Mexico in February, and is exploring the possibility of a visit by STIMAHCS leaders in May in connection with the Labor Notes conference in Chicago.