Artists share visions
of solidarity across borders
While the UE's strategic organizing alliance with the Mexican Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT) is a relationship based on organizing, it is also one that celebrates art — a people's art rooted in working-class traditions
that transcends national borders and cultural boundaries, finding its inspiration in common purpose and common struggles.
Poster for FAT, artistic exchange
Beatriz Aurora painted the wonderful picture which appears above, as part of an artistic exchange. It was initially used as the convention poster for the FAT’s thirteenth convention, and has also appeared on various FAT publications and calenders.
Mural in UE hall in Erie, Pennsylvania
© Juana Alicia, 2001 Mural in UE Local 506 Hall, Erie Pennsylvania
See a full image of this mural.
In Erie, Pennsylvania, workers celebrated the inauguration of a new mural by Juana Alicia, an artist from San Francisco, whose murals appear, among many other locations, at the San Francisco International Airport, the University of California at Santa Cruz and on the façade of the headquarters of the National Teachers Union in Nicaragua. Aiding Juana Alicia were the assisting artists — Rosalía Mariz, Vaimóana Niumeitolu, Tomashi and Rhea Vedro. A Women's Place: Una Guerrillera para la Solidaridad Internacional, is located in the union hall of UE Local 506, which represents thousands of workers who manufacture Locomotives for General Electric at its sprawling plant nearby.
The contents of the murals are based on historical data, personal stories, poems, and photographs provided by women from Leon and Erie. The image at the center of the Erie mural is a butterfly, the Aztec symbol of movement and change: "Ollin." In its evolution from the chrysalis to caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly, in the mural it represents the evolution of women's strength and leadership in the work world. Among other elements, the mural depicts historical and current labor struggles on the rail cars of two trains, which meet in the center, and run through the landscapes of Erie and Leon, representing the journey of working women over the last century, and the link of solidarity between the UE, FAT, and workers internationally. The rail cars contain panels with detailed historical depictions of the lives and struggles of women workers.
The inauguration of the mural took place during the UE’s national convention. The mural electrified the delegates, Local 506 and 618 members, and guests. Bright and vibrant, big in size and conception, it celebrates working women and international solidarity. Muralist Juana Alicia proclaimed that "organizing and art are one and the same movement," making possible the eradication of racism and sexism.
Amy Newell, former general secretary-treasurer, reminded listeners that for UE, interest in "international solidarity was there from the beginning. UE and FAT developed an alliance of different components, including the fight against NAFTA, but the heart was organizing," Newell said. "We put platitudes into concrete action." The alternative to rampant corporate globalism, she said, is "true internationalism."
Mural in Mexican union hall created by U.S. & Mexican artists
©Mike Alewitz, 1997 FAT office, Mexico City
See a slightly bigger image of this mural.
In a previous exchange, labor muralist Mike Alewitz from New Jersey and community muralist Daniel Manrique Arias from Mexico City met in Mexico City. Alewitz was the principal artist on a mural entitled "Sindicalismo Sin Fronteras" (Trade Unionism without Borders) in the FAT's auditorium and Manrique on a mural entitled "Marcha Por la Autogestión" (March for Self-Management) in the area used for celebrations. The inauguration was timed to coincide with a national meeting of the FAT and couldn't have been better, with hundreds of workers, artists, and intellectuals and an appropriate dedication.
Public Art Group mural in Chicago
©Daniel Manrique, 1997 FAT office, Mexico City
See a bigger image of this mural.
The following Fall, three young muralists from the Chicago Public Art Group assisted Manrique in Chicago on a mural entitled Hands in Solidarity, Hands of freedom; Manos Solidarios, Manos Libres. Meanwhile, Alewitz painted a mural in commemoration of the UPS victory at Teamster City, several blocks away. The inauguration brought together a wide variety of organizations and individuals to focus on some of the problems facing workers and immigrants and generated such energy and enthusiasm that we have little doubt that we will continue to see the impact of this project.
SEE Mexican Labor News & Analysis Volume 2 number 18 (October 2, 1997) for a full description.
For more information:
Or contact Benedicto Martínez, one of the leaders of the FAT at FAX: 011-525-556-9314 or 9375. Spanish only please.