Mexico: government to bust electrical workers?

Members of the independent Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) were guarding the Mexico City facilities of the state-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) to make sure the federal government could not “throw the switch and blame the workers,” union president Martín Esparza Flores said after a labor forum in the capital on Oct. 3. The union charged on Sept. 29 that President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s center-right administration was contemplating a quasi-military occupation of the plants within a week on the pretext that the SME was planning to cause a blackout. The LFC provides power for the Federal District, and México, Morelos, Puebla and Hidalgo states.

The union denied any intention to sabotage the system; the SME was calling for resistance through mobilizations and marches, Esparza Flores said. The militant union has been a leading force in the National Front Against Privatization and other movements fighting the government’s neoliberal economic policies.

Labor Secretary Javier Lozano Alarcón has refused to recognize Esparza Flores as president of the union following an election this year that was challenged by Alejandro Muñoz Reséndiz, who heads the small dissident group Union Transparency. Lozano could declare the election invalid, leaving the union without official leaders. The secretary of labor used a similar tactic with the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM), leading to a three-year struggle that remains unresolved. The move against the SME leadership came as the government was reducing the power company’s budget and was calling for a change in management and for the complete restructuring of the company.

The SME says that Muñoz Reséndiz and some 20-30 other Union Transparency members attacked the union’s headquarters in Mexico City on Sept. 23, taking money, checkbooks and records. They were supported by about 150 other people who were not members of the union, some of them armed, according to the SME. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 4; Mexican Labor News and Analysis, September 2009)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 4

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.

  1. You speak of these workers
    You speak of these workers as if they were innocent victims. Every Mexico City resident worth his salt considers this union abominable. They are a CRIMINAL SYNDICATE OF PROFESSIONAL EXTORTIONISTS. They summarily threaten you with gigantic rate schedules unless you bribe. If you take them to court, it takes years to resolve it. If they end up owing you money, THEY NEVER PAY. If your street needs a transformer, they put out fake documents and tell the residents of the street that they need to pay for the transformer or they wont get it. Then they pocket the money. These union leaders should have been imprisoned long ago. They are dinosaur remnants of the old oligarchic system, and Calderón will do right if he finally breaks their nepotistic organization (where you have to know someone to get a job there, or bribe your way in to be a part of it). What I’ve mentioned, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the LFC crimes against the residents of Mexico City who have put up with their abuses for long enough.

    1. We cite our sources…
      The Weekly News Update is a news summary carrying stories from Latin America and the Caribbean that we think will be of interest to activists in the US and elsewhere. We generally use progressive sources which we have found to be reliable or which we consider reliable on specific topics. The item above isn’t an opinion piece: as you can see, it’s a digest of reporting from La Jornada in Mexico, one of the most respected newspapers in Latin America, and from Mexican Labor News and Analysis, which is sponsored by the United Electrical Workers (UE) and is edited by Dan La Botz, a longtime student of the Mexican labor movement. If you have problems with their reporting, you can take your complaints up with them.

      It is true that Martin Esparza’s support within the SME seems to be weakening. According to the Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal, the vote in the union’s July elections was very close–27,010 to 26,658. On the other hand, Esparza is regularly a featured speaker at labor rallies and other protests against neoliberal policies, and in the current struggle the SME leadership is getting support from a range of forces in the Party of the Democratic Revolution, from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to Jesus Ortega. Against the public backing of much of the Mexican labor movement and the left, you just cite what you say is the opinion of “every Mexico City resident who’s worth his salt.”

      Calderon’s center-right government has now taken over the LFC installations and fired all the workers. We’ll send out an update on that as soon as we can.