Mexico: international unions back miners

A delegation of union leaders and parliamentarians from 13 countries visited Mexico for five days during the week of July 8 to show support for the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers and the Like of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) in its three-year struggle against the Mexican government and the Grupo México transnational. Organized by the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), and the United Steelworkers (USW), the delegation included legislators from Australia, Canada and Peru, and union leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Norway, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the US.

The confrontation in the mines and steel mills, which started in 2006 when the government removed SNTMMSRM head Napoleón Gómez Urrutia for alleged corruption, has included a two-year strike at the giant Cananea copper mine in Sonora state and numerous clashes between workers and security forces. Four union members have died in the struggle.

Jack Layton, the head of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) and the leader of the delegation, said the best hope for getting labor rights recognized in Mexico is for President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and his center-right National Action Party (PAN) to be swept from power. The SNTMMSRM, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding on July 11, has also received support from the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and from 27 members of the US Congress, who wrote to Calderón on July 7 that the situation raises “serious questions about labor practices in your country.” The delegation’s visit received minimal coverage in the Mexican and the US media. (Mexican Labor News and Analysis, July; Frontera NorteSur, July 11; Toronto Star, July 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 19

See our last post on Mexico and the labor struggle.