Mexico: strike against Fox labor plans

Tens of thousands of Mexican workers from a wide range of unions left work and took to the streets on April 28 to express their opposition to the labor policies of center-right president Vicente Fox Quesada and to demand the resignation of Labor Secretary Francisco Javier Salazar Saenz. A major focus was the death of two unionists in the government’s attack on striking steelworkers in Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan on April 20. (See our last report, in which, following our source, we incorrectly identified a steel plant in Lazaro Cardenas as “Metal Steel”; the plant belongs to Mittal Steel Lazaro Cardenas, a subsidiary of the huge Mittal Steel multinational.)

In Mexico City, what was intended as a one-hour general strike at noon ended up snarling traffic until past 4 PM. Different unions affiliated with the independent National Workers Union (UNT) held simultaneous rallies at the Labor Secretariat offices, at the offices of the Luz y Fuerza electric company and at other locations around the city. Workers in the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Campesinos (CROC), an old-line union affiliated with the once-ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), struck at the city’s most luxurious hotels and restaurants, while about 400 garment workers affiliated with the CROC walked out in the Tlalpan section of the city. The CROC reported that workers honored the strike at textile, manufacturing and assembly plants in the states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, Mexico, Queretaro and Hidalgo.

Some 40,000 administrative workers in Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) offices around the country observed the strike, while in Mexico City workers shut down the three campuses of the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM).

The Federal District (DF) police estimated that 22,000 people participated in street demonstrations in Mexico City, but the unions claimed that 4 million workers had participated nationwide. Union leaders called on Salazar to resign by May 1, which is a national holiday in Mexico, and threatened to call a national strike if he doesn’t. (La Jornada, April 29)

Many workers also called for a “Nothing Gringo” boycott of US products to show solidarity with immigrant workers in the US, many of whom plan to carry out a “Day Without Immigrants,” a nationwide boycott and general strike, on May 1. Electrical workers blocked a major road in Mexico City chanting: “Don’t buy gringo products! Long live the boycott!” Electrical worker Isaac Morales told Associated Press he and his family would stay away from McDonalds and Burger King for the next week. “It should be forever,” he said. “It’s essential to buy Mexican products to be able to generate better jobs.” (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, April 30)

On April 29 some 1,100 union dissidents met in the National Union of Uniroyal Workers headquarters with Sub-Commander Marcos (now known as “Delegate Zero”), spokesperson for the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), based in the indigenous areas of the southeastern state of Chiapas. Since January EZLN representatives have been touring the country in “The Other Campaign,” an effort to revitalize the Mexican left as the major parties campaign for the July 2 federal elections. The rebels had scheduled their visit to the capital so they’d be able to take part in the city’s massive May 1 marches. Marcos called on the workers to have an “other May 1” and an “other labor movement,” and to fight not just for union democracy and better wages but “to destroy the capitalists and take the ownership of the means of production away from them.” (LJ, April 30)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 30

See our last posts on Mexico and the new labor unrest.

  1. Mexico Mayday update
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 7:


    Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans marked May 1 with one of the labor movement’s largest turnouts in years. The giant Zocalo plaza was unable to hold the estimated 90,000 to 200,000 marchers in downtown Mexico City, far more than the organizers expected, and speakers had to hurry the crowd on so that other unionists could march past the speakers’ platform. Tens of thousands marched in official and unofficial ceremonies in many states: 50,000 in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, 80,000 in Toluca in Mexico state, and more than 6,000 in Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan, where police killed two striking steelworkers on April 20. Some governors, including Puebla’s Mario Marin Torres, under investigation for corruption, avoided the ceremonies.

    In contrast to previous years, independent unions in the National Workers Union (UNT) and old-line unions like the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Campesinos (CROC) marched together. As during a one-hour general strike on April 28, many sectors of the labor movement were united in their anger over the killing of the steelworkers and in their demand for the resignation of Labor Secreatary Francisco Salazar Saenz (see our last update). Speakers called for a national general strike, and said that labor leaders were meeting on May 4 to plan further mobilizations. (LJ, NYT, May 2)

    The May 1 demonstrations included support for demonstrations that day by immigrant workers in the US. Protesters in the northwestern state of Sonora snarled traffic at all major crossing points along the border with Arizona. Activists stopped traffic completely for about 20 minutes in San Luis; traffic at the Nogales commercial port of entry was down by about half; only about a tenth of the usual traffic went through the Douglas-Agua Prieta crossing because of protests on the Mexican side. (Arizona Republic, May 2) Several hundred protesters in the northwestern city of Tijuana, Baja California Norte, blocked traffic on a bridge leading into the US for about two hours, waving flags and shouting slogans; the border crossing there is the world’s busiest. (AP, May 2)

    A planned boycott of US stores and restaurants in Mexico City was less successful. Reporters saw no significant difference in activity at most local Wal-Marts. But at noon about 40 students and one teacher from the Tlatelolco Martyrs high school peacefully blocked access to the Wal-Mart on Insurgentes avenue in the Buenavista neighborhood for an hour. (LJ, May 2) In Toluca, a group of Mazahua indigenous women brought homemade food into a McDonald’s and encouraged customers to eat it instead of the fast food. Many customers left, or stayed to eat sopes, snacks made with thick corn tortillas, local news media reported. The Mazahuas also passed out leaflets urging support for the immigrant protests in the US. (AP, May 2)