Mexico: US union backs mine strike

As of Aug. 11, some 13 union leaders from the US and Canada had arrived in Cananea, in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, to show support for striking miners there. According to Sergio Tolano Lizarraga, general secretary of Section 65 of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMRM), the US delegation was headed by Manny Armenta, a United Steelworkers (USW) leader in Arizona, with unionists from New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio. The strikers say they also have support from workers from nearby states and from both the conservative Congress of Labor (CT) and the more independent National Workers Union (UNT).

SNTMMRM members went on strike on July 30 at Grupo Mexico mines in Cananea, in Taxco, Guerrero, and in Sombrerete, Zacatecas, over what they say are health and safety violations. On Aug. 7 the Federal Arbitration and Conciliation Council (JFCA) declared the strike a wildcat and gave the workers 24 hours to return to the mines. Under Mexican law, Grupo Mexico can replace the workers if they continue the wildcat. Union lawyers filed for an injunction against the decision. “It can’t be possible that the labor authorities are allowing the company to go on murdering workers through negligence in safety issues,” said SNTMMRM political affairs director Carlos Pavon. (La Jornada, Aug. 8, 10, 12, some from Notimex)

SNTMMRM staged a series of wildcats in 2006 after the federal government removed the union’s leader, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia; two striking SNTMMRM steelworkers were killed in a fight with police in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, on Apr. 20, 2006.

In other labor news, on July 10 the September 19 Union, an independent local union affiliated with the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), filed a petition with the Local Conciliation and Arbitration Board (JLCA) for title to the collective agreement at Vaqueros Navarra, a garment factory in Tehuacan, Puebla, in the southern state of Puebla. The plant currently has an “official” union affiliated with the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The independent union grew out of struggles in May over the amounts paid out in the company’s profit sharing plan. The Tehuacan Valley Human and Labor Rights Commission (CDHL) is supporting the independent union. (Maquila Solidarity Network, Aug. 2)

The Puebla state government held CDHL president Martin Barrios Hernandez in jail on blackmail charges for two weeks at the beginning of 2006; he was released after pressure from national and international labor rights groups.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 5

See our last posts on Mexico, and the labor struggle.