U.S. Unions Bring Solidarity to Striking Mexican Workers

By Ben Davis, USW

A delegation of union leaders from the national AFL-CIO, the Texas AFL-CIO, the UAW and the United Steelworkers (USW) traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, last week to support tens of thousands of factory workers who have launched a wave of strikes to demand wage increases and democratic control of their unions.

Since Jan. 25, at least 48 factories that produce auto parts and other goods for export to the United States have signed agreements to increase wages by 20% and pay a bonus of 32,000 pesos (about $1,750). This is a huge victory for the workers, most of whom make around $2 per hour. In the past week, the strike wave has spread beyond the factories to supermarkets and other employers, with all the workers demanding "20/32." The leaders of the Matamoros unions, which historically have been close to the employers, were forced to endorse the workers’ demands.

The delegation visited the picket line at Advanced Scientifics, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientifics, which produces medical supplies. Some 70 workers have been camped outside the plant 24 hours a day in near-freezing temperatures.

"It’s heartbreaking to see workers who make life-saving equipment treated with so little respect," said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza. "This is what happens when we sign trade agreements like [the North American Free Trade Ageement] that have no real protections for workers’ rights."

While the wage increase and bonus are a huge victory, the employers and the Confederation of Mexican Workers unions are striking back already. In the past week, as many as 2,000 strike leaders have been fired and blacklisted, despite legal prohibitions and non-reprisal agreements signed by the employers. The U.S. delegation met with fired leaders from several factories who are planning a public protest to demand reinstatement. Here are their testimonies:

  • "We were told we were fired because we offended the company."
  • "The union never helped us, they deceived us. So we had to put our own courage on the line to confront them."
  • "We need to be firm. I have a family, too. My greatest wish is that justice is served. I don’t want just a salary, I want justice!"

"These workers—many of whom are working mothers—are fighting for the pay they’re owed, for better working conditions and for respect on the job," said Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Montserrat Garibay. "They are using their voices, and it is time to listen. The Mexican and U.S. governments must both demand that these U.S. companies honor their agreements and stop firing and blacklisting these courageous workers."

***

Reposted from AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Steel for Wind Power

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

Siemens Gamesa last month laid off 130 workers at its turbine blade manufacturing plant in Iowa, just months after GE Renewable Energy decided to close an Arkansas factory and eliminate 470 jobs.

The companies reported shrinking demand for their products, even though U.S. consumption of wind energy increases every year.

America’s prosperity depends not only on harnessing this crucial energy source but also ensuring that highly skilled U.S. workers build the components with the cleanest technology available.

Right now, the nation relies on imported steel and turbine components from foreign manufacturers like China while America’s own steel industry—well equipped for this production—struggles because of dumping and other unfair trade practices.

Steel makes up the bulk of turbine hubs and the wind towers themselves. It’s also used to make the cranes and platforms necessary for installing the towers.

Yet the potential boon to America’s steel industry is just one reason to ramp up domestic production of wind energy infrastructure.

American steel production ranks among the cleanest in the world, while China has the highest carbon emissions of any steelmaking nation and flouts environmental regulations.

The nation’s highly-skilled steelmaking workforce must play an essential role in the deeply-needed revitalization and modernization of the nation’s failing infrastructure. Producing the components for harnessing wind energy domestically and cleanly is an important step that will put Americans to work and position the United States to be world leaders in this growing industry.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work