·  USW

USW Condemns New Grupo Mexico Offensive on Sonora Miners

Contact: Ben Davis, 412.562.2501 (O), 202.550.3729 (C)

Pittsburgh (Sept. 2) -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today condemned Grupo Mexico SAB, Mexico's largest mining company, for a mass firing of workers at its copper smelter in Esqueda, Sonora after the miners rejected a company-imposed union in a vote late last month.

“This blatant act of repression clearly puts Grupo Mexico’s anti-union vendetta ahead of the company’s interest in having stable labor relations,” declared Leo W. Gerard, USW international president.

The mass firing, enforced by a thousand heavily armed federal police who entered the town on Aug. 31, threatens to disrupt production at the smelter.  “Instead of deploying the police to protect its citizens from the drug cartels, the Mexican government is using them to bust democratic unions run by the workers and not the company,” Gerard said.

The miners voted on August 20 to reject the Grupo Mexico sponsored union in order to rejoin the independently chartered National Union of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) known as Los Mineros.

The Esqueda workers had complained the company union originally imposed on them by Grupo Mexico three years ago would not allow them to see their contract. The miners complained the company union did nothing when Grupo Mexico refused to make legally-required profit-sharing payments. “We stand for dialogue and negotiation with the company,” said local union president Roheri Sánchez Cruz, “but with absolute respect for the interests of workers. They can no longer treat us like slaves. "

In another union busting incident in the same northern Sonora state on June 6, four thousand police used helicopters and tear gas to drive striking union members out of Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine.  But on August 10, a federal judge issued an injunction requiring the company to allow the strikers to re-enter the mine, dealing a blow to the company’s claims that it would re-start production in September.

Grupo Mexico’s adversarial labor relations continue to generate conflicts throughout the Americas.  The company’s negotiations with unions at its Peruvian copper operations, affiliated to the National Federation of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers of Peru (FNTMMSP), have reached an impasse and are prepared for a work stoppage. On August 9, USW President Gerard sent a letter to the director of Grupo Mexico’s Southern Copper subsidiary in Peru, expressing support for the unions’ demands.

“It seems like Grupo Mexico’s bad labor relations are affecting the company’s bottom line,” said USW District 12 Director Robert LaVenture, who chairs the union’s bargaining with Grupo Mexico’s Asarco U.S. subsidiary.  The collective bargaining agreement at Asarco expires in July 2011.

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