USW Promises to Continue Solidarity on 10th Anniversary of Mineros Strike

(PITTSBURGH) – The United Steelworkers (USW) released the following statement from USW International President Leo W. Gerard on the 10th anniversary of strikes launched by the Mexican miners and metalworkers union Los Mineros at three Grupo Mexico locations.

“On July 30, members of Los Mineros, the mining, steel and manufacturing workers’ union of Mexico led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, will mark the 10th anniversary of their strike against Grupo Mexico at three locations: Cananea, Sombrerete, and Taxco.

“The strike began in 2007 when the company, supported by the Mexican government, attempted to remove Gómez from the union leadership and gut the union’s collective bargaining agreements. At other Grupo Mexico locations, the company was able to break the Mineros and install company-controlled ‘protection’ unions, but workers at Cananea, Sombrerete, and Taxco have continued to resist thanks to the support of their fellow union members and their families over the past decade.

“Grupo Mexico has continued its effort to suppress democratic unions. At Cananea, the company installed a puppet union, the CTM, in 2010 after an armed assault on the Mineros by 4,000 military and police backed by helicopters. Since that date, workers have continued to die as a result of health and safety violations, and nearly three years ago on August 6, 2014, the company released millions of gallons of toxic mine waste into the Sonora River, poisoning local communities.

“The Mineros and local residents have continued to fight back, demanding that the company pay for the damage to the environment as well as profit-sharing payments that are owed to Mineros members. Likewise, workers in Taxco and Sombrerete have fiercely resisted the company's attempts to buy them off or force them out.

“At mines, mills, and factories across Mexico, the government has assisted employers to fight Mineros organizing campaigns and bargaining demands, denying workers the right to free elections to choose their union and using violence to break strikes. The government has refused to allow the leader of the Mineros, Napoleón Gómez, to enter the country, continuing to file spurious criminal charges against him even after he was cleared by the highest court in 2014.

“Despite these attacks, the Mineros have continued to organize new members, launch strikes, and win the highest wage increases of any workers in Mexico.

“Grupo Mexico has also disregarded the rights of USW members at Asarco in Arizona and Texas, who have been working without a wage increase since 2009. The company has refused to pay copper bonuses to employees hired after June 30, 2011. Region 28 of the National Labor Relations Board has issued several unfair labor practice charges against the company. The USW continues to fight for a fair and equitable contract for its members.

“Led by USW District 12, the Steelworkers and Workers Uniting have stood with our Mineros sisters and brothers for the past decade, working together to build cross-border solidarity in defense of workers’ rights and in support of local communities. We will continue this solidarity – one day longer – until justice is won.

“On Aug. 16, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. will begin discussions on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Unions from all three countries have demanded that any new agreement include an effective and enforceable mechanism to prevent violations of workers' fundamental rights to organize, bargain, and strike.

“One thing is clear – we can never support or accept a trade agreement that permits attacks on the rights of workers and the welfare of communities such as those committed by the Mexican government and Grupo Mexico over the past decade.” 

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.

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