Saturday, July 31, 2010

Support the Mexican Electrical Workers

This is a Critical Moment -- Please help us respond to SME's request for solidarity!

UE International Action Alert
July 29, 2010

In what appears to be a breakthrough, the SME has lifted its hunger strike based on the government's commitment to engage in negotiations. The union sat down for the first time on Monday, July 26. On July 27 there was an assembly which resulted in a plan to send a caravan to Cananea in solidarity with the third anniversary of that strike on Friday, July 30.

SME has requested that we make our concern clear to the Mexican government.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the UE, CEP, USW, ICEM and IMF all agreed to co-sponsor a LabourStart campaign to encourage the Mexican government to honor its commitment to negotiate and to resolve the conflicts with SME and with the miners at Cananea.

We Are Now Asking You to Do Three Things:

1) Help us generate a flood of letters by joining the LabourStart campaign. This will take less than a minute -- simply click on

2) If you belong to an organization, send a letter on behalf of your organization as soon as possible. The letter prepared by the UE appears below, so that you can use or modify the text.

3) Get this information out and circulating! Pass this alert on to your co-workers, family and friends. If you have access to a web site, please put up this information.

A Brief History of the Recent Struggles of the SME and Cananea Miners

Following the Mexican presidential election in 2006 of Felipe Calderón, the attack on workers’ rights escalated sharply, especially against independent unions that have taken a strong stand against its attempts to pursue the neo-liberal policies of privatization and labor law “reform.”
Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME)

On the night of October 10, President Calderón ordered 6,000 federal police to seize the power plants operated by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), while simultaneously liquidating the second largest state-owned Light and Power Company (Luz y Fuerza del Centro), and firing the entire workforce of approximately 44,000 employees. Five days earlier, the government refused to accord legal recognition to the democratically elected president of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union, Martín Esparza, although this should have been a routine matter.

The union responded in a variety of ways – through mobilizations, legal cases on the domestic and international levels, political pressure and a hunger strike. Two recent developments make it appear that a resolution may be possible. First, earlier this month the Mexican Supreme Court ruled on two issues. Although the court upheld the President’s Constitutional right to liquidate the company it also ruled that SME is the legitimate representative of the workers and that it may continue to represent those workers before government courts, labor boards and other agencies. The SME continues to demand that the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE), another state-owned company that absorbed the Light and Power company, be recognized as the successor employer and fulfill the union contract, rehiring the fired workers. The Federal Labor Board (JFCA) returns from its summer vacation next week.

Meanwhile, the union had engaged in a hunger strike which has increasingly gained public attention. Going on 90 days, pressure increased on the government as several workers neared death.

In what appears to be a breakthrough, the SME has lifted its hunger strike based on the government's commitment to engage in negotiations. They met for the first time on Monday. On Tuesday there was an assembly which resulted in a plan to send a caravan to Cananea in solidarity with the third anniversary of that strike.

Los Mineros Strike in Cananea

The Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) launched the strike in 2007 and occupied the mine to protest the company’s refusal to remedy extreme safety hazards. In February 2010, a Mexican appellate court gave the green light to the Calderón government to terminate 1,200 copper miners and to break a three-year old strike at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine in northern Mexico. The court’s decision threatens to effectively eliminate the right to strike in Mexico. It also set the stage for the government’s recent invasion of Cananea, dislodging the striking workers, attacking them in their local union headquarters and closing it down. As if that weren’t enough, they also dislodged families of 65 miners killed several years ago at the Pasta de Conchas mine, where an explosion took their lives and Grupo Mexico and the government have yet to recover the bodies. The families had been camped out by the mine demanding that the federal government and Grupo Mexico return their husbands' bodies for burial.

More extensive background material

You will find a lot of background material about the on-going struggle of the Mexican Mineworkers and Electrical Workers Unions in English in previous issues of Mexican Labor News and Analysis at . You will find much more in Spanish in the progressive Mexico City paper, La Jornada at .

Sample organizational letter:

If you belong to an organization, please support SME and the Cananea miners by sending a letter. This is the letter sent by the national officers of the United Electrical, radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Feel free to use it as a model or draft your own!

July 29, 2010
Felipe Calderón Hinojosa
President of Mexico
Los Pinos
Mexico D.F.

Dear President Calderón:

We are writing to you on behalf of the tens of thousands of U.S. workers who are members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). It is with grave concern that we have been following the developments regarding the discharge of some 44,000 members of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) and of the1,200 copper miners in the three-year old strike at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine. Indeed, the escalating attack on workers’ rights is one of the topics that most frequently appear in the news regarding Mexico. We were therefore very pleased to learn that your government has entered into a written commitment to engage in negotiations and that in return the SME has lifted its hunger strike.

We trust that such negotiations will move forward in good faith and stress the critical importance of a resolution that includes the reinstatement of the thousands of fired workers as required under Mexican law pursuant to the doctrine of substitute employer; that recognition (toma de nota) be accorded to the 26 members of the legally elected leadership of SME; and that all arrest warrants that have been issued against workers involved in this dispute be withdrawn.

Similarly, we are aware that the SME has sent a Caravan to Cananea, the site of another egregious violation of workers’ rights. Unions in the United States, Canada, and throughout the globe stand in solidarity with the demand of the Cananea strikers for reinstatement and resolution of that dispute.

Our union and other organizations around the world will be closely monitoring your government’s actions in the coming period, and look forward to learning of the successful resolution of these matters which have severely tarnished the image of your government.


Bruce J. Klipple John H. Hovis,Jr Robert B. Kingsley
General Secretary-Treasurer General President Director of Organization

cc: SECRETARIA DE GOBERNACIÓN Lic. Francisco Blake Mora
Martín Esparza, Secretario General, Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME)
Carlos Esquer, Comite Nacional desde de la Sección 65, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros,Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana
Benedicto Martínez, Coodinación Nacional, Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT), Vicepresidente, Union Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT)

Please email your letters to: , , ,

Robin Alexander
UE Director of International Affairs
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)
One Gateway Center, Suite 1400
PGH., PA. 15222-1416

412-471-8999 FAX

Labor and related news from Mexico is reported monthly in Mexican Labor News and Analysis. Check it out on our web site:

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