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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Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Write About Haiti

By Ansel Herz, Huffington Post
July 23, 2010

Port-au-Prince, Haiti--Actor Sean Penn, who is helping manage a camp of displaced earthquake victims in Haiti, is making pointed criticisms of journalists for dropping the ball on coverage of Haiti. He's wrong. I've been on the ground in Port-au-Prince working as an independent journalist for the past ten months. I'm an earthquake survivor who's seen the big-time reporters come and go. They're doing such a stellar job and I want to help out, so I've written this handy guide for when they come back on the one-year anniversary of the January quake!

For starters, always use the phrase 'the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.' Your audience must be reminded again of Haiti's exceptional poverty. It's doubtful that other articles have mentioned this fact. [...]

Read the full article:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

MPP Delegation, January 2010, and Monsanto Protest, June 2010

This is a slideshow of photos independent photojournalist Tequila Minsky took while on a delegation to the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Papaye Peasant Movement) center near Hinche in Haiti's Central Plateau in January 2010, and then a protest against Monsanto in Hinche in June .

The first part shows various projects at the center: an artificial lake (with aid from the European Union), recycling, a nursery, cassava production, a community radio station, buildings constructed with bricks made out of local clay. There are also a few pictures of refugees from the January earthquake who were temporarily housed at the MPP center and with local peasant families.

The second part shows the huge demonstration rejecting Monsanto's hybrid seeds. The mural in the background of the stage commemorates Hinche-born resistance Charlemagne Peralte, who died fighting the 1915 U.S. occupation.

The music is by Boukman Esperyans .

Watch the slideshow:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"We've Lost the Battle, but We Haven't Lost the War:" Haiti Six Months After the Earthquake

By Beverly Bell, Truthout
July 15, 2010

Haiti during the World Cup is much like my hometown of New Orleans was during the Superbowl. Don't try to make plans with anyone to do anything during a game. (In the more cash-rich New Orleans, the ban on non-game-related activity stretched back a day or two before a game, because there was food and alcohol to be purchased and a feast to be cooked.) I make the mistake of trying to go to a cell phone office during that time; employees sit hypnotized in front of the big-screen TV, unwilling to be distracted by clients.

When Argentina, a favorite in Haiti, loses the soccer match, I can finally conduct my business and leave the store. People are pouring out from their tents and houses with a thing or two to express about Argentina's loss. A group of skinny men parades in bikinis and wigs. Noontime drunks shout nonsense at each other. Throngs of mourners dance through the streets of Port-au-Prince, waving Argentine flags and palm fronds. Among them, loyalists still smarting from Brazil's loss wrap cloths with that country's flag around their heads.

"Thank God it's almost over," my friend Maryse, director of a special education school, said this morning. [...]

Read the full article:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Petition to Monsanto Corporation to stop shipping contaminated seeds to Haiti

Mr. Hugh Grant
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Monsanto Corporation

Dear Mr. Grant,

In mid May of 2010, it was announced in Haiti that your company, Monsanto Corporation, decided to give 475 tons of seeds to Haiti. In fact, 60 tons had already been distributed in some areas. Perhaps you have been surprised at the criticism of this donation and at the protests against your company and the Haitian government for accepting what many people call a “poisonous gift.” On behalf of thousands of local farmers in Haiti, we demand that you halt further shipments of hybrid seeds to Haiti. [...]

Read and sign the online petition:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Open Letter on Haitian Agriculture to the CEO of Monsanto

By Peter Costantini, Huffington Post
July 5, 2010

To: Hugh Grant, President and CEO, Monsanto

As you are no doubt aware, your offer to donate hybrid corn and vegetable seeds has stirred up quite a controversy in Haiti.

I'd like to call your attention to an article I wrote on this issue recently for Inter Press Service. While I was in Haiti for the month of May, I had a conversation with Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the head of a major Haitian peasant organization and a leader of the international confederation La Via Campesina. He criticized your donation from a perspective on seeds and agriculture based on a very different world view that might be worth your time to understand. [...]

Read the full article:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mayor Builds Palace Among Haiti Rubble

More Than 1 Million Remain Homeless in Haiti Six Months After the Quake
WPLG Local 10, Miami
July 12, 2010

[Le magistrat de Delmas (Port-au-Prince, Haiti) y construit une mansion alors que la zone pullule de milliers de sans-abri frappés par le séisme du 12 janvier 2010. Pour en voir plus, cliquez en bas.]

DELMAS, Haiti -- Among the cracked roads and broken-down lives of the Haitian city of Delmas rises a palace.

There, the emerald lawn is cut by hand. Walls are constructed with hand-laid limestone. Floors are lined with imported marble. The palace even features an amphitheater. When construction is done, the building will be the new city hall and the part-time residence of the mayor.

"This is our response to what happened," Delmas Mayor Wilson Jeudy told Local 10's Jonathan Vigliotti. "The state has to be well represented. It has to be royal."

Jeudy said the last city hall was undamaged by the January's 7.0-magnitude quake. Still, he built the new edifice as the people who elected him into office fought for their lives on the streets.

"In order for us to respond, we need a city hall like this one," he said.

According to Jeudy, when the doors open full-time later this year, it will function as a place to host visitors.

"It's beautiful. Did you see the floors?" said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

On Friday, Edmonson and other Miami-Dade County officials visited Delmas to announce their donation of fire trucks and ambulances. The county also will fly Haitian citizens to Miami for training.

The group gathered in one of the palace's unfinished rooms, where a Haitian man modeled new fire equipment brought over from Miami.

Following the ceremony, commissioners took a tour of how the other side lives in the western hemisphere's poorest country.

"The palace we just left was very grandiose. When you come down here where the people are, it just looks like there has been no movement," said Commissioner Dorrin Rolle.

Life is much different on the other side of city hall's gates. It has been six months since the quake first hit and still an estimated 25 million cubic yards of debris remain. Officials said it could take more than five years to remove the rubble. Only 10,000 of an estimated 1.2 million people have been found housing, and 1,300 new tent cities dot Haiti.

Ironically, critics said the delay in cleanup and rebuilding stems from the United Nations' close oversight of the distribution of funds.

For every dollar donated of the $1.2 billion so far, 99 percent goes directly to aid organizations. Only about 2 percent has been released. The remaining 1 percent, or about $10 million, has gone to the Haitian government.

"How much does this palace cost?" Vigliotti asked Jeudy.

"I cannot tell you how much it is because we're still under construction," he said.

While the price tag is unknown, Jeudy said American cities personally wrote him checks for $150,000.

"We're going to have to talk about this," Edmonson said.

"If you're not moving the people and making a better quality of life for them, then to us, on our side, it looks like nothing has been done. Nothing is being done," Rolle said.

As rebuilding continues, donors said breaking down the walls between the wealthy and those who are barely getting by is important to Haiti's recovery.

After seeing Local 10's story online Monday, a representative from Jeudy's office called to correct a statement. Now, the mayor's office says donations are not being used for the construction. Instead, Jeudy's office said, Haitian taxpayer dollars are being used.

The representative said that following the earthquake, the property was used for patients injured in the quake. The patients moved out as construction continued.

Since the people of Haiti are paying for the construction, according to the mayor's office, Vigliotti asked if the mayor's office would open its gates and allow people who are sleeping in the streets to set up tents on the lawn. The representative said the office would get back to Local 10.

Copyright 2010 by Post-Newsweek Stations. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NYC: Haiti Events on 7/28 and 7/31

(Creole version below)

Haiti Emergency Committee
Wednesday July 28, 2010:
Anti-Occupation Demonstration in Front of the United Nations

43rd St/1st Ave, New York, NY
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.


Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
Saturday July 31, 2010:
Anti-Occupation Forum

Community Hall
Jean-Jacques Dessalines
836 Rogers Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
(Between Church Ave & Erasmus St; #2 Train to Church Ave)
6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.

On Friday July 2nd, 2010, we met and decided to continue to work in the framework of the Haiti Emergency Committee, an organization many groups and individuals created in response to the tragic earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. As can be noted above, we also agreed on a time and specific area for the anti-occupation Demonstration. We are calling on all progressives, justice-minded people and groups to join us and build these events during the month of July 2010

For more information, please call 646-829-9519


Komite Ijans Pou Ayiti
Mèkredi 28 Jiyè, 2010:
Manifestasyon Anti-Okipasyon Devan Nasyon Zini
43èm Ri/1e Avni, Nou Yòk, NY
5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.


Rezo Solidarite ak Batay Ouvriye
Samdi 31 Jiyè, 2010:
Fowòm Anti-Okipasyon
Kay Jean-Jacques Dessalines
836 Rogers Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Ant Church Ave ak Erasmus St
(Tren #2, Desann nan Church Ave)
6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.

Vandredi 2 Jiyè 2010, nou te rankontre e deside travay sou banye Komite Ijans Pou Ayiti (Haiti Emergency Committee), yon gwoup dives òganizasyon ak endividi te kreye an repons a latè tranble trajik ann Ayiti 12 Janvye 2010 la. Kòm nou ka wè pi wo a, nou te dakò tou sou yon lè ak yon kote espesifik pou Manifestasyon an. Nou fè apèl a tout pwogresis, tout moun ak gwoup ki renmen jistis, pou rejwenn nou nan jefò pou bati aktivite sila yo pandan mwa Jiyè 2010 la.

Pou tout enfòmasyon, rele 646-829-9519

Friday, July 9, 2010

NYC & New Orleans: Haiti Events 7/10 and 7/15

Author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts intended to spend most of 2010 traveling in Haiti to start research on her second book. With that project postponed but her mind and heart very much on Haiti, Sharifa is organizing fundraisers in New Orleans and New York City for two grassroots organizations working in the environmental sector.

The events will feature a French-English bilingual reading of Martinican Negritude poet Aimé Césaire’s epic poem “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal” (“Notebook of a Return to My Native Land”).

When: Saturday, July 10, 7pm
Where: GRIS GRIS LAB, 2245 Brainard Street, Central City

When: Thursday, July 15, 7pm
Where: THE SHRINE, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, Harlem

Suggested donation $10-$25. No one will be turned away.

The beneficiary organizations are:

Seeds for Haiti ( ) works in concert with Mouvman Peyizan Papay (Peasant Movement of Papay), to support farmers in Haiti’s Central Plateau in achieving social justice and asserting food sovereignty. With the reverse migration from the city back to the countryside since the earthquake, their work is even more urgent. Recently farmers of MPP made headlines when they promised to burn any seeds donated by Monsanto, a gift-horse of seeds that will not reproduce and are laced with pesticides, thus subjecting farmers already facing a state of emergency to the vicious cycle of industrial agriculture.


SOIL Haiti ( ) focuses on ecological sanitation, working alongside communities to create composting toilets that remove dangerous pathogens from the water supply and provide nutrient rich compost to farmers. Since the earthquake, SOIL Haiti has been working in Port-au-Prince along with OXFAM and the Haitian government to implement environmentally sound sanitation strategies urgently needed to serve the 1 million+ people living in tent cities since the disaster.

Come raise voices, spirits and funds at this liberatory literary gathering in the name of rebuilding Haiti!

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