By Paul Bocking, Project Officer – Steelworkers Humanity Fund.
Labour activists across Mexico are raising awareness among their coworkers on their rights at work. In 2022, their efforts contributed to a series of union victories at companies including St. Gobain in Morelos, where nearly 2000 employees manufacture car windows, to VU on the US-Mexico border, where 300 workers assemble plastic automotive components. In another important case, the Mineros, a key ally of USW, won union recognition at Teksid in Coahuila, where a thousand workers forge components used by auto assembly plants.
In each instance, the union defeated a company union favoured by the employer. For decades, Mexico’s labour relations system permitted employers to sign “protection contracts” behind workers’ backs to keep out real unions, suppress wages, and maintain “labour peace” by preventing strikes. Changes to Mexico’s labour law in 2019 under a new national government, combined with enforcement mechanisms against abusive employers under the Canada-US-Mexico (CUSMA) trade agreement signed in 2020, created an opening for workers in Mexico to organize and win on a large scale.
Through a four-year grant from Employment and Social Development Canada, a steering committee made of USW, the CLC, CUPE, Centre International de Solidarité Ouvrière, and the PSAC have set up a project to support work by Mexican unions and workers organizations: the Comite Fronterizo de Obreras (Border Workers Committee)conducts trainings on gender equity and organizing among auto and garment workers; the Red de Mujeres Sindicalistas (Network of Union Women) produces radio broadcasts that have already reached hundreds of thousands, in addition to building local networks of worker-activists; the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (Authentic Labour Front), another long-standing USW ally, runs a union training school on organizing and collective bargaining; last but not least, the Mineros union conducts in-person and virtual workshops, as well as a podcast featuring women union activists.
The work of these Mexican organizations requires great courage amid virulently anti-union employers and complicit local governments and company unions that make violent threats. In fall 2022, the Project’s steering committee visited Mexico and met workers and organizers struggling to raise standards and improve livelihoods. From these encounters, we are working to bring down the divisions between our movements and build genuine cross-border solidarity.
Share on Facebook