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Seize the moment – Building worker power in Mexico and Quebec

April 26, 2023 | News Articles
Image: Two women are in the lower-right of the frame, seated with microphones on the table before them. A blurred-out projection of the speakers on a large screen is in the background behind them.

Progress is happening in Mexico, thanks to a worker-friendly president and labour reform provisions in the 2018 Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Delegates to the USW National Policy Conference got a window into how workers and unions are seizing the moment during two sessions on the conference’s second day.

Before the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “the vast majority of working people lived in deep poverty despite working for massively profitable companies,” said Paul Bocking, Steelworkers Humanity Fund Mexico Project Co-ordinator.

Labour reforms mean workers can vote for their union through a guaranteed secret ballot instead of a corrupt system in which companies controlled unions.

“Think of what it meant for workers who didn’t even know they had rights? Now the workers are at the centre,” said Rosalba Calva Flores, Co-ordinator with the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT) in Mexico.  

Women and men must work on this together, said Rosaria Ortiz, Co-ordinator with the Red de Mujeres Sindicalistas.

“The labour movement is very masculine. Women must participate in strikes and bargaining. Include the rights of women… Get the support of male co-workers.”

“When you speak to young people about their struggles, how space has been won, fairer wages, better working conditions… that makes a young person more interested in forming or joining a union,” said Aldo Morales of Los Mineros.

“With CUSMA, we are now entering a more democratic model. But just days ago, some organizers were threatened at gunpoint and had to flee,” said Julia Quiñonez. Executive Director of the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras or the Border Workers’ Committee.

“We will not be silenced. This is our time. If it’s not now, when will it happen? We are going to take advantage of this moment,” she added.

Later in the day, Quiñonez was on stage again, this time with Michel Pilon, Co-ordinator of the Réseau d’aide aux travailleurs migrants agricoles du Québec (RATTMAQ) and Guillaume Charbonneau, Executive Director of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, to draw parallels between the struggles of Mexican workers and those of migrant agricultural workers in Quebec.

Why should workers in Canada care about improving conditions for Mexican workers?

“Bombardier pays Mexican workers 25% of what they pay workers in other countries. Clearly it creates a problem,” said Pilon.

“We have to close the gap on inequality. In the long run, we’ll be helping workers in Canada, said Quiñonez. “If we improve the conditions in Mexico – it improves stability for all workers.”

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