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(en) MEXICAN LABOR NEWS AND ANALYSIS December 2000 Vol. V, No. 9

From Mark Connolly <mark.connolly@pmail.net>>
Date Thu, 21 Dec 2000 13:50:34 -0500 (EST)


 ________________________________________________
      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
            http://www.ainfos.ca/
 ________________________________________________

 Mexican Labor News and Analysis (MLNA) is 
produced in collaboration with the Authentic 
Labor Front (Frente Aut=E9ntico del Trabajo FAT) 
of Mexico and the United Electrical Workers (UE) 
of the United States, and with the support of 
the Resource Center of the Americas in 
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 IN THIS ISSUE:

 *Federal Employees Carry out Largest Labor 
Mobilization in Years - by Dan La Botz

 *Vicente Fox Becomes President of Mexico, 
Appoints Cabinet - by Dan La Botz

 *National Union of Workers (UNT) Holds Third 
Annual Convention

 *National Union of Workers (UNT) and Coalition 
for Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM) Pact

 *Authentic Labor Front (FAT) Celebrates 
Fortieth Anniversary

 *Bertha Lujan of FAT Joins PRD Government of 
Mexico City

 *Jesus Campos Linas to Head Mexico City Labor B

 *Phantom Union Arrives at Duro

 Documents of the Mexican Labor Movement in 
Translation:

 *The Principles of The Opposition Movement in 
the Electrical Workers Union (Suterm)

 Book Review:

 *New Book on The Fat in Spanish: Forty Years of 
Libertarian Struggle

 

  

MEXICAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WIN END OF TERM BONUS;

 LARGEST LABOR DEMONSTRATIONS IN ALMOST 20 YEARS

 

 By Dan La Botz

 Tens of thousands of Mexican Federal public 
employees demonstrated in scores of cities 
throughout Mexico in the months of October and 
November, and in some cases even into December, 
to demand an end-of-term bonus as Mexican 
President Zedillo left office. From Tijuana in 
the North to San Cristobal in the South, blue 
collar and white collar workers from dozens of 
Federal agencies joined together in leaving work 
and taking to the streets to march, demonstrate, 
and block streets and highways.

 

 The wildcat strikes and protests for the end-
of-term bonus arose from a variety of economic 
and political motives, and just what the long-
term significance of the movement will be 
remains unclear. But it was without a doubt one 
of the biggest and broadest workers' movements 
in Mexico in many years.

 

 What caused Federal employees to walk off the 
job in nearly every state in Mexico? Since 
president Lopez Portillo first began the 
practice in 1982, the Mexican government has 
awarded an end of term bonus to Federal Public 
employees. However, president Zedillo eliminated 
the lump-sum payment from the most recent 
budget, and the government informed workers they 
would not receive the windfall this year. 
Mexican public employees, who like most other 
Mexican workers, receive low wages, had done 
particularly poorly under Zedillo. Workers' 
wages lost about 25 percent of their purchasing 
power between 1994 and 2000. The public 
employees' generally low wages form the backdrop 
to events.

 

 In addition, the change of presidents every six 
years-known in Mexico as the sexenio-is often 
accompanied by changes in staff from cabinet 
ministers and department heads down to 
secretaries and custodial workers. While many 
workers theoretically enjoy civil service or 
labor union protection, in practice when the new 
boss comes in they are sometimes forced out of 
their jobs, transferred or demoted. This year, 
with a change not only in the president, but 
also in the ruling party, there was more than 
the usual anxiety about job security.

 

 Then too there were internal union politics at 
work. Jose Ayala Almeida, head of the Federation 
of Unions of Workers at the Service of the State 
(FSTSE), the Federal employees union made up of 
74 unions with about 1.6 million members, was 
feeling the heat from critics and opponents in 
the union who vowed to unseat him or who 
threatened to secede and create independent 
unions as now permitted by a Supreme Court 
ruling. To protect himself from the dissidents, 
Ayala took up the cry for an end of sexenio 
bonus, and that gave official sanction to 
protest demonstrations.

 

 At the same time, party politics also played a 
role. Jose Ayala is not only the head of FSTSE, 
he is also a Senator for the Institutional 
Revolutionary Party (PRI), the party which had 
held power in Mexico for 71 years, and which was 
just defeated in the presidential election lost 
by Zedillo of the PRI and won by Fox of the 
National Action Party (PAN). Ayala's unleashing 
of the FSTSE workers against the government 
punished Zedillo not only for cutting the bonus, 
but also for losing the presidential election. 
The FSTSE job actions and protests also served 
to forewarn president-elect Fox about the 
challenges he would face from the old PRI-
controlled unions if he threatened the labor 
bureaucracy with its privileges and perks.

 

 All of this took place in October and November, 
as workers could begin to see the Christmas 
holiday on the horizon. Under the Mexican 
Constitution, all workers are entitled to an 
aguinaldo or Christmas bonus-usually at least 
one month's wages. No doubt workers began to 
calculate that with the combination of the 
aguinaldo and an end of sexenio bonus they might 
have enough pesos to pay some of the bills or 
take the Christmas trip to Chihuahua and perhaps 
buy grandma a new blender.

 

 So under the pressure of years of low incomes, 
internal union competition, party politics and 
Christmas wishes, thousands of workers >from 
every conceivable Federal agency from agrarian 
reform to the Treasury Department itself began 
to demonstrate for the end-of-term bonus.

 

 The Federal workers' walkout caused a great 
debate in the Mexican press, on television and 
radio, and public opinion was quite divided. 
Many citizens felt sympathy for the doctors, 
nurses and other health workers who treated them 
in the public hospitals, the postal workers who 
delivered their mail, and the schoolteachers who 
educated their children. But while some citizens 
sympathized with the public employees' demands 
for a bonus to supplement their low wages, 
others saw the strikes as sheer extortion by 
public employees who were perceived as lazy, 
rude and corrupt. "Aviators," that is ghost 
employees who are political appointees or union 
officials and never show up for work, have 
historically filled some public offices.

 

 President Zedillo, having little to lose as he 
left office, stonewalled Ayala of FSTSE, and 
seemed prepared to let the hundreds of protests 
around the country build into the general strike 
that the union finally threatened. But in-coming 
President Fox had no desire to take office on 
the cusp of a public workers' uprising, and he 
apparently pressured Zedillo and worked with 
officials in the out-going administration to 
find a solution and end the protests.

 

 Federal officials meanwhile met with union 
leaders Ayala of FSTSE, Tom=E1s V=E1zquez Vigil of 
the Mexican Teachers' Union (SNTE), Jos=E9 Luis 
Acosta Herrera of the Institute of Social 
Security for Unions of Workers of the State 
(ISSSTE), Victor Bernaardo L=F3pez Carranza of the 
Communications and Transportation union, Juan 
Bautista Res=E9ndiz of the Union of the Federal 
Judicial Power, and Manuel Ferm=E9n Acevedo 
Gonz=E1lez of the Mexican Postal Service. While 
Federal officials met with the unions, 
president-election Fox was kept informed of the 
negotiations, and all parties finally agreed to 
a payment of 1,600 pesos (about US$168.)

 Finally in mid-November Fox got Jose Angel 
Gurr=EDa, Secretary of the Treasury to come up 
with a loan of some two billion pesos from a 
quasi-public insurance company in order to pay 
l.6 million FSTSE workers 1,600 pesos each. 
However, as the money trickled down through the 
bureaucracy, protests among various groups of 
Federal public employees continued into 
December, often accompanied by other groups of 
workers as well who now also demanded some sort 
of bonus.

 

 So in late November the Federal workers' 
movement subsided, and the question that remains 
is, how had this changed the Federal workers' 
union and the workers' consciousness. Was this 
simply extortion by a group of rather privileged 
workers, as some of the public believe? Or was 
this a real working class movement, a labor 
movement demand not only a one-time bonus, but 
also reflecting workers' belief that they are 
entitled to a decent wage, job security and 
social justice?

 

 -30-

  

VICENTE FOX BECOMES PRESIDENT OF MEXICO;

 APPOINTS CONSERVATIVE ECONOMIC CABINET

 By Dan La Botz

 Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) 
took office as president of Mexico on Dec. 4, 
ending the seventy-year old rule of the 
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Fox's 
presidency represents a fundamental change in 
the Mexican political system. It brings an end 
to the PRI's one-party-state that in its heyday 
controlled virtually every political office, 
directed the large state-owned economic sector, 
and dominated the labor unions, peasant leagues 
and virtually all other important social 
organizations. More than just the end of the 
rule of the PRI, the installation of Fox 
represents a change of regime.

 

 Fox's election marks the culmination of a 
process that began with the election of Miguel 
de la Madrid in 1982, that is, the 
transformation of Mexico's nationalist 
political-economic system and its virtually 
complete integration into the North American 
market dominated by the United States. The PRI's 
technocratic presidents-De la Madrid, Carlos 
Salinas, and Ernesto Zedillo-carried out a neo-
liberal (that is, conservative) political-
economic program based on opening Mexico to 
investment and trade, privatizing state owned 
industries, cutting the social welfare budget, 
and reducing the power of labor unions. Now the 
inauguration of Fox as president completes the 
process begun in 1982, bringing to power 
Mexico's conservative, pro-business political 
party.

 

 But, at the same time, Fox and the PAN do have 
a vision of social welfare and social justice, 
based primarily on Roman Catholic social 
doctrine. Consequently Fox's cabinet 
appointments also reflect the new direction in 
social welfare policy. Finally, Fox's 
appointments express his political savvy and 
opportunism. He includes in the cabinet former 
leftists and progressives whom he hopes will 
give his administration wide appeal, and act as 
links to the broader civil society movement 
which he clearly hope to control.

 

 The Cabinet

 Fox's economic cabinet is made up of men and 
women from international financial institutions, 
Mexicans banks and corporations, and previous 
administrations. The two most important figures 
are Luis Ernesto Derbez, a former economist for 
the World Bank, who was selected as Secretary of 
the Economy, and Francisco Gil D=EDaz, formerly of 
the Banco de Mexico and Avantel corporation, who 
was chosen as Secretary of the Treasury. Gil 
Diaz also served in financial posts in previous 
PRI governments. Fox's key economic cabinet 
appointments indicate that he will continue the 
neo-liberal policies of his predecessors.

 

 At the same time, Fox has appointed some 
figures who come from the Mexican left, from 
non-governmental organizations, and from the 
broad opposition generally characterized as 
"civil society." Most important of these choices 
was the appointment of Jorge G. Casta=F1eda, a 
former member of the Mexican Communist Party 
(PCM, later PSUM and PSM), a long-time fellow 
traveler of the Party of the Democratic 
Revolution (PRD), and one of Mexico's best known 
intellectuals, to be Secretary of Foreign 
Relations. Casta=F1eda has said that he will focus 
his attention on the relationship with the 
United States, and particularly on the issues of 
Mexican migrant workers. (Casta=F1eda's father 
also served as a Secretary of Foreign 
Relations.)

 

 As expected, Fox appointed Carlos Maria Abascal 
Carranza to the post of Secretary of Labor. 
Abascal, the former head of COPARMEX, the 
Mexican Employers Association, negotiated with 
Fidel Vel=E1zquez, the former head of the 
Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), an 
agreement on a "New Labor Culture." Abascal has 
indicated that he favors a complete revamping of 
Mexico's labor laws in order to improve 
productivity, quality, and competitiveness and 
advance Mexico's position in the world market. 
Many labor union leaders have indicated that 
they fear this means weakening labor unions and 
their contracts, if not eliminating them 
altogether in favor of company unions.

 

 The Fox administration's most dramatic change 
of policy has to do with the Zapatista Army of 
National Liberation (EZLN) that led the Chiapas 
Rebellion in 1994. Fox first appointed Luis H. 
Alvarez, a long-time PAN leader, as Commissioner 
for the Negotiation of Peace in Chiapas, and 
Alvarez immediately moved to open negotiations 
with the Zapatistas. At the same time, Fox 
ordered the Mexican Army that is occupying 
Chiapas to lift its military roadblocks and 
checkpoints and begin to withdraw its troops to 
their barracks. The Zapatistas responded by 
indicating that if the government met certain 
conditions they were prepared to return to 
negotiations.

 

 Finally, it should be mentioned that Fox 
created a number of new commissioners, positions 
below the cabinet level to deal with specific 
social problems. For example, Fox appointed 
Gilberto Rinc=F3n Gallardo, a former member of the 
executive committee of the Mexican Communist 
Party (PCM) and later of the National Council of 
the PRD, to head a Citizen's Commission Against 
Discrimination. Among other agencies is a new 
governmental office to work with Non-
governmental Organizations (NGOs), and to draw 
those organizations closer to the new 
government.

 

 Fox's appointments clearly seem calculated to 
present the new administration as capitalism 
with a human face. But at the same time, Fox's 
appointments and his initial actions 
particularly in Chiapas do show a real change in 
political agenda. In any case, the combination 
of the fall of the PRI and the hope in Fox and 
this new government may create openings for the 
labor and social movements, and for Fox's 
political opponents on the left.

  

-30-

 

 NATIONAL UNION OF WORKERS (UNT) HOLDS

 THIRD NATIONAL CONVENTION

 

 The National Union of Workers (UNT), the 
largest independent labor federation, celebrated 
its third anniversary and held its Third 
National Convention in late November in Mexico 
City. Francisco Hern=E1ndez Ju=E1rez, one of the 
UNT's three co-presidents, said that he expected 
the UNT to play a major role as a voice for 
labor union rights during the administration of 
Vicente Fox, the new president of Mexico. The 
federation's leadership called upon the UNT to 
"become an active agent for the democratization 
of the country."

 

 In his opening address to the UNT convention, 
co-president August=EDn Rodr=EDguez declared that 
there could be no transition to democracy that 
did not also democratize the world of work. "In 
the UNT we have one of the organizations which 
is leading the change in the nation's course 
toward economic, social and political 
democracy," he said.

 

 Founded in 1997 by dissident unions from the 
PRI-controlled Congress of Labor (CT) and by 
some independent labor unions, the UNT adopted a 
program calling for independence from the state, 
an alternative economic policy, and democracy 
within the unions. The Mexican Telephone Workers 
Union (STRM), the Social Security Workers Union 
(SNTSS), and the Union of Workers of the 
National Autonomous University of Mexico 
(STUNAM) have from the beginning held positions 
as co-presidents within the UNT. The Authentic 
Labor Front (FAT), an independent labor 
federation, has also played an important role 
within the UNT as a voice for union democracy.

 

 The three current co-presidents of the 
organization are Hernandez Juarez of the 
telephone workers, Fernando Rocha of the social 
security workers, and August=EDn Rodr=EDguez of 
STUNAM. The UNT claims to have 1.5 million 
members, though many observers believe that that 
figure inflates the real membership by two or 
three times.

 

 The UNT showed its potential when towards the 
end of 1998 it helped workers at the Siemens 
auto parts plant in Puebla win an independent 
union, a new contract, and a significant wage 
increase. Workers had formerly been members of 
the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and 
Peasants (CROC), a government-controlled labor 
federation. Both UNT leaders and independent 
observers suggested that the federation's 
victory in Puebla could represent the beginning 
of a new wave of militant labor organization in 
Mexico.

 

 In the area of international labor solidarity, 
the UNT also entered into an alliance with the 
American Federation of Labor - Congress of 
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the 
principal labor federation of the United States. 
The UNT and the AFL-CIO have pledged to work to 
fight for workers' labor union rights and to 
improve workers' conditions in both countries, 
though so far the actually collaboration has 
been limited. Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO's 
alliance with the independent federation 
represents a significant shift in its historic 
relationship with Mexican unions, and an advance 
for workers in both countries.

 But not everything has gone smoothly. Over the 
past years there have been repeated rumors of 
differences between Hern=E1ndez Ju=E1rez and other 
UNT leaders who accuse him of using his post to 
further the interests of the Telephone Workers 
Union, which he also heads, and of his own 
career. Some have speculated that the Social 
Security Workers Union, with 280,000 members by 
far the largest union in the federation, might 
leave and create a rival federation with other 
unions. But at least for the moment the UNT 
continues to be Mexico's numerically most 
important experiment in independent unionism.

  

-30-

 

 NATIONAL UNION OF WORKERS (UNT) AND

 COALITION FOR JUSTICE IN THE MAQUILADORAS (CJM) 
SIGN PACT

 

 The National Union of Workers (UNT), the 
largest independent Mexican labor federation, 
and the Coalition for Justice in the 
Maquiladoras, a tri-national alliance of unions, 
churches and community groups that promotes 
maquiladora workers' rights announced in late 
November the signing of a unity pact between the 
two organizations.

 

 The Union Unity and Action Pact pledges both 
organizations to support efforts to organize 
independent unions in the maquiladora sector. 
The two organizations also call for the 
inclusion of labor rights charters in future 
trade agreements involving Canada, Mexico and 
the United States.

 

 Despite several important efforts to organize 
independent unions over the last several years 
at plants such as Han Young and more recently 
Duro Bag, at present there are virtually no 
independent labor unions representing the l.25 
million workers who work at the approximately 
4,000 maquiladora plants in Mexico. The Mexican 
government, the multinational and Mexican 
companies, and the "official" labor unions such 
as the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), 
the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and 
Peasants (CROC), and the Regional Confederation 
of Mexican Workers (CROM) have colluded to 
prevent independent union organization. Workers 
interested in organizing independent unions have 
been fired and sometimes beaten up or arrested 
by the authorities in order to discourage them.

 

 The three-year old UNT claims 1.5 million 
members. CJM, established in 1989, is made up of 
more than 100 organizations, including the 
American Federation of Labor - Congress of 
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the 
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

  

-30- 

 

AUTHENTIC LABOR FRONT (FAT) CELEBRATES 40TH 
ANNIVERSARY

 

 The Authentic Labor Front (FAT), an independent 
labor federation, celebrated its 40th 
anniversary in Mexico City with a series of 
discussions, book presentations, and festivities 
held from Nov. 23-25. Labor federations >from 
Canada, Quebec and the United States, France, 
Spain and Italy sent delegations to join the FAT 
on the occasion of its birthday, and to 
participate in discussions on the challenges 
facing the FAT under the new administration of 
president Vicente Fox of the National Action 
Party (PAN).

 

 Alfredo Dominguez, a long-time FAT leader, 
recounted the history of the FAT and told guests 
that the FAT would continue the fight for 
workers' rights and social justice in the 
traditions of Emiliano Zapata and Ricardo Flores 
Magon.

 

 Founded on October 18, 1960 by Roman Catholic 
labor union activists, the FAT became a secular 
organization and a leading force for independent 
labor organization during the late 1960s and 
early 1970s. The FAT is made up of four sectors: 
labor unions, cooperatives, rural workers, and 
urban neighborhood groups, and also has a 
women's organizing project. In the early 1990s, 
the FAT became a founder of the Mexican Network 
on Free Trade (RMALC). In 1997 the FAT joined in 
founding the National Union of Workers, Mexico's 
largest independent labor federation. Attending 
the FAT anniversary celebrations were Robin 
Alexander, International Affairs Director, and 
two rank and file leaders, John Thompson and Tom 
Dunne of the United Electrical Workers (UE), 
Julian Ariza Rico, attach=E9 of the General 
Secretary of the Workers Commissions of Spain 
(CCOO); H=E9l=E8ne Bouneaud of the International 
Department of the General Confederation of Labor 
of France; Claudette Carbonneau, of the 
Confederation of National Unions (CSN) of 
Quebec, Canada; Nana Corossacz of the 
International Department of the Italian General 
Confederation of Labor (CGIL); and Sheila Katz 
of the International Department of the Canadian 
Labour Congress (CLC). The CGT, CGIL, CSN, and 
CCOO representatives also spoke on a panel 
dealing with unions in periods of political 
transition. Jeff Hermanson, AFL-CIO Solidarity 
Center representative in Mexico, also attended 
the anniversary ceremony.

 

 The UE which has an on-going strategic 
organizing alliance with the FAT sent not only 
International Affairs Director Alexander, but 
also two UE members, John Thompson, vice-
president of UE Local 690 in Baden, 
Pennsylvania, and Tom Dunne, a rank-and-file 
member of UE Local 1172 in South Milwaukee, 
Wisconsin. Both UE members participated in a 
panel discussion of the new books on the FAT by 
Dale Hathaway and Jorge Robles. (See review 
below.)

 

 -30- 



BERTHA LUJAN OF FAT BECOMES CONTROLLER

 IN PRD GOVERNMENT IN MEXICO CITY

 

 Bertha Luj=E1n, one of the three co-presidents of 
the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), has resigned 
her position with the independent union 
federation to take office as controller of the 
government of Mexico City as a member of the 
cabinet of Mayor Andr=E9s Manuel L=F3pez Obrador of 
the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). In 
the Mexico City government the controller 
functions as a financial overseer. The FAT 
constitution requires officers to resign their 
posts before serving in partisan political 
positions.

 

 During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the FAT, 
while maintaining its non-partisan position, 
worked closely at times with the Party of the 
Democratic Revolution (PRD) on social and labor 
union issues. Some FAT members ran for office 
and served as labor representatives of civil 
society on the PRD ticket, and certainly many 
voted for the left-of-center party. The FAT also 
worked closely at times with officials of the 
PRD governments of Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and 
Rosario Robles on issues affecting unions and 
workers. So while Luj=E1n's appointment was no 
shock, still it represents the first time a FAT 
leader has received a major appointment.

 

 Luj=E1n told union members and guests at the 
unions 40th anniversary celebration held in 
Mexico City on Nov. 25 that she was taking the 
position in order to continue her union's fight 
for honesty, transparency, and democracy. The 
union leadership, she said, had debated the 
issue at length, and while there were 
differences of opinion, in the end they had 
decided that she should accept the appointment 
to the PRD government. She pledged to continue 
to support the union and to represent its ideals 
while serving with the Mexico City government.

  

-30- 

 

JESUS CAMPOS LINAS TO HEAD MEXICO CITY LABOR 
BOARD

 

 Mexico City Mayor Andr=E9s Manuel L=F3pez Obrador 
has appointed Jesus Campos Linas to head the 
Mexico City Labor Board, an important position 
given the concentration of industry and unions 
in the Federal District.

 

 Campos Linas, a member of the National 
Association of Democratic Attorneys (ANAD) is a 
an attorney who has represented unions such as 
the railroad workers during some of their 
historic struggles, and for many years has 
represented the Mexican Electrical Workers Union 
SME, one of the few Mexican unions with a proud 
history of internal democratic practices, as 
well as rank and file workers and independent 
unions.

 

 He faces a challenge in dealing with Mexico 
City's notoriously corrupt labor unions, many 
unscrupulous attorneys, and recalcitrant 
employers.

  

-30- 

 

PHANTOM UNION ARRIVES AT DURO

 

 (The following information was provided by the 
Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras)

 Eliud Almaguer and Felipe Barron, former 
workers and leaders at Duro Bag, appeared at a 
hearing of the Federal Conciliation and 
Arbitration Board (JFCA) in Mexico City on 
December 13th in the hope that the president of 
the Board would set a date for the union 
representation election at Duro. They were 
astonished, however, to find the Regional 
Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) 
(the second largest of the official labor 
federations tied to the PRI) at the hearing.

 

 With no presence in the state of Tamaulipas, 
let alone at Duro, the CROC appeared out of the 
blue with membership forms signed by the 
workers, demanding to represent them in an 
election against the Duro Bag Workers Union 
which has struggled since June to win the right 
to represent workers at the plant in Rio Bravo. 
With three parties competing in the election - 
the CTM, the Duro Bag Workers Union and now the 
CROC - the winner will be the union that gets 
the most votes.

 

 The JFCA consented once again to postpone the 
hearing date, setting another hearing date for 
January 18th. The new President of the Ministry 
of Labor and Social Welfare has appointed Lic. 
Virgilio Mena Becerra as the new president of 
the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board. 
The Board will close for the holidays December 
15 and will resume the process in the New Year.

 

 ACTIONS REQUESTED:

 1. CJM has requested that donations or gifts 
for the Duro workers be sent to the CJM office 
at 530 Bandera Road, San Antonio, TX 78228.

 2. The Cross Border Network is organizing a 
leafleting on December 23rd at Hallmark which 
buys gift bags from Duro to pressure them and 
thus Duro to respect the workers' right to 
choose a union democratically and to refrain 
from taking sides in the union election or 
intimidating the workers. If you'd like to 
organize an action at Duro or at a Hallmark 
store, contact Judy Ancel at jancel@igc.org or 
913-677-2158.

 3. Please welcome the new President of the 
Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board by 
sending him a letter of support for the Duro 
workers and a copy to Mexican President Vicente 
Fox. A sample appears below:

 Lic. Virgilio Mena Becerra

 President of the Federal Conciliation & 
Arbitration Board

 Undersecretary "A" of the Department of Labor 
and Social Welfare

 

 Fax: 011 52 (5) 645 2345 or 011 52 (5) 722-8768 
or 011 52 (5) 5722-8769 or 011 52 (5) 761-0022

 E-mail: apiccini@ stps.gob.mx

 

 SAMPLE LETTER

 Dear Lic. Virgilio Mena Becerra:

 We are aware that the Duro Bag Workers Union in 
Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas has petitioned for a union 
election to replace the National Paperworkers 
Union of the CTM as the workers' legal 
representative. When the Duro Workers leaders 
appeared at the hearing conducted by your office 
on December 13th, they were confronted by a 
phantom union in the form of the CROC which 
without any existence in the State of 
Tamaulipas, much less at the Duro Company 
presumed to demand to represent the workers. How 
long must the workers endure these phantom 
unions, which promote only protection contracts 
for the employers? How long must they wait for 
the right of freedom of association which is 
supposedly guaranteed in the Federal Labor Law 
and the Constitution?

 

 We thought that with the fall of the old 
system, the workers would get justice and 
democracy especially with the signing by then-
candidate Fox of the Twenty Principles for 
Freedom of Association. However, it appears that 
your government will start the New Year by 
continuing the anti-democratic practices of 
phantom unions. Please make the process work. 
Schedule the union election as soon as possible 
and protect the rights of the workers to a free 
and democratic union election without being 
obstructed by phantom unions. Please guarantee 
that all workers be permitted to vote and that 
they have a secret ballot.

 

 Sincerely,

 

 (your name and organization) 

 

Cc: Vicente Fox Quezada, President of Mexico 
<vicente@fox2000.org.mx>  

Tomas Yarrington Rubalcaba 
<tamps@infosel.net.mx>  

 

Bcc: <cjm@igc.org>

 

 4) Please send a message to Duro and Hallmark 
demanding that they respect the workers right to 
a free and fair union election, that Duro be 
neutral and not interfere with the workers' 
right to a union of their own choosing.

 

 Charles Shor, CEO

 Duro Bag Company

 Address: Duro Bag Co.

 P.O. Box 16250

 Ludlow, KY 41016-0250

 Tel: 1-800-879-3876, 606-581-8200

 Fax: 606-581-8327

 

 Irv Hockaday, CEO

 Hallmark Cards

 P.O. Box 419580

 Kansas City, MO 64141-6580

 

  

-30-

 

 Documents of the Mexican Labor Movement in 
Translation

 THE PRINCIPLES OF THE OPPOSITION MOVEMENT

 IN THE ELECTRICAL WORKERS UNION (SUTERM)

 

 [The document translated below comes from an 
opposition movement in the Sole Union of 
Electrical Workers of the Mexican Republic 
(SUTERM) which represents workers employed by 
the Federal Electrical Commission, the power 
generating company which provides electric 
energy for most areas in Mexico outside of the 
Federal District. (Electrical workers in the 
Federal District work for the Light and Power 
Company and are members of the Mexican 
Electrical Workers Union or SME.) For 25 years 
Leonardo Rodr=EDguez Alcaine has been the top 
officer of SUTERM, and for the past few years he 
has also been the head of the Congress of Labor 
(CT) and the Confederation of Mexican Workers 
(CTM). All three organizations belong to the 
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that for 
71 years - from 1929 to 2000 - dominated Mexican 
politics.

 

 Last year the dissidents in the SUTERM mounted 
an opposition to Rodriguez Alcaine because he 
supported the PRI's proposed privatization of 
the electrical industry, and ran a slate of 
officers against the union leadership, though 
they lost. Because of the importance of this 
movement we thought it would be important to 
translate the following document that expresses 
the views of one of the opposition groups within 
SUTERM. The document was circulated among SUTERM 
members and among other union groups and given 
to us at the recent UNT meeting in Mexico City. 
- Ed.]

  

DEMOCRACY AND UNION INDEPENDENCE

 National Coordinating Committee of the 
Electrical Workers of CFE-SUTERM

 

 Summary: We present here proposals to 
democratize the Mexican labor movement, in our 
case, the Sole Union of Electrical Workers of 
the Mexican Republic (SUTERM). We believe that 
democracy cannot be reduced to the vote, 
nevertheless in Mexican labor unions we cannot 
exercise even the most fundamental rights due to 
the repression of the bureaucracy and the 
government. In the case of union democracy, it 
will have to be conquered through an intense 
struggle and national mobilization. This 
struggle includes the right to elect and remove 
the union representatives by direct, universal 
and secret vote of the workers. In addition, it 
is also necessary to exercise union independence 
with regard to the companies, the government and 
the anti-worker political parties. We propose 
the freedom of workers to join the party of 
their preference, and therefore there should be 
no forced affiliation with the PRI 
[Institutional Revolutionary Party] as now 
happens in SUTERM and in other unions. In any 
case, the government should stop intervening in 
the internal life of the union and end its 
damaging influence on union autonomy. At the 
same time, there should be an end to 
corporativism [government control of labor 
unions], based on the mutual political and 
economic support of the labor union bureaucracy 
and government officials.

 

 Introduction

 The labor movement in Mexico is fundamental for 
the democratic development of our country. 
SUTERM is an important union of Mexican workers 
which, the same as other unions in the country, 
should be able to enjoy union democracy as a 
permanent practice in order to guarantee its 
class independence in the workers' movement, to 
maintain a militant solidarity with other social 
sectors, and to establish fraternal relations 
and interchange experiences and solidarize 
itself with workers and social organizations in 
Mexico and throughout the world.

 

 The Union Constitution represents the totality 
of Principles, Program and union rules 
collectively agreed to in order to bring about 
the proper functioning of the union 
organization. However, the great majority of the 
Executive Committees of the unions in Mexico 
have for their own convenience changed those 
union rules and principles, verticalizing the 
organizations and denying fundamental rights to 
the unionized workers.

 

 In SUTERM, the Union Constitution arose from an 
important struggle by Mexican electrical 
workers. In many ways the SUTERM Constitution is 
exemplary, particularly with regard to the kind 
of union that we Mexican electrical workers 
decided to form, that is, a national industrial 
union, a modern form of organization of the 
proletariat which has superceded the old craft 
union or the enterprise union. In this sense, 
the corresponding structure in local unions, 
workplace organizations, or delegations based on 
geographical proximity or technical-industrial 
considerations is important.

 

 Nevertheless, the Constitution has been 
modified on many occasions introducing practices 
that are negative and even shameful for the 
labor movement and for the workers themselves. 
This is the case, for example, with the forced 
affiliation of the electrical workers of SUTERM 
to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). 
In addition, the anti-democratic rules in the 
Constitution are very unfavorable and 
inconvenient, particularly with regard to the 
election of union representatives to the 
national level. At present the electrical 
workers have no right to elect national 
representatives, but those representatives do 
have the right "to be elected and re-elected to 
positions as the people's worker 
representatives," of course, within the PRI, at 
the municipal, regional and national level.

 

 Under the existing political conditions in 
Mexico, we workers are striving for democracy, 
above all in our own union organizations, in 
order to advance firmly in the democratization 
of the entire country. We also need freedom to 
organize ourselves and to govern ourselves. 
Today, we Mexican workers are like people who 
have been kidnapped within our own organizations 
that don't function in the interest of the 
worker, nor of the country, but rather in the 
interest of certain careerists and exploiters.

 

 Freedom and union democracy

 In order to exercise freedom and union 
democracy, those of us in the Mexican unions, 
and among them the SUTERM, need to change their 
Constitutions. Right now it is necessary for us 
to take fundamental initial steps, on the basis 
of which the organized electricians at the 
national level in the CNE [National Executive 
Committee] have decided to develop the struggle 
for some proposals.

 

 Principles

 The principles of Mexican labor unionism, 
including SUTERM, should be class principles 
that should be democratically discussed in all 
of the unions of the country. When the 
opportunity arises, new principles should be 
established on the basis of Extraordinary 
National Conventions called for that purpose.

 For the moment, we propose to eliminate from 
the Principles of the unions all references to 
the PRI. The principles of the PRI are not the 
principles of the Mexican workers nor of the 
electrical workers of SUTERM.

 

 Program

 The Program of the Unions should express the 
essential proposals of the workers for the 
social transformation and the accomplishment of 
its immediate and historic objectives as [part 
of] the working class. These things could be 
decided in the coming democratic Conventions.

 

 For right now, we propose to eliminate from the 
Program of the unions, among them the SUTERM, 
all references to the PRI. The program of this 
party is not the program of the workers. For 
that reasons, there is no reason to force the 
electrical workers of the SUTERM or of any other 
union to have to become members of the PRI.

 

 Organization

 The organizational structure of the majority of 
the unions of the country is an historically 
antiquated structure. In the case of SUTERM, the 
union structure has some important positive 
aspects. However, something has to be done about 
the thousands of workers who are inscribed in 
the national offices and in general in the City 
of Mexico and the Metropolitan Zone. It is 
necessary to create a genuine national 
industrial union, and to structure it 
appropriately.

 

 This has to be inscribed within the necessary 
democratic organization of the labor movement in 
Mexico, based on the formation of a national 
industrial union structure which includes local 
unions with relative autonomy. This would also 
permit class identity by going beyond the 
atomization and isolation of the more than 
15,000 unions, large and small, that actually 
exist within the country.

 

 Electoral Processes

 Another important issues is that of electoral 
processes. The existing practices are completely 
anti-democratic.

 

 At present, in the SUTERM, the National 
Executive Committee is elected by a Regular 
National Convention that takes place very six 
years. This is not correct, for it requires that 
the election of union representatives at all 
levels, that is to say, national, local, and 
delegational, as well as of the Executive 
Committees and the Commissions of Justice be 
elected with majority participation of the 
active workers of the union by way of direct, 
universal and secret vote. [This sentence is 
unclear in the original, but presumably it means 
that there is not now such a secret vote for the 
representatives to the Convention that elects 
the National Executive Committee.]

 

 With regard to this, we propose three new 
articles which should be added to the 
Constitution on Plebiscites, Electoral Process, 
and the Revoking of Mandate. Such proposals are 
made in order to open union space to democracy 
so that as organized workers we can make our own 
decision and choose the direction of our unions 
in a free and sovereign way.

 

 At present, in SUTERM, a handful of delegates 
who are hacks of the National Executive 
Committee make these decisions. These are not 
even proper delegates, because independent of 
the number who have been accredited, each 
section has only one vote. But, in addition, the 
voting system is obsolete and includes 
exclamation and applauses. Today it is necessary 
to change and substitute these politically 
primitive methods by others such as the direct, 
universal and secret vote, which does not imply 
that union democracy can be reduced to the vote 
alone.

 

 In reality, SUTERM and Mexican unionism in 
general, need new Constitutions. But, right 
away, in the case of SUTERM Article 125, which 
establishes the obligation of forced affiliation 
by the Mexican electrical workers to the PRI, 
should be abolished. Corporativism [state 
control of unions] should no longer have any 
place in Mexico. We must get rid of 
corporativist unionism and we must have union 
democracy. SUTERM should be an example for the 
labor movement.

 

 Proposals:  

 

1.Modify the existing Union Constitution of 
almost all Mexican labor union organizations, 
eliminating all clauses which are inappropriate 
for the general interest of the workers in the 
area of organization and politics, especially 
the forced affiliation to the PRI.

  

2.Establish new provisions regarding the 
Principles, Program, Constitution and By-Laws 
that include the right of the workers to 
democracy and union independence. Among other 
questions, we propose the establishment of the 
right to elect and remove at any time union 
representatives at all levels by way of a 
direct, universal and secret vote. This means 
including in the Constitution the corresponding 
articles on Plebiscites, Electoral Processes and 
Revoking of Mandate.

  

3.The governments in turn should abstain from 
intervening in the internal organization of the 
labor unions. For no reason should they threaten 
union autonomy, nor should they continue with 
the corporativism [state control] based on 
mutual economic and political support from the 
union officials.

 

 

  

 

-30-

 

 BOOK REVIEW:  

NEW BOOK ON THE FAT IN SPANISH:

 "FORTY YEARS OF LIBERTARIAN STRUGGLE"

 

 Emiliano Robles Becerril, Luis =C1ngel G=F3mez, 
Jorge Robles, and Dale Hathaway, Cuarenta A=F1os 
de Lucha Libertaria (Mexico City: El Atajo 
Ediciones and Frente Aut=E9ntico del Trabajo, 
2000) 131 pages.

 

 This little book on the Authentic Labor Front--
Forty Years of Libertarian Struggle--(FAT), was 
written by four enthusiasts of that independent 
Mexican labor federation. It is made up of a 
collection of short essays on the history of the 
FAT (about 60 pages) and a chronology of the FAT 
(another 60 pages). Jorge Robles, the anarcho-
syndicalist FAT activist and author, has left on 
this book the imprint of both his iconoclastic 
intellect and his idiosyncratic style. The 
essays are interesting and insightful, polemical 
and partisan. The writing is elliptical and 
sometimes telegraphic, and at times it is more 
outline than essay. Those who are bilingual will 
find it an interesting companion to accompany 
Dale Hathaway's Allies Across the Border: 
Mexico's "Authentic Labor Front" and Global 
Solidarity (Cambridge: South End Press, 2000) 
which was reviewed in Mexican Labor News and 
Analysis last month.

 

 END MEXICAN LABOR NEWS AND ANALYSIS, Vol. 5, 
No. 8, DEC. 2000

 

 Labor and related news from Mexico is reported 
bi-monthly in Mexican Labor News and Analysis. 
Check it out on the UE's web site: 
<<HTTP://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>HTTP://www
.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/ 
<<http://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>http://www
.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>>


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<HTTP://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>HTTP://www.
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<<http://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>http://www
.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>. For information 
about direct subscriptions, submission of 
articles, and all queries contact editor Dan La 
Botz at the following email address: 
DanLaBotz@cs.com or call in the U.S.(513) 861-
8722. The U.S. mailing address is: Dan La Botz, 
Mexican Labor News and Analysis, 3503 Middleton 
Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220.

  Most MLNA articles may be reprinted by other 
electronic or print media. If the article 
includes a byline, republication requires the 
author's approval. For permission, please 
contact the author directly. If there is no 
byline, republication is authorized if the 
reproduction includes the following paragraph:

This article was published by Mexican Labor News 
and Analysis 
(<<http://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>http://ww
w.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/>), a monthly 
collaboration of the Mexico City-based Authentic 
Labor Front (FAT), the Pittsburgh-based United 
Electrical Workers (UE) and AMERICAS.ORG 
(<<http://www.americas.org/>http://www.americas.
org/>). Contact Editor Dan La Botz at 
danlabotz@cs.com or 513-861-8722. For a free e-
mailed subscription, send a message to 
mlna@americas.org with "subscribe" in the 
subject line.

The UE Home Page which displays Mexican Labor 
News and Analysis has an INDEX of back issues 
and an URGENT ACTION ALERT section. For a free 
e-mailed subscription to MLNA, send a message to 
mlna@americas.org with "subscribe" in the 
subject line.

 

 Staff: Editor, Dan La Botz. Managing editor, 
Larry Weiss. Correspondents in Mexico: Peter 
Gellert and Michal Kohout. Regular contributors: 
David Bacon.

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