(en) NYT editorial on Hyundai

Shawn Ewald (shawn@wilshire.net)
Tue, 9 Dec 1997 02:16:54 -0700

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 22:41:36 -0800 (PST) To: CLR All Campaigns e-mail list <clr@igc.org> From: Mike Rhodes <clr2@igc.apc.org> Subject: NYT editorial on Hyundai

Labor Alerts: a service of Campaign for Labor Rights

Hyundai Action Packets available. See contact information, above.

********************************************* ********************************************* Local activists: Please notify Campaign for Labor Rights of any actions you have planned and please send us a report afterward. This information is important for press work around the boycott and it also is essential for keeping up the morale of the hunger strikers and the other Han Young workers. ********************************************* *********************************************

HYUNDAI UPDATE: December 8, 1997

1) New York Times editorial 2) News from Tijuana 3) Requested actions 4) Bumper stickers

1) New York Times editorial: December 6, 1997

[Note: Special thanks are due to both Communication Works and Global Exchange, who did the legwork to make this NYT editorial happen.]

Mexico's Vulnerable Workers

When Congress debated the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Clinton won over some critics by including a side agreement that guarantees labor rights in Mexico, including the right of workers to choose their own unions. But the struggle for a free union at a Tijuana, Mexico plant that makes truck chassis for Hyundai Precision America in San Diego shows that the agreement is little more than cosmetic. Three workers dismissed from the plant for organizing a union election are now in their 16th day of a hunger strike, hoping to persuade Mexico's Government to recognize the independent union the workers selected.

Although Mexicans theoretically enjoy the right to organize, their labor unions have long been organs of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, Mexico's dominant political organization. The party uses the unions to turn out workers on Election Day and to keep labor cheap and peaceful. The PRI-affiliated union at the Han Young factory functioned as in most of the 2,700 factories, known as maquiladoras, near the American border. The union negotiated the workers' contract in secret and its representative told workers they were lucky to be making 85 cents an hour.

Han Young's workers went on strike in June for better wages and conditions and the right to choose their own representatives. The PRI union and the governor of Baja California tried to prevent a union election. The governor, a member of the rightist PAN party, said he would not allow "foreign political interests" to discourage investment. But by a 55-to-32 margin the workers elected an independent union, for the first time in a maquiladora.

The Mexican Government's labor board, however, has ruled it will not certify the results, and more organizers have been dismissed. Workers are appealing the decision. Although Hyundai says it has no control over Han Young, this is a divorce of convenience for Hyundai. Since Han Young exists only to produce for Hyundai, Hyundai is responsible for Han Young's practices. Mexican law agrees.

It seems likely the Nafta labor office will find that the Han Young case violates the labor agreement. But that will be of little help to Mexican workers. Such violations carry no penalty, only the possibility of consultations between the Mexican and American labor secretaries.

It is too late to rewrite Nafta, but not too late to pressure Mexico to enforce its own laws. President Clinton raised the Han Young issue with President Ernesto Zedillo. Mr. Clinton surely knows that the cause of free trade is not helped when Nafta's labor guarantees are squashed so blatantly.

2) News from Tijuana

Fernandez Flores Cruz, Miguel Sanchez Murillo and Armando Hernandez Roman are now in the 19th day of their juice-only hunger strike which they began on November 20, to demand their right to a real union. As these hunger strikers head into the Holiday Season, Han Young and Hyundai management have yet to show any sign of movement. Workers at Han Young, who went out on a work stoppage in solidarity with the hunger strikers last week returned to work on the third day of their protest.

3) Requested actions

LEAFLETING: Please continue to organize demonstrations and leafleting outside Hyundai car dealerships. Notify Campaign for Labor Rights of plans for actions and send us a report afterward: CLR@igc.apc.org or (541) 344-5410. Local activists who will be organizing activities as part of the Holiday Season of Conscience could make Hyundai one focus of your work.

ONE-DAY SOLIDARITY FASTS: Concerned citizens, especially clergy and laity, are urged to conduct a one-day fast in solidarity with the Han Young hunger strikers. As part of the Holiday Season of Conscience, some communities will organize a candlelight vigil on Thursday, December 11. This would be a particularly appropriate time for some local citizens to have a one-day solidarity fast.


Mong-Gyu Chung Chairman Hyundai Motors 140-2, Kye-Dong, Chonro-Ku, Seoul, Korea

By fax: via North American headquarters: (714) 965-3149

Dear Mr. Mong-Gyu Chung,

Three workers who were illegally fired from the Han Young maquiladora near Tijuana have placed their lives on the line, as they continue a protest fast which they have now maintained since November 20. (A fourth hunger striker was taken to the hospital on the 6th day of the fast.)

As you are well aware by now, the key demand of these workers is that they be represented by the union of their choice. It has been well-documented that the Han Young workers voted overwhelmingly for an independent union on October 6. The corrupt Tijuana labor board, in collusion with Han Young and Hyundai Precision America management, has nullified the results of that election.

The world knows that Han Young is an agent of Hyundai and that Hyundai is morally and legally responsible for violations of the Han Young workers' rights, as well as for violations of Mexican labor law.

I and many thousands of others are watching the Han Young situation closely. If any permanent damage should happen to the health of any of the hunger strikers, there would be a corresponding injury to the reputation of Hyundai Motors. It would be many years before the damage to your company's reputation could be undone. Already, the failure of Hyundai to respect the rights of the Han Young workers has created a reservoir of ill will which affects all divisions of Hyundai - most especially Hyundai Motors. Previous communications have alerted you to the boycott of Hyundai Motors.

I ask you, as a person of conscience and as judicious business person, to act decisively in averting a tragedy. Bend every effort to see to it that the government of Mexico recognizes the right of the Han Young workers to be represented by the union of their choice, and make Hyundai world headquarters aware of the gravity of this situation..


CC: Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers 3909 Centre Street, #210 San Diego, CA 92103 fax: (619) 295-5879

DELEGATIONS: Clergy and laity and representatives of human rights organizations are particularly invited to Tijuana in small delegations to visit the hunger strikers and to seek dialogue with Mexican officials and religious leaders. These will be working trips. Participants should consider themselves committed to bearing witness back in their home communities to the testimony of the hunger strikers. Air fare to and from San Diego is the responsibility of participants. Costs on the ground will be minimal. For arrangements, contact Mary Tong, Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers, (619) 542-0826.

4) Bumper stickers

"Boycott Hyundai" bumper stickers. Printed in a union shop. $1.00 each or $6.00 for 10. Add $2.50 per order for shipping and handling.

Order from: Labor/Community Alliance, P.O. Box 5077, Fresno Ca 93755 Questions? Call (209) 226-0477 or e-mail CLR2@igc.apc.org.

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