At last week’s Constitutional Convention of the United Steelworkers (USW), the USW and the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel, and Similar Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) signed an enhanced strategic alliance.
The purpose of the alliance is, according to Napoleon Gomez, general secretary of Los Mineros, to build an international labor organization in North America that can stand up to multinational companies that abuse workers’ rights. We want to “send a message to multinational companies that we are working together, that we are watching their activities and investments, that we are not going to tolerate their repression of workers or their violation of human and labor rights,” Gomez said.
Los Mineros and USW in 2005 signed a strategic alliance agreement that committed both unions to work together to build the power of workers against multinational corporations. The enhanced strategic alliance, which was signed before 3,000 delegates at the Steelworkers Constitutional Conventions, takes the original alliance a step further by creating workers councils composed of Los Mineros and USW workers who work for corporations with operations in Mexico, the US, and/or Canada.
The councils will meet regularly to exchange information about common employers, plan ways that the two unions can enhance their strategic cooperation, organize solidarity support actions, and help each other to organize unorganized workers.
Additionally, the enhanced strategic alliance establishes programs that will help USW staff who want to learn Spanish and does the same for Los Mineros staff who want to learn English, increases the exchange of staff between the two unions, and expands a joint commission established in 2010 to recommend actions that advance the goals of the strategic alliance.
Both unions will remain separate unions, but the USW will have observer status at the National Executive Committee of Los Mineros and Los Mineros will have the same status at USW’s International Executive Board.
Los Mineros unlike most unions in Mexico is not affiliated with either of the dominant political parties and is not a company union. It has also been effective in winning higher than average wage and benefits for its members. Because of its success, it has suffered repression by the government. As a result of this repression, Gomez has been forced to live in exile in Canada.
Los Mineros is also a democratic union, and Gomez despite his exile continues to be reelected general secretary in the union’s frequent and regular elections of officers.
Because Los Mineros is both a democratic and effective organization, USW leaders think that it can be an important ally in protecting the living standards for workers in the US.
“Whenever we go into negotiating, we’re constantly bargaining against workers in other parts of the world,” said Jim Robinson, director of USW District 7. “When we support improving the standards in Mexico (by working with Los Mineros), we’re defending our standards.”