Unions and social justice groups from around the world on February 18 began a week of action to protest Mexico’s worsening labor conditions. The actions, which include demonstrations and other activities at Mexican consulates, are being organized by the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance, a coalition of unions and worker centers in Mexico, Canada, and the US and is being supported by IndustriALL Global, an international federation of unions in the manufacturing sector, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the world’s largest trade union federation that represents 175 million workers.
The actions will protest Mexico’s new labor law, which makes work less secure by promoting precarious work, weakens collective bargaining, and makes it harder to form and sustain unions that are democratic and independent of employers.
They will also support a number of ongoing struggles for workers rights in Mexico including the fight for justice for the families of 65 miners killed in 2006 in an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine and the rehiring of unjustly fired workers such as workers at PKC, a Finnish auto parts company with operation in the border city of Ciudad Acuna, the manufacturer of Bata shoes (Calzado Sandak) in the eastern Mexico town of Tlaxcala, and the Mexican Power and Light company.
Supporters of the week of action will also be demanding freedom for workers jailed for fighting for worker rights
Demonstrations in the US and Canada will take place in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Ottawa, Portland, Raleigh, Seattle, Tuscon, Vancouver, and Washington, DC.
The Austin demonstration will take place at 10 A.M. on Friday, February 22 at the Mexican consulate located at 610 Baylor Street near Lamar and West 6th Street. “All are welcome to come and thanks for the solidarity,” wrote Miguel Rodriguez of Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, the local organization organizing the action in an email response to a query about the action.
The new Mexican labor law is the final product of former President Felipe Calderon’s project to make Mexico the Western Hemisphere’s leader in race-to-the-bottom labor policies. The new law ensures that wages will be kept low so that return on investments will be high.
It makes it easier to subcontract work and to use temporary workers, who have no job security and few if any benefits; makes it more difficult to achieve a collective contract through collective bargaining; limits the right to strike; and makes it easier for employers to avoid paying decent wages, taxes, and benefits.
In addition, the new law does nothing to stop the widespread use of protection contracts, agreements between companies and company-backed unions, that keep worker wages and benefits low and stifle the organization of independent, democratic, and worker-centered unions. About 90 percent of collective contracts now in force in Mexico are protection contracts.
Supporters of the Mexico Week of Action will deliver a letter addressed to newly inaugurated President Enrique Peña Nieto to Mexican consulates. The letter, among other things, urges the new government not “to interfere in the legal challenges to the regressive changes of the Federal Labor Law filed by hundreds of thousands of workers in January 2013.”
The letter also urges the president to take action to address the unjust firings and jailings of labor activists, such as members of Los Mineros, an independent union that has been leading to struggle for justice for the deceased miners at Pasta de Conchos and SME, the electrical workers union that fought the unjust firings of thousands of workers at the Mexican Power and Light company.
There are other actions planned as well. Labor Start has initiated a campaign to rehire 100 union activists at the PKC factory in Ciudad Acuna fired for trying to join Los Mineros, a militant and independent union. Thousands of workers around the world have signed a letter demanding that the PKC rehire the workers.
On February 19, a delegation from IndustriALL Global and ITUC met with senior labor ministry officials at the Mexican Mission to the United Nations in Geneva to express their concerns about the conditions of labor in Mexico.
According to a statement on the meetings released by IndustriALL Global, “The tone and content of the positions taken by the Mexican government representatives were significantly more positive than those of a similar meeting a year ago. Commitments were made by the Mexican representatives for action on a number of key issues including safety and health in mines, labor legislation, transparency and accountability.
The statement said that IndustriALL Global and the ITUC would follow up on the commitments made by the Mexican representatives.