Exiled Mexican mine workers union leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia will be honored with the AFL-CIO’s 2011 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award tonight at a ceremony at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Gómez Urrutia is a ”truly courageous man who has shown us how difficult and how important it is to be an independent leader of a democratic union.”
Gómez Urrutia, head of the Mine, Metal and Steel Workers Union (SNTMMSSRM), also known as Los Mineros, was forced to flee Mexico to Vancouver, Canada, in 2006. The Mexican government filed criminal charges against him after he publicly accused the government of “industrial homicide” following a February mine explosion that killed 65 miners.
Mexican and international human and labor rights organizations have dismissed the government’s charges as false.
The government’s action against Gómez Urrutia followed years of his challenges to Mexican government policies that were depressing wages, creating unsafe workplaces and turning permanent jobs into casual work, essentially increasing the vulnerability of Mexico’s workers. He had also begun building alliances with the global trade union movement.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard—the USW is in an alliance with Los Mineros—says that even in exile, Gómez Urrutia is fighting to “bring economic justice to Mexican working families.”
From Vancouver, Gómez Urrutia says:
We have continued with our global struggle for justice, respect and dignity for all workers because we know that we have the support and solidarity from unions around the world.
Because he couldn’t secure a visa to travel to the United States, his wife Oralia Casso de Gómez will accept the award on his behalf.
The annual Meany-Kirkland award, created in 1980 and named for the first two presidents of the AFL-CIO, recognizes outstanding examples of the international struggle for human rights through trade unions.