Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National work stoppage in Mexico

National Work Stoppage in Mexico Demands Reversal on Power Co. Takeover
By Dan  La Boltz
Labor Notes NOVEMBER 13, 2009
Tens of thousands of Mexican workers joined a national work stoppage to reverse the liquidation of the independent Electrical Workers union, but despite large and militant protests, its seems unlikely the government will be moved.
Benedicto Martínez, one of the three co-presidents of the independent Authentic Labor Front (FAT), told Labor Notes that the demonstrations in Mexico City were large and enthusiastic. “I believe that if workers resist and if the movement continues to grow things can change," he said, adding a call for continued coalition-building and international solidarity, "perhaps in the form of demonstrations at consulates in other countries.”
Yet, despite the size and militancy of the protests, and the union’s view that the national work stoppage was a success, there seems little likelihood that the government will be moved.

The takeover of the power company last month was accompanied by the firing of about 45,000 workers and the dissolution of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) union, an independent union that had been a leader in the fight against the government’s corporate-oriented agenda.
While members of the union were themselves unable to strike this week, having been physically forced out of their workplaces by the police, they did march, demonstrate, and join protests, and other workers struck and protested on their behalf.
Striking workers blocked highways in several states, surrounded and closed down government buildings in Mexico City, tied up the capital’s streets, and then marched by the tens of thousands to the zócalo, the national plaza, for a protest rally. The government mobilized 10,000 police to respond to the protest and in Queretaro there were violent confrontations between police and strikers.
Calderón claimed that there had been attempts to shut down power in Mexico City and the surrounding states, but the union attributed power failures to the incompetence of those now running the plants.
Even as the strike took place, several cabinet secretaries repeated the government’s position that the company closing, the firing of the workers, and the elimination of the union are permanent.
Speaking at the rally in the zócalo, Martín Esparza, head of the Electrical Workers, called upon Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano to “pick up his severance pay and get out.” That, in effect, is what Lozano himself has been telling the fired Electrical Workers.
So far, according to media reports, more than half of the fired workers have received their severance pay, suggesting that they have given up the struggle to get back their jobs. A leader of the Electrical Workers says that far fewer, about 10,000, have accepted their severance. The union, nevertheless, continues to mobilize members and to fight both in the courts and on the streets to reverse the government’s decision.
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