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Report on April 24 Mexicali Maquiladora Conference (Part 1)

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    Report on April 24 Mexicali Maquiladora Conference (Part 1) Date: 4/30/2004 From: ilcinfo@earthlink.net From: OWC - Open World Conference in Defense of Trade
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2004
      Report on April 24 Mexicali Maquiladora Conference (Part 1)
      Date: 4/30/2004
      From: ilcinfo@...

      OWC - Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union
      Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor Council,
      1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
      Phone: (415) 641-8616 Fax: (415) 440-9297.


      1) Introduction by the OWC Co-Coordinators

      2) Article in Mexicali's La Crónica newspaper (April 25) Reporting on
      the Conference

      3) First Set of Greetings Sent to the Mexicali Conference


      1) Introduction by the OWC Co-Coordinators

      Dear Supporters of Labor Rights:

      The April 24 Conference in Mexicali in defense of the labor rights of
      the maquiladora workers and against FTAA was a huge success, far
      beyond anything anticipated by the conference organizers.

      More than 125 participants gathered at the event, which began with a
      press conference near the Civic Center in Mexicali, then spilled over
      into the streets with a march to the State Building and through the
      downtown thoroughfares, and then assembled at the union hall of the
      State Social Security Workers Union of Issstecali (SUTI).

      Among the delegates who participated in the conference from the
      United States were 28 students from UC-Santa Cruz; three students and
      a professor from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif; a
      representative of UNITE (textile workers' union) from New York; two
      representatives from UFCW locals in California (one, the president of
      the local in San Jose; the other a lead organizer from Salinas); two
      unionists from OPEIU Local 3 and the San Francisco Labor Council, and
      three students/activists from San Francisco's City College.

      From Mexico, in addition to local union officials, rank-and-file
      members and workers from three maquiladora plants in the Mexicali
      region, 10 delegates attended from the Maquiladora Support Network in
      Tijuana, two maquiladora workers came from La Paz, Baja California;
      four unionists came from Hermosillo, Sonora; two unionists came from
      Cananea, Sonora; and three unionists came from Mexico City, including
      a representative from the Continuations Committee of the Sao Paulo
      Anti-FTAA conference and two top officials of the Mexican Electrical
      Workers Union (SME).

      An anti-sweatshop organizer from Vancouver, Canada, was also in attendance.

      In addition, greetings were sent from union federations, unions and
      anti-sweatshop coalitions from around the world.

      We will be sending you over the next week a series of postings with
      the full conference report. You will be able to see that this was
      truly an organizing conference in defense of the maquiladora workers
      and their right to form independent unions, and in opposition to the
      FTAA, beginning with opposition to the Central America Free Trade
      Agreement (CAFTA).

      You will receive a full report on the press conference, the final
      conference resolution, the reports from the three workshops, articles
      from the Mexican press (the first of which is included in this
      message, all the greetings from unions and activist organizations
      from around the world (the first set of which is included in this
      message), and the testimonies from the maquiladora workers
      themselves. (The remaining reports and texts are being translated
      into English and will be sent out as soon as possible.)

      We thank you for your support to this organizing effort and look
      forward to working with you in defense of the labor rights of the
      maquiladora workers and in opposition to FTAA,

      In solidarity,

      Ed Rosario and Alan Benjamin
      Open World Conference
      San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO)


      2) Article in Mexicali's La Crónica newspaper (April 25) Reporting on
      the Conference

      [Note: The following article on the Mexicali Conference appeared in
      the Sunday, April 25, 2004 issue of La Crónica, the
      largest-circulation newspaper in Mexicali. The translation into
      English is by the OWC. The article was accompanied by two large
      photos; one showing "trade unionists and youth in defense of labor
      rights of the maquiladora workers [who] took to the streets en route
      to the Issstecali Union Hall"; the other showing conference
      participants hanging banners at the Issstecali Union Hall in
      preparation for the conference. Also see the attached PDF file.]

      March to Protest Unjust Firings

      Trade Unionists and Maquiladora
      Workers From Mexicali and Abroad
      Raise Their Voices in Protest

      by Magdalena López

      Trade union organizations from Mexicali and the United States took a
      stand against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and against
      unjust firings in the region during a march from the Civic Center to
      the hall of the Trade Union of Issstecali Workers/SUTI. [These are
      state workers in the Baja California Institute of Healthcare and
      Social Security-- translator's note.]

      At this union hall, located on Avenida Cañitas in the Zacatecas
      district, more than 100 people gathered at a conference, including
      representatives of the union at the National Autonomous University in
      Mexico City (STUNAM) and the Continental Conference Against the FTAA,
      held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last December.

      Also in attendance were leaders and members of the High School
      Teachers Union (SPCOBACH), the National Teachers Union (SNTE), the
      Electrical Workers Union (SME), the Workers Information Center of
      Tijuana, as well as workers who were fired from the Daewoo, Flor de
      Baja and Industria Fronteriza maquiladora plants.

      These unionists, together with 20 teachers who were fired from the
      Narciso Mendoza Elementary School initiated a protest march at the
      State Building in the Civic Center before taking to the streets, down
      Independence Ave. to the union hall on Cañitas Street.

      Once at the hall, they listened to keynote presentations and then
      gathered in working groups to discuss such themes as deregulation,
      privatization and their effects on the unions; NAFTA, the FTAA and
      national sovereignty; and strategies to promote cross-border
      organizing in defense of the labor rights of the maquiladora workers.

      Alan Benjamin, representative of the San Francisco Labor Council and
      co-coordinator of the Continuations Committee of the Open World
      Conference, said he came to Mexicali to help organize an effective
      network to win the reinstatement of the fired workers at the Daewoo
      maquiladora plant. He added that more than 30 young students from
      across California also traveled to Mexicali to support the workers in
      their effort to build independent unions in the maquiladoras and to
      spread the message that Free Trade agreements such as NAFTA mean the
      wholesale loss of jobs and labor rights in Mexico, Canada and the
      United States.

      One of the conference objectives, Benjamin said, is to organize a
      functioning network of unionists and youth to promote the fight to
      stop the FTAA by demanding that all the governments of the Americas
      withdraw from FTAA negotiations, as FTAA will only negatively impact
      the workers and peoples in every signatory country.

      Luis Vásquez, representative in Mexico of the Continuations Committee
      of the Sao Paulo Conference Against the FTAA, said that the initial
      commitment to organize the international gathering in Mexicali was
      made by the International Conference in Sao Paulo last December.

      Vásquez added that this is just the beginning of a broad campaign
      given that the enemy is strong and the offensive is relentless
      against workers. "In the sense," he added, "we are bringing a
      proposal to this conference that it send a delegation to Geneva this
      June to participate in gatherings held at the time of the yearly
      assembly of the International Labor Organization (ILO). It is
      important to take the fight of these maquiladora workers to this
      international forum."

      Vásquez added that the conference at the SUTI hall will demand that
      the Mexican government implement on all the territory of Mexico ILO
      Conventions 87 and 98, which Mexico has ratified but which it fails
      to implement and enforce in the case of the maquiladora workers.

      Workers Appeal for Support

      Magdalena Ayala, one of the workers fired from the Flor de Baja
      maquiladora plant, said she was terminated on April 15, 2003 and
      didn't get so much as a thank-you from her employer. She said she and
      her co-workers are calling on the unions to support their effort to
      collect back pay and severance pay to which they are entitled under
      Mexican labor law. It is not right, she said, that laws which the
      Mexican people fought so hard to win can be trampled upon.

      "What happened is that management locked us up in a room and forced
      us to sign an agreement in relation to the plant closing, without
      even thanking us for all our hard work," Ayala said. "It turns out
      they made us renounce our claims to a just settlement. Where is the
      respect for my rights as a worker?"

      Margarita Avalos, another worker who was fired from her job at
      Industria Fronteriza in Tijuana, said she lost her job the very day
      after she requested to be paid a promised benefits premium. She said
      she immediately filed a complaint with the Labor Board in Tijuana and
      then with the Federal Labor Board, but the company refused to accept
      the notice demanding that it show up at the hearing.

      If the company refuses to appear at the hearing this coming Monday
      [April 26] in Tijuana, or if she receives an unfavorable ruling,
      Avalos said she will take her case all the way up to the federal


      3) First Set of Greetings Sent to the Mexicali Conference

      * Greetings from Federation of Workers Council and Trade Unions of Iraq

      Dear friends and comrades,

      We in the Federation of Worker Councils and Trade Unions in Iraq
      congratulate you and stand firm with you shoulder to shoulder as the
      workers always do, in particular having this conference. We would
      like to say that in spite of the ongoing chaos in Iraq, the Iraqi
      worker won't forget their essential duties towards their colleagues
      around the world.

      Unfortunately we couldn't be with you in this conferencebecause of
      the financial issues that totally crippledour organization. Again we
      would like to congratulate and support of the Daewoo workers and
      their fight to organize an independent union to improve their wages
      and working conditions.


      Amjad Al-Jawhary
      Federation of Worker Councils and Trade Unions in Iraq
      The Union of Unemployed in Iraq in North America
      Toronto, Canada
      April 22, 2004


      * Greeting from IBEW National Officers, Washington, D.C.

      Solidarity Statement from IBEW
      in Support of Workers at the Daewoo Maquiladora Plant

      Brothers and Sisters,

      The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers supports the
      courageous struggle of workers at the Daewoo maquiladora plant for
      the right to form a union. Without the presence of strong labor
      organizations, multi-national corporations will continue the "race to
      the bottom" that threatens workers everywhere.

      Whether those corporations are based in Korea, the United States,
      China or other nations, they have an obligation to respect workers,
      our unions, our safety, our communities and our environment.

      Just one month ago, Thomson Inc. shut down two U.S. plants where
      members of our union produced TV tubes and glass. Some of the work
      has been moved to the maquiladora zone. Other work will be moved to
      China. Almost 1,400 IBEW members are now out of work.

      We hold Thomson and the other multi-nationals responsible for
      abandoning our members, not the workers of Mexico, China or other
      nations. We do not want to see workers in the maquiladora zone
      exploited and similarly abandoned while Thomson, Daewoo and other
      multi-nationals profit.

      The IBEW is part of the Industrial Union Council of the AFL-CIO that
      recently petitioned President Bush to place trade sanctions on the
      People's Republic of China until such time as that nation respects
      the elemental rights of Chinese workers under the Universal
      Declaration of Human Rights.

      The IBEW was proud to join forces with other organizations in Miami,
      Florida last November in opposition to the Free Trade Area of the
      Americas. The struggle of the Daewoo workers and all workers in the
      maquiladora region is an important component of that same movement
      for global fairness for working people. We wish you victory!

      Edwin D. Hill,

      Jeremiah J. O'Connor,


      * Greeting from Walter Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, San Francisco
      Labor Council

      Organizing Committee,
      International Conference in Defense
      of the Maquiladora Workers
      and Against the FTAA
      Mexicali, Mexico

      April 20, 2004

      Dear Sisters and Brothers:

      We were honored to receive last week at our Council Sister Gema Lopez
      Limon, who gave us a first-hand report on the difficult struggle of
      the Daewoo and other maquiladora workers in Mexicali to organize
      independent unions to improve their wages and working conditions.

      We in the San Francisco Labor Council are proud to have been among
      the first Councils in the country to have promoted cross-border
      organizing in defense of labor rights and against the "free trade"
      agreements promoted by the multinational corporations. We salute your
      conference and applaud your efforts to win the reinstatement of the
      workers at the Daewoo plant who were fired without cause simply
      because they sought to organize a genuine union at their workplace --
      something which is safeguarded by Mexico's federal labor legislation.

      We also commend and support your efforts to build independent unions
      in the maquiladora industry in the border zone and across the rest of

      As all unionists in the AFL-CIO we are alarmed that George Bush is
      seeking to extend NAFTA to the rest of the Western Hemisphere by
      2005. Ten years of NAFTA have demonstrated that this so-called "free
      trade" agreement has been a disaster for working people on both sides
      of the border. Now Bush and his corporate cronies want to transform
      the rest of the continent into one big maquiladora zone, where labor
      rights are not respected, national sovereignty is trampled upon, and
      environmental safeguards are ignored -- all for the sake of more and
      more profits for the large multinational corporations.

      A few hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding
      fathers, warned that merchants have no country, that all they care
      about is profit. Jefferson's words are truer today than ever.

      It is time for us to join hands across borders to improve labor
      rights and working conditions for all working people -- and to stop
      the devastating "free trade" agenda of today's multinational

      Please inform the Daewoo workers and all others who in Mexicali and
      the rest of Mexico are waging the good fight for labor rights -- and
      peoples' rights -- that we in the San Francisco Labor Council are at
      your side.

      We wish you full success at your conference and look forward to
      hearing the report back from the delegates who will be attending from
      our Council so that we can take the next steps together in the
      campaign to secure full rights for the maquiladora workers in
      Mexicali and beyond.

      Yours in solidarity,

      Walter Johnson,
      San Francisco Labor Council


      * Greetings from Colombo Free Trade Zone Workers

      Dear Sisters and Brothers,

      On behalf of the members of Progress Union, (working with FTZ workers
      in Biyagama, Colombo) we extend our solidarity and best wishes for
      Conference in Mexicali in Defense of the Maquiladora Workers and
      Against NAFTA & the FTAA.

      We regret our inability to attend the conference for the short notice
      and our inability fund the trip of our nominee in any.

      However, we endorse the right of the Daewoo workers and their fight
      to organize an independent union to improve their wages and working
      conditions. Yes we do agree to have our union, to be listed as an
      endorser of the conference.

      We endorse your struggle against sweatshops, closing of work places,
      poor labour standards, nonexistence of the eight-hour work day,
      inhumane working days of 10, 12 or 14 continuous hours, unjustified
      layoffs without compensation.

      Let us fight against child labor, exploitation of elderly persons,
      negates the right to maternity leave and poverty wages.

      Let us urge the authorities to ensure that ILO Conventions on Freedom
      of Association is respected by the employers and investors.

      In solidarity,

      Leon Joseph,
      Progress Union


      * Greetings from Graphic Communications Internation Union (U.S. and Canada)

      Dear Brothers and Sister:

      On Behalf of the Graphic Communications International Union, a union
      that represents workers in the printing and publishing industry in
      Canada and the United States, I would like to express my support for
      the Movement for Freedom and Labor Rights for Workers in the
      Maquiladora Industry (MOLDELTIM) and your struggle for independent
      unions and internationally recognized labor rights.

      We condemn the shameful campaigns that the maquiladoras companies are
      waging against the laborers of México, and support your effort to be
      granted at least the same labor rights as other Mexican workers. The
      intimidation and deliberate discrimination against workers who are
      attempting to join a union is both unacceptable and illegal. Please
      give our best regards to Carlos Espinoza Bravo, Victor Ortega, Rita
      Soltero, Rogelio Torres, and Alan Lechuga Moreno, the brave workers
      who refused to be treated as second-class employees. Their fight has
      been a valiant effort and they will succeed in their commendable

      I hope that the Mexicali Conference on the 25th of this month will
      ultimately lead to a quick and aceptable solution to the problems
      that workers are facing at the Daewoo Orion de México (DOMEX)
      maquiladora plant and other maquiladoras. Please know that the GCIU
      supports you in this difficult battle.

      In Solidarity,

      Gerald H. Deneau
      Graphic Communications International Union


      * Greeting from Sri Lanka

      Dear Comrades,

      On behalf of the Democratic Left Front and it associated trade unions
      in Sri Lanka, we send the Daewoo workers warmest greetings, our
      solidarity and endorsement to their struggle to organize an
      independent union to improve their wages, standard of living and
      working conditions.

      We also wish you success in your venture to build broad support for
      the April 24th Conference in Mexicali in Defense of the Maquiladora

      We hereby endorse and wish you good luck in making this conference a success.

      The names that you can include for endorsement for the moment are as
      follows. United Lanka Estate Workers Union Democratic Left Front

      This email is being sent from an email of our Exco member, in order
      to meet your deadline.(It is weekend here) Please send your reply to:

      "Democratic Left Front" <demleft@...>

      Best regards,
      Vasudeva Nannayakkara
      General Secretary.


      * Greetings from Graphic Communications International Union (Vancouver,

      Compañeros y compañeras,
      Brothers and Sisters:

      We offer our greetings and wishes of solidarity on the occasion of
      this historic Conference.

      We want you to know that your struggle resonates web beyond the
      confines of your emplorer's workplace, or even tour region. Here in
      Canada, our members support you in the fight against Daewoo because
      it is the same fight in which we are engaged. The employer's name may
      change, but their agenda of avarice and supresion is held against
      working people everywhere.

      We also want to send you our thanks - thanks for standing up to the
      employer and insisting on your rights. Thanks for letting us draw on
      your strength and commitment, as together we are stronger than either
      of us could ever be on our own. And thanks too, for reminding us that
      your fight is our fight and that what we wish for ourselves we desire
      for all.

      Together, we can win. In unity, we can realice our vision and create
      a system with justice and fairness for all. We must stiffen our
      resolve, and listen to each other's voices.

      We shall overcome

      In Solidarity,

      Brian Cormier
      Local 525 M


      * Greetings from San Francisco Web Pressmen and Prepress Workers Union 4N

      To the conveners of the International Conference of Trade Unionist
      and Youth in Defense of the Labor Rights of Maquiladoras Workers.

      We members of the Graphic Communications International Union Local 4N
      applaud and embrace the struggle for the Daewoo workers to organize
      an independent trade union and to bargain colectively with the
      representatntion of our choosing. We applaud and embrace the youth
      presense in this historic conference in providing the support and
      leadership for everyone in this current struggle as well as in the
      struggle of the future. This is the fight that must be waged to
      expose the failures of NAFTA and be used to help build momentum
      against the passage of the FTAA.

      All violations committed against your rights have been purposely
      committed in an effort to negate the rights to unionize and to
      colective bargaining as codified in Mexico's Federal Labor Law (LFT),
      as well in Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labor
      Organization (ILO), which Mexico have ratified and therefore are part
      of Mexico's national legislation.

      These same violations of labour rights are happening all the time in
      the United Statets. This the reason we stand in solidarity with you
      and say you are not alone! For your fight is our fight!

      We stand in solidarity with the fired trade unionist of the Daewoo
      organizing campaign. What has been done against you is an attack not
      just against you as Mexican trade unionist, but against the
      international trade union movement.

      The bosses and governments in their service want to deem workers
      organizing internationally as a trade barrier. But we must forge
      ahead together in the spirit of International solidariy for we see it
      as the only way we can help preserve and expand not just our labor
      rights, human rigths, our civil liberties, or our environmental
      protection. But more than this, we must forge ahead with
      internationally to link up and defende all the pasth gains of the
      working class across the globe.

      We say Repeal NAFTA!
      Stop the FTAA!
      No to Union busting!
      Victory to the international trade union movement!

      Always in solidarity,

      Eduardo Rosario, President
      GCIU 4N


      [Note: Other messages were sent to the conference organizers in
      Spanish from Baldemar Velasquez, President, Farm Labor Organizing
      Committee (FLOC); Rosendo Flores, General Secretary, Mexican
      Electrical Workers Union (SME); the Canadian Maquila Solidarity
      Network; Revolution Youth in Ecuador; Julio Turra, Executive Director
      of the CUT trade union federation in Brazil; Jesse Swanhusyser,
      Coordinator, California Coalition for Fair Trade and Human Rights;
      the Sindicato de Trabajadores Administrativos de la Universidad
      Autónoma de Chapingo (STAUACH); the Sindicato Independiente de
      Trabajadores de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (SITUAM); and
      CITTAC (Tijuana).]

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