Report on April 24 Mexicali Maquiladora Conference (Part 1)
- Report on April 24 Mexicali Maquiladora Conference (Part 1)
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.
IN THIS MESSAGE
1) Introduction by the OWC Co-Coordinators
2) Article in Mexicali's La Crónica newspaper (April 25) Reporting on
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
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,
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
[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
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
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.
Federation of Worker Councils and Trade Unions in Iraq
The Union of Unemployed in Iraq in North America
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
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
International Conference in Defense
of the Maquiladora Workers
and Against the FTAA
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
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,
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.
* 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.
Gerald H. Deneau
Graphic Communications International Union
* Greeting from Sri Lanka
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
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@...>
* 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
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
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
[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
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