20 Years of Cross Border Solidarity

A History in Photographs
By David Bacon
NACLA Report on the Americas, May 2016
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10714839.2016.1170301

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1993 - Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal.  Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they're voting for the company union or their own independent union.  Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he's voting for.  Company  and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union.  The election was called off halfway through.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1993 – Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal. Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they’re voting for the company union or their own independent union. Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he’s voting for. Company and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union. The election was called off halfway through.

Unions and social movements face a basic question on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border – can they win the battles they face today, especially political ones, without joining their efforts together? Fortunately, this is not an abstract question. Struggles have taken place in maquiladoras for two decades all along the border. Many centers and collectives of workers have come together over those years. Walkouts over unpaid wages, or indemnización, as well as terrible working conditions are still common.

What’s more, local activists still find ways to support these actions through groups like the Collective Ollin Calli in Tijuana and its network of allies across the border in Tijuana, the San Diego Maquiladora Workers Solidarity Network. Other forms of solidarity have been developed through groups the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. And long-term relations have been created between unions like the United Electrical Workers and the Authentic Labor Front, and the United Steel Workers and the Mexican Mineros. More recently, binational support networks have formed for farm workers in Baja California, and workers are actively forming new networks of resistance and solidarity in the plantons outside factories in Ciudad Juárez.

Over the years, support from many U.S. unions and churches, and from unions and labor institutions in Mexico City, has often been critical in helping these collectives survive, especially during the pitched battles to win legal status for independent unions. At other moments, however, the worker groups in the maquiladoras and the cities of the border have had to survive on their own, or with extremely limited resources.

These photographs show both the conditions people on the border are trying to change, and some of the efforts they’ve made to change them, in cooperation with groups in the U.S. There have been many such efforts – this is just a look at some.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1995 - Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women's rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana.  Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women were laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer. The plant manager had organized a “beauty contest” at a company picnic, and ordered women workers to parade in bikinis. Supported by the San Diego Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers, women filed suit in a U.S. Federal court, which surprisingly accepted jurisdiction. The company then gave women severance pay for the loss of their jobs.
See the entire essay and the impressive photos. http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2016/05/twenty-years-of-cross-border-solidarity.html

Guatemala: Coke Union STECSA and Coke Bottler FEMSA sign new collective bargaining agreement

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Stecsa2016

[Ed. note – Paul Garver:  This may sound like a routine story abut a contract settlement between a local union and management.  Except for one thing.  The initial creation of the STECSA union in Guatemala City in the 1970s cost the lives of several assassinated Guatemalan union leaders, plus a large-scale protracted global labor solidarity campaign.  Nearly forty years later Coke unions around the world remain engaged in a global coordination through the IUF that has resulted in a flexible and evolving framework of contention and dialogue with the giant corporate Coca-Cola empire.  The Guatemala Coke union has always remained on the IUFs global labor solidarity agenda.  In this case therefore what seems on the surface to be a routine event is actually a further manifestation of a heroic history of workers’ struggle.]

On the night of March 3, after 14 months of difficult negotiations and a suspension of nearly five months of negotiations, the Union of Workers of Embotelladora Central SA (STECSA) and Coca Cola FEMSA reached an agreement and signed the new collective bargaining agreement that will be valid for two years.

On March 2, the two negotiating committees signed an agreement that actually gave way to the completion of this difficult negotiation.

“Solving the conflict and finalizing the negotiation were the most important targets for the new Board of STECSA” Carlos Luch, the General Secretary of STECSA told the IUF Latin America region.

The agreement allowed us to ensure a retroactive wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2015 and provided a wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2016.

This percentage applies to all items that have economic impact, in that case also with retroactive effect from 1 March 2015.

“While we are not entirely satisfied with the salary adjustment reached, we believe that the agreement consolidates job stability in Central Bottling Company S.A. (Coca Cola FEMSA) and maintains the structure of our collective agreement unchanged guaranteeing the acquired rights” Luch added.

STECSA General Secretary thanked the members for their unconditional support given throughout the duration of the negotiations, and called on them “to continue with that commitment and conviction of struggle.”

He also urged all members to remain alerted “to defend the gains that were achieved through the struggle”.

Labor Movement’s May Day Promise

LOS ANGELES, CA - 1MAY06 -  Copyright David Bacon

LOS ANGELES, CA – 1MAY06 –
Copyright David Bacon

Erica Smiley May 1, 2016
The American Prospect

Some cast the labor movement as dying or even dead, but even amid attacks on collective bargaining workers are finding innovative ways to organize.

General view of the great crowds of organized and unorganized workers who took part in the May Day demonstration in Union Square, New York, May 1, 1929. , AP,

On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of railroad, mine, and factory workers in the United States put their livelihoods on the line and participated in a national strike to demand an eight-hour workday. They were attacked by strikebreakers and police, but their uprising led to the creation of a holiday to honor workers—May Day—now known as International Workers Memorial Day in many countries around the world. Continue reading

University of Colorado Should Give Nike a Swift Kick

by Dave Anderson

Buffs Nike.jpg

USAS Activists at UC Boulder

A university should be a critic and conscience of society, according
to an old-fashioned view. There are lofty goals on campus plaques and
universities should certainly provide a unique space for dissident
views.

Nevertheless, if you scratch the surface, you realize that
universities are increasingly knowledge factories subordinate to
corporate America.

Progressive student activists challenge universities to live up to
their ideals. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a
nationwide, grassroots group organizing solidarity with workers who
face grievous conditions locally and abroad.

They have focused their activism on the reckless business practices of
university-branded sports apparel brands. As students attending
colleges and universities with multimillion-dollar apparel programs,
USAS has conducted campaigns to force apparel brands like Nike to
respect workers rights. University of Colorado has a huge contract
with Nike.

On April 5, the CU Boulder chapter of USAS hosted a talk by Noi
Supalai, former union president and Nike factory worker from Thailand.
She described her struggles while working for a sub-contracting
company in Thailand called Eagle Speed, which produced clothing for
brands such as Nike, Northface, Columbia and Puma.

Accompanied by a volunteer translator, Supalai explained that after
the 2008 world economic meltdown, these brands began to order less
clothing from Eagle Speed.

Supalai said that, “it was at that point that Nike took advantage of
the situation and made a deal with the factory trying to order in
higher quantity, and they pressured for greatest quality, and we had
to produce it within a shorter time frame and in lower costs.”

Supalai said that Nike threatened to terminate Eagle Speed’s contract
if they didn’t agree to the new conditions. The 2,000 Eagle Speed
workers were unable to keep up with the high demand. As a result, Nike
placed a fine on the factory and refused to pay for any of the
clothing produced.

The workday was elongated from 8 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Management
placed devices on their bodies to track their working pace to ensure
consistency. The workers didn’t get paid for two months and couldn’t
even go home.

In desperation, the workers went on strike. When Supalai and 24 of her
fellow co-workers attempted to meet with Eagle Speed management, they
were directed to a room where they were immediately locked up.

She said Eagle Speed’s response when questioned about the detention
was, “You are too radical, stirring up workers.”

The Eagle Speed workers contacted the Thai government’s Department of
Labor Protection who refused to help them. The workers directly
contacted Nike and got the run-around.

Finally, they reached out to the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), an
independent labor rights monitoring organization.

Within one week, the WRC was able to reach an arrangement with Eagle
Speed that successfully allowed former workers to go back to work with
a promise that they wouldn’t be discriminated against and that those
who wished to resign would be granted full compensation.

The WRC attempts to combat sweatshops around the globe and protect the
rights of workers who make apparel and other products. It was founded
in 2000 by university administrators, labor rights experts and student
activists. The group’s primary focus is the labor practices of
factories that make university-related apparel.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public
reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at
these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their
workplace rights.

Nearly 200 schools are WRC affiliates. CU is one of them. For many
years, WRC and Nike have had a reasonably cooperative relationship.
However, the situation changed recently. Late last year, workers at a
Nike supplier’s factory in Vietnam held a pair of strikes over working
conditions. The WRC wanted to inspect the factory but Nike stopped
them.

WRC director Scott Nova was “surprised and concerned” by this change.
He said, “What it boils down to is Nike prefers not to be accountable
to an independent investigative body. They want to police the working
conditions themselves. The reason there are mandatory standards is
it’s not prudent to allow companies to police themselves.”

Nike has a lengthy history dealing with labor watchdogs and student
activists. In the 1990s, the company was embarrassed over a number of
sweatshop scandals. Since then, Nike has polished its pubic image and
has changed its behavior.

The USAS is leading a national campaign to force Nike to go back to
allowing WRC to inspect factories producing Nike shoes, clothes and
athletic equipment. The company is violating codes of conduct in
contracts with many schools.

Recently, hundreds of college faculty members around the country
signed onto a letter criticizing Nike for not assisting the WRC in
investigating the situation at the Vietnamese factory.

The president of Rutgers University, Robert Barchi, said that if Nike
didn’t help the WRC access the Vietnamese factory, the company would
be taking “a step backward” on its labor rights record. “Rutgers feels
that it is essential that all companies producing Rutgers-branded
products not only adhere to all applicable labor codes of conduct but
also be perceived as maintaining the highest standards of labor
rights,” Barchi wrote.

Parker Haile, an undergraduate in economics and chemical engineering,
says the CU Boulder chapter of USAS is asking the CU administration to
be as assertive as Rutgers. The student activists need our help. Check
out their Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/hbywglr.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the April 21 edition of Boulder Weekly.

IUF and Danone Sign Global Agreement to Promote Formal Employment

IUF Press Release

Geneva, March 15, 2016
The IUF and the French-based food products transnational Danone today signed a ground-breaking Agreement on Sustainable Employment and Access to Rights built around a joint commitment to promote “permanent, direct employment as an essential foundation for a sustainable business anchored in respect for human rights.”

With this Agreement, Danone and the IUF establish a framework to bring about continuous progress in limiting or reducing precarious forms of employment through a process of monitoring and negotiation.

The Agreement affirms the essential contribution of permanent direct employment to successful business performance and a positive social footprint in Danone workplaces and beyond, grounded in respect for human rights. It details the specific ways in which “fixed-term contracts and outsourced employment relationships may have the effect of depriving workers of the protections and the rights they are due”, and aims to ensure that employment on fixed-term contracts is limited to where it can be clearly identified as temporary and non-recurring. Local management and trade unions, according to the agreement, are to jointly identify the circumstances where fixed-term employment and/or the outsourcing of services may be introduced by mutual agreement, and will regularly review developments in order to limit these forms of employment.

Danone will promote the application of the Agreement at operations in which the company has minority ownership and at Danone Group suppliers. Danone and the IUF will actively encourage local unions and management to engage in the implementation process and will monitor progress through a regular review process at global level.

“Workers and their trade unions have become increasingly concerned by the multiple barriers to the effective exercise of rights posed by fixed-term and outsourced employment relationships,” says IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald. “With this agreement, the IUF and Danone have succeeded in establishing a framework and a practical basis for negotiating concrete solutions which will facilitate workers’ full access to the rights set out in international Conventions and standards. We now look forward to the implementation process.”

 [Ed. note -Paul Garver:  Over nearly three decades, the IUF [during which period I worked for the IUF for 15 years] and Danone have agreed to a series of global framework agreements, of which this is the latest and perhaps the most ambitious.    Workers in almost all  countries have demanded employment security protection with benefits guaranteed by a union contract. However direct permanent employment has been steadily eroded by the growth of outsourced, temporary, fixed-term or other forms of “precarious” employment.  As in the case of all global labor-management framework agreements, actual implementation of workers’ rights at the local factory and office levels and effective extension of these rights to those who work at company suppliers and those companies in which Danone has only minority ownership may require more decades].

Buy Oreos Made in the USA

by Paul Garver

The Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) produced this video to promote its campaign to save the jobs of 600 workers at the Nabisco plant in Chicago.

The global food conglomerate Mondelez International, which now operates five Nabisco factories in the USA. has a history of relocating production of its bakery products from the USA and Europe to lower-wage countries.

Mondelez is opposed by a global coalition of unions cooperating through the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), which includes the BCTGM.   Last year the international union network issued a consensus statement demanding that Mondelez stop outsourcing production as part of a Screamdelez campaign demanding justice for Mondelez workers.

Mondelez

Normally international union coalitions have difficulty in supporting appeals to Buy American, which might pit workers in one country against those in another. But there are special circumstances in this case.  Production from the two Nabisco Mexican factories in Salinas and Monterey  is dedicated entirely to the North American market. The Mexican Nabisco plants have no autonomous union to represent the workers. Moreover Mondelez has used blackmail tactics against the BCTGM Chicago local demanding concessions that would amount to  60% pay cut as the condition of not shifting several production lines from Chicago to Salinas.  .

The BCTGM’s campaign is being supported by prominent Mexican-American Chicago politician Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and by a rally addressed by former CWA president Larry Cohen, now a leader of Labor for Bernie. However only vocal and continued consumer support for the campaign might put enough pressure on Mondelez to save several hundred crucial industrial jobs in Chicago.

 

 

 

The End of China’s Labor Regime?

by Kevin Lin

Workers at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine on a 2013 strike for higher pay.

Ed. note:  The New York Times Business Day section (10 March 2016) included a feature article entitled “Not the Chinese Dream” by Owen Guo, that highlighted the inability or unwillingness of China’s 257 million [internal] migrant workers to occupy the thousands of vacant urban apartments that are weighing down the Chinese economy.  Kevin Lin’s article poses the structural causes that underlie this socio-economic crisis.

A key ingredient of China’s Post-Mao economic “miracle” is a labour regime entrenched in the export-oriented consumer manufacturing sector and premised on despotic exploitation, institutional discrimination and political exclusion of labour. It is built on the back of massive rural-to-urban migration in the context of a stagnant agricultural sector and rising disparity in rural-urban incomes from the 1990s. The rural migrants are not only placed under exploitative labour relations under the Party-state’s market liberalisation, but also institutionally discriminated against by the urban household registration system that denies them of permanent urban residency and entrenches the transient nature of their labour migration, and politically excludes  them from organising autonomous labour unions and asserting as an organised social force. This combination, by no means unique in the history of capitalist development, produces an abundant and seemingly endless supply of not only cheap and disposable but disciplined, fragmented and atomised labour. However, having help propel China into a global economic power, the reproduction of this labour regime is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,625 other followers