Mexican Auto Unions Create New Federation

by Jeffrey Hermanson

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Mexico’s auto workers are for the first time forming a national federation in what is a very significant development both for Mexican labor and for Mexican society as a whole. Ten organizations representing over 25,000 Mexican workers have committed to the new organization.

There have been conversations between Mexican auto industry unions for 20 years, and there have been good relations between the oldest independent auto unions, SITIAVW of Puebla and SITNISSAN of Morelos, but until recently the conversations have included some CTM auto unions that were trying to legitimize themselves as relatively independent. The CTM unions have now dropped out of the conversations, and the truly independent and democratic unions are moving to formalize their alliance and found a legally recognized federation.

SITIAVW (Independent Union of Workers of Auto Industry VW) is a founding member of the new federation, along with SITAUDI, SITNISSAN (the independent union of Nissan-Cuernavaca, Morelos), STIMAHCS (an auto parts union affiliated with the FAT), los Mineros (miners) of Bombardier Hidalgo (aerospace and auto parts), SNTGT (General Tire), SINTB (Bridgestone Tire), SEGLO (logistics services) and the newly formed SITGM (Goodyear Mexico) of San Luis Potosí.

SITIAVW and SITAUDI are independent, single-factory unions based in Puebla, SITIAVW with over 10,000 members, SITAUDI with somewhat less.

The addition of auto parts unions and rubber worker unions is an important move, since for every auto assembly worker it is estimated there are at least twice as many parts and component supplier workers.

The project is sponsored jointly by IndustriALL and IG Metall, and the project organizer is José Luis Rodríguez Salazar, a former president of SITIAVW. Find here a link to a recent IndustriALL article about the struggle of the union at Goodyear.

This is an incredibly important development in Mexican labor, as the auto, auto parts, tire and aerospace industries are one of the biggest, most important and most advanced industrial sectors of the Mexican economy. The leading role of SITIAVW in this is due to their long history of independence, democracy and militancy, earning them the best contracts in the industry and the respect of the entire labor movement. The project director is also widely respected, as he led SITIAVW through some of its most difficult struggles during the Vicente Fox sexenio (six-year term) and is the only SITIAVW president to have been re-elected and to serve more than one term.

Equally important in the leadership of this initiative are los Mineros, a powerful national miners union whose leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia broke with the corporativist labor movement (CTM, CROC, CROM, allied in the Congreso de Trabajo or Congress of Labor) fifteen years ago and embarked on militant organizing and collective bargaining campaigns, challenging the biggest, most powerful Mexican industrial conglomerate Grupo Mexico, expanding their jurisdiction to aerospace and auto parts, aiding progressive independent organizing projects like CAT-Puebla and CFO on the border.

Gómez Urrutia was falsely accused and threatened by the Mexican government and has been living in exile in Canada for over ten years, but has been elected Senator on the list of MORENA, the reform party whose presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador was just elected president. Gómez will return to Mexico to take his seat on September 1, giving the independent labor movement a powerful voice in the Senate. Los Mineros have an affiliation agreement with the United Steel Workers (USW), which represents workers in Canada and the United States.

This is happening at a time of historic change in Mexican politics, with the defeat of the presidential candidates of the PRI and PAN by López Obrador or AMLO, the founder and leader of MORENA, who was elected in a landslide. This could mean the reform of Mexico’s labor laws. The independent labor movement is working to take advantage of this opportunity to become a leading force in Mexican society.

Jeffery Hermanson has been a union organizer with ILGWU/UNITE, the Carpenters and the Writers Guild of America since 1977. He was the Field Representative in Mexico for the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center from 2000-2003 and currently works with the International Union Educational League.  This article first appeared on the New Politics blog at http://newpol.org/content/mexican-independent-and-democratic-auto-unions-form-new-federation

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Organizing Walmart

by Paul Garver

 

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Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart is not for breezy summer reading on the beach or in the mountains.  Save it for cooler weather at a comfortable desk in September. But if you are either a prospective or current labor organizer or labor studies major, do read it and take notes.  Other than actually becoming a Walmart “associate,” there is no better way to learn what it is like to experience “Walmartism.”

Organizing Walmart workers is both totally necessary for the future of the workers’ movement and a quixotic project that requires enormous persistence and a huge leap of faith.  It is the largest employer in the USA and in the world.  “Walmartism” combines a huge centrally controlled bureaucracy with the arbitrary authority of layer upon layer of managers in such a way that Walmart “associates” have little control over their working conditions and lives.

Reich and Bearman describe in excruciating detail how Walmart workers make sense of their jobs on the shop floor.   Their information comes from the experiences and reports of twenty student activists who spend an intensive summer researching and helping organize Walmart associates in five different urban areas in conjunction with OUR Walmart [Organization United for Respect at Walmart].

The major source of resources for the OUR Walmart project, the United Food & Commercial Workers [UFCW], pulled the plug on its commitment the same time that the students’ summer project ended in September 2015.

By then the students had undergone much conflict, learned a lot, but organized few associates. However their interviews with current and former workers prove an invaluable source of insights into the complex obstacles to organizing at Walmart.

Drawing on a wide array of methods, including participant-observation, oral history, big data, and the analysis of social networks, Working for Respect is a sophisticated reconsideration of this pivotal workplace.  The most detailed and valuable sections of this book describe the variety of reasons why folks work at Walmart, why they remain or leave employment, and which issues are most important for them.

Current union organizing models are not effective at Walmart given its sprawling scale and its sophisticated management methods. Since employees have various reasons why they work at Walmart, no single organizing method is a magic key that reaches all associates at each store.  And Walmart, owned by the wealthiest family in the USA, is ruthlessly determined to stamp out any organizing among its associates.

The authors, like the students and the UFCW,  can offer no easy answers.  They do share a few insights with the reader.  One is that issues like respect and dignity on the job  mobilize Walmart workers more effectively than purely economic demands.  Another is that while face-to-face organizing is crucial, but Walmart, social media networks have to play a major role in sustaining networks of workers across the vast sprawl of the Walmart empire.

There is nothing in this book about Walmart organizing in other countries, but I will add an observation about China, where Walmart is well established and growing.  Whereas Walmart in the USA and Canada has closed whole stores and departments rather than allowing any kind of union foothold, Walmart in China embraced Chinese-style management- and Communist Party- dominated “trade unions.”  Walmart associates in China who insist on real collective bargaining are shut out by management and “union” alike. Sporadic communications among Walmart employees persist mainly through social media.

Welcome to 21st century global capitalism!   The essential, though seemingly impossible,  task for workers is to overcome Walmart and its clones through self-organization.  This book provides a few useful hints how to begin..

Adam Reich is an associate professor of sociology at Columbia University. He is the author of Hidden Truth: The Young Men Navigating Lives in and out of Juvenile Prison (2010); With God on Our Side: The Struggle for Workers’ Rights in a Catholic Hospital (2012); and Selling Our Souls: The Commodification of Hospital Care in the United States(2014).

Peter Bearman is the Cole Professor of the Social Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theories and Empirics at Columbia University. He is the author of Relations Into Rhetorics (1993) and Doormen (2005) and coeditor of the Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology (2009), as well as coeditor of the Middle Range series at Columbia University Press.

Support Fired Tobacco Farmworkers

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Two farmworkers were harassed, abused and later fired unjustly after speaking out about violations on Randy Blalock’s tobacco farm in North Carolina.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee [FLOC AFL-CIO] wants your support.

Send an email to their grower, his anti-union lawyer, and tobacco giants Reynolds and Alliance One to let them know that this type of worker abuse will not be allowed. Join us in demanding that the grower pay the workers thousands of dollars of stolen wages and compensate them for their unjust and retaliatory termination. We are also calling on tobacco companies to work with FLOC to guarantee freedom of association to all tobacco farmworkers to end the abuse in the tobacco fields.  Use link below:

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/two-tobacco-farmworkers-fired-for-speaking-out-tell-their-grower-blalock-and-the-tobacco-companies-that-we-want-justice-and-freedom-of-association?source=direct_link&

Teachers’ Unions in a Post-Janus World

Excellent piece.  Concrete suggestions.

https://rethinkingschoolsblog.com/2018/06/26/transforming-teacher-unions-in-a-post-janus-world/

Abolish ICE Demonstration-Sacramento

Poster - Abolish Ice - DSA nationalLACLAA ( Labor Committee for Latin American Advancement)  organized a  dynamic demonstration today at the ICE offices in Sacramento to oppose the policies of jailing children and to slow down ICE.  Photos, videos, and sound recordings contributed to the scene.

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Desiree Rojas, Sacramento LACLA President pointed to large photos and said we have now seen children put into dog kennels.  We have seen ICE Separate families. And, we must resist.

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Desiree Rojas LCLAA

“We will fight for the children !  We will fight back against ICE !”

LACLAA , a part of the AFL-CIO, has been organized and active in Sacramento since 1982 and was particularly active in the anti NAFTA efforts and in organizing annual Cesar Chavez marches.

Local residents of the Japanese Citizens League,  who had themselves been incarcerated in 1942 in the Japanese Incarceration told of their stories.  And, how the incarceration haunted them for decades.

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Fabrizio Sasso

Fabrizio Sasso, Executive Secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council  described today’s effort as a part of the battle for Freedom and Democracy.

The video is here. https://www.facebook.com/sacramentolabor/

Duane Campbell (DSA) the Co Chair of the Immigrants’ Rights Committee of Democratic Socialists of America told the crowd of some 200 of the DSA campaign to Abolish ICE.

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Duane Campbell – DSA Immigration Committee

“This issue before us is one of human decency.  Under the Trump Administration ICE has developed a new policy of deliberately separating families of immigrants and refugees.  They are separating parents from their children as a form of collective punishment.    We have seen the photos. We know what is happening! Continue reading

Poor People’s Campaign Defends Workers’ Rights – Sacramento

 

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by Duane Campbell

Hundreds of tenants, low-wage workers, clergy, union members and community activists descended upon the California state capitol today in a show of collective power to demand that state lawmakers take action to address the state’s homelessness crisis and to combat the systemic racism and poverty in our communities.

Working families traveled from San Diego, Los Angeles, Salinas, and the Bay Area to join in this fifth successive week of nonviolent direct action.

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California DSA Members at the Poor People’s Campaign  June 11, 2018

Speakers and participants included union workers protesting the attack on workers rights and their unions.   Anti-worker attacks – like Janus V AFSCME –  would create so called ‘Right to Work’ status for government workers in California and around the nation.  See demands below.

“ The greedy rich and the corporations backing Janus are coming after us because they know about our power in numbers, and they know what we can accomplish when we stand together,” said David Dunbar a SEIU Local 721 member from Los Angeles.

As the rally concluded, hundreds entered the capitol building to take their message directly to the lawmakers and to bear witness to their crisis when communities are torn apart by homelessness, poverty wages, systemic racism, and corporate greed.

Today’s event was one of thirty in state capitols across the nation and in Washington D.C.  This is the fifth week of the campaign.  The protests across the nation are organized to reignite the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 started by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and many others to challenge racism poverty and militarism.

Demands: Protect Workers, Their Families and the Right To Organize

The expectation of finding one good job and keeping it for a lifetime has been replaced by the need to jump from job to job, without secure benefits or steady income. Workers are increasingly bearing all the economic risk of corporate losses, economic downturn and unemployment. Jobs are not only outsourced, but they are also automated away. Low wages are the norm. Continue reading

Support Wendt Ironworkers in Buffalo

by Eric Lee, LabourStart

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On June 2017, workers at Wendt Corporation, a scrap metal recycling plant based in Buffalo, New York (USA) successfully fought for respect and dignity by forming a union, joining the Ironworkers Union.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that a year later, the company refuses to negotiate in good faith with the union for the first collective bargaining agreement. And Wendt has also launched an anti-union campaign, harassing union members and threatening to lay-off workers.

The global union federation Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), to which the Ironworkers are affiliated, has launched a global appeal for solidarity with the workers at Wendt.

We are calling on the company to stop the anti-union campaign and to negotiate with the workers.

Please take a few seconds and send off your message to support these workers:

http://www.labourstart.org/go/wendt

In the current climate in the US, workers show great courage in taking the decision to organize into a trade union.  Let’s mobilize many thousands of our fellow union members to show those workers in Buffalo that they are not alone.  Share this campaign – spread the word!