Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Mon Dec 11 14:06:08 MST 2000
Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
> >The only issue worth
> >considering is whether the proletarianization of women in maquiladora
> >conditions hastens the Mexican revolution.
> >Heard of Han
> >Young workers' struggles in Tijuana?
I am sure Lou heard of it. did you fully hear about it?
The following flyer says:
"North of the border, U.S. Congressional Minority Whip David Bonior declared
that "Han Young management, the Tijuana labor board and the Mexican government
are engaged in a systematic effort to deny Han Young workers their right to an
independent union through harassment, intimidation and fraud." Bonior called on
Vice-President Al Gore to communicate U.S. concern to the Mexican government.
U.S. Labor Department spokesperson Bob Zachariasiewicz said the department was
"monitoring developents very closely."
full story at:
BORDER BOSSES GO ALL OUT TO STOP STRIKE AT HAN YOUNG
By David Bacon
TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA (5/30/98) -- As dawn broke over the hills of Tijuana on
May 22, dozens of rough-clad workers began gathering in a narrow road facing an
old industrial building, high on one of the city's mesas. An undercurrent of
tension and anticipation filled the dusty street in front of the Han Young
factory, as they awaited the beginning of the first legal strike by an
independent maquiladora union in the history of
the U.S./Mexican border.
>From inside the plant, the would-be strikers could hear the sounds of machinery
operated by a workforce of three dozen laborers, hired by the company over the
previous two weeks. As eight o'clock approached, the hour at which their
workshift would normally have started, Han Young's regular workers filed into
the factory, not to turn their machines on, but to turn
Once inside, shouting matches broke out. Around the welding
machines in the plant's dim, cavernous interior, the regular workers confronted
the new hires and the company's human relations director, Magdaleno Reyes. They
demanded that everyone comply with Mexican labor law and leave. In a legal
strike in Mexico, the company may not try to continue operations. All personnel
must leave the premises, and the doors must be locked.
Reyes refused to order the new workers to get out, or to go
himself. Instead, he got into a shoving match, and, according to the
workers, hit some of them. Reyes later refused to be interviewed.
Finally, the regular workers left. Once outside in the street,
they strung the traditional red-and-black strike banners across the
entrances. As the day wore on, the new hires trickled out of the factory,
complaining that production wasn't really possible without the skilled
labor of the strikers. By evening, the plant was dark and deserted.
Since then, Han Young strikers have lived in the street outside
factory, day and night, parking their vehicles in front of its huge
corrugated-iron doors. No one has entered.
In the ten days since it started, the city's entire political
establishment has mobilized to declare the strike illegal and discredit
strikers. Workers have been forced into two successive elections within a
week, and the city's local Conciliation and Arbitration Board took out a
full-page ad in "El Mexicano," Tijuana's largest newspaper, saying the
strike was "non-existent" in Mexican legal terms. In a speech before the
Baja California chapter of the employers association COPARMEX, the state's
Director of Labor and Social Services, Eleazar Verastegui, warned it was
"provoked by foreign unions" who want to discourage investment in Mexico.
Only a last-minute court decision prevented the strike from being legally
North of the border, U.S. Congressional Minority Whip David Bonior
declared that "Han Young management, the Tijuana labor board and the
Mexican government are engaged in a systematic effort to deny Han Young
workers their right to an independent union through harassment,
intimidation and fraud." Bonior called on Vice-President Al Gore to
communicate U.S. concern to the Mexican government. U.S. Labor Department
spokesperson Bob Zachariasiewicz said the department was "monitoring
developents very closely."
Last fall, Bonior won Democratic votes in Congress against the
Clinton administration proposal for fast track authority to expand NAFTA,
by using the Han Young conflict as an example of the failure of the
agreement's failure to protect workers' rights in Mexico. Fast track was
defeated, but is likely to resurface after the November election. Bonior
is calling Han Young a test case with "long-term implications for U.S.
The strike marks the culmination of a year-long effort by Han
Young workers to organize an independent union, and win bargaining rights
from their employer. Han Young is a contract plant, whose 100 employees
weld truck chassis for the huge Hyundai Corp. manufacturing complex in
Tijuana. According to plant manager Pablo Kang, "we pay higher wages than
any other maquiladora in Tijuana."
Nevertheless, workers complain the plant has a high industrial
accident rate, and that they can't live on its wages. They asked the
company to negotiate improvements.
Striker Miguel Angel Solorzano, who earns 64 pesos (about $8)
daily, says he has to spend 28 pesos just on breakfast and lunch. "I have
a physically exhausting job," he explains, "and I'm always tired because I
just can't afford to eat enough." He readily rolls up his sleeves to show
poorly-healed fractures in his right forearm, the result of an industrial
accident. "They only gave me 10 days off when it happened," he recalls
bitterly, "and then I was forced to come back to work, even though I
couldn't even close my fist. My arm still hurts,"
Solorzano was among a dozen supporters of the independent union
fired by Reyes earlier this spring. He's filed legal motions to return to
When workers demanded that the company recognize their independent
union last June, Han Young's owner, Young Lee, informed them that the
already had a contract with another union closely allied to Tijuana's
political establishment, the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and
The type of agreement Han Young signed is commonly called a
protection contract. Jesus Campos Linas, the dean of Mexican labor
lawyers, says thousands of such contracts in Mexico are arrangements of
mutual convenience between government-affiliated unions, the government
itself, and foreign investors owning factories in the country. "The
government basically uses these labor federations to get votes during
elections," Campos says. "Companies make hefty regular payments to union
leaders under these contracts, and in return get labor peace."
Last summer, Han Young workers formally petitioned Tijuana's labor
board for the right to form their own union, and joined one of Mexico's
national independent unions, the Union of Workers in the Metal, Steel,
and Connected Industries (STIMAHCS).
In October, they forced the labor board to hold an election in
which they could choose between STIMAHCS and the government-affiliated
union. That election was marked by accusations that the company brought
voters ineligible to cast ballots. STIMAHCS won nevertheless. The U.S.
Department of Labor's National Administrative Office, charged with hearing
complaints under the labor side agreement of the North American Free Trade
Agreement, concluded in April that the Mexican government had permitted
When the labor board refused to recognize the election results,
further work stoppages and a hunger strike forced a second election in
December, also won by STIMAHCS. Additional pressure from workers, and
public outcry in the U.S. and Mexico, subsequently forced the board to
grant recognition and bargaining rights to the independent union.
On March 22, STIMAHCS told the company it intended to exercise its
right to conduct a legal strike when the old contract expired in 60 days,
if negotiations weren't fruitful.
Han Young refused to bargain, claiming that another
government-affiliated union had claimed jurisdiction over the plant.
relations director Reyes has long ties to that union, a branch of the
government-affiliated Confederation of Mexican Workers. According to
Enrique Hernandez, who represents the independent union, Reyes used those
connections to hire a wave of new workers prior to the strike.
Once the conflict started, Reyes and the powerful political allies
of the CTM in Tijuana began moves to get the strike declared illegal,
arguing that it wasn't supported by a majority of Han Young workers. On
May 27, the labor board conducted an election, outside the factory. It
used its normal procedure in which workers declare their votes out loud,
front of company, union and government representatives. Fifty two workers
voted to continue the strike, and 64 voted against it -- a total of 118
Hernandez and STIMAHCS attorney Jose Pe=F1aflor, however, alleged
that 48 of those who had voted against the strike were ineligible because
they were hired after the union gave its strike notice, or had never
at the company at all. "They were even recruiting voters at the flea
market the day before the election," Hernandez charges, adding that there
were never 118 workers at the factory.
The labor board never required the company to produce a list of
eligible voters prior to the strike, and refused to invalidate the
election. "STIMAHCS' has to provide proof that those workers it
weren't eligible to vote," asserted labor board head Jesus Cosio.
a list of workers employed by Han Young on March 22 would be easily
available from the records of the Mexican Social Security Institute, he
said he was unwilling to ask for it. "Anyone who presents themselves to
vote will be allowed to do so," he declared.
The board also ruled the strike was "non-existent" because the
strike flags were put up 15 minutes too early. It then took out a
full-page advertisement in Tijuana's leading newspaper to announce its
On Friday, March 29, the board held a second election in front of
the plant, in which the government-affiliated CTM sought to take over the
independent union's bargaining rights.
At nine a.m., two dozen black-uniformed members of Tijuana's
tactical squad, the "Special Forces," were deployed in front of the
factory. Reyes then marched at the head of dozens of men wearing CTM
up street to the factory doors.
Before voting started, Hernandez again demanded that the board
require the company to produce a list of eligible voters. Cosio turned
request aside. The strikers then filed up to the table under the watchful
eyes of the police, Han Young management, and CTM officials, to cast their
votes. After they voted and returned to their side of the police lines, a
tiny group of four women stepped out of their ranks.
Although they had never worked in the plant before, and in fact
joined the independent union at another factory, they presented themselves
at the table to vote. The CTM supporters whistled and made rude remarks
about them, but they refused to leave the voting tables. "Since you're
permitting anyone to vote, these women demand the same right you've
accorded to others," Hernandez announced.
Board personnel were at first non-plussed and insisted the women
away. Finally officials agreed they could vote as well.
Then the CTM supporters voted. One voter was an 18-year old youth
who gave his name as Josue. The day before admitted in an interview that
he had only been hired on May 15. "Reyes told us to say that we had
started work before February 12 [the cutoff date for eligibility] if we
were asked," he stated.
The final total was 74-65 in favor of the independent union.
no one was asked to provide proof of their employment status, it is
what the results would be if only the votes of eligible employees were
counted. Interviewed following the voting, Cosio stated that "we ran this
election correctly, and we don't intend to change the way we do it."
The irregularities, however, proved to be too much for Judge Maria
Lourdes Villagomez Guillon of the Federal fifth district court. Hours
after the voting concluded, Villagomez suspended all of the board's
against the strike and the independent union, and set a June 18th date to
hear evidence on the issues. Meanwhile, the strike continues.
"If we win, there are workers in hundred of maquiladoras who will
try to form their own unions, so they can get better wages and
Hernandez says. "That challenges government policy, which relies on
maintaining low wages as an attraction for foreign investment. So the
government, its affiliated unions and the employers' association have all
allied themselves against us."
That description was given credibililty by the appearance of Jose
Mandujano as the CTM attorney during the second election. Mandujano is a
key player in the city's economic structure. He was formerly the attorney
for the maquiladora owners' association, and then served as head of the
local labor board for some years.
The local board includes management and labor representatives, in
addition to government officials, and at least one member has an apparent
conflict of interest. The labor representative, elected at a convention
Baja California's government-affiliated unions, is Fernando Murrieta
Llaguno, a past official of the CTM cinematographers' union. "I'm
independent," Murrieta says. "I'm not afraid to rule against the CTM if
it's doing something wrong." He admits, however, that a problem of
protection contracts does exist within the labor movement.
Although the state labor secretary Verastegui accused U.S. unions
of being behind the Han Young conflict, no U.S. union representatives were
present at either election. No representative from the U.S. consulate
Nevertheless, according to Han Young plant manager Pablo Kang, who
says the company lost $40,000 during the strike's first week, "this
conflict is being used by U.S. unions and political parties in Mexico who
don't want us here. They [the independent union] aren't sincere."
Han Young workers have received support from the San Diego Support
Committee for Maquiladora Workers, and during a hunger strike by 4
independent union members in December, supporters leafleted at over 25
Hyundai car dealerships in the U.S. and Canada every Saturday. Support
Committee Executive Director Mary Tong has been told by the Mexican
Government Ministry that she will be deported if she tries to attend any
activity involving the Han Young workers in Mexico.
"The government accuses us of weakening our country," says strike
leader Miguel Angel Sanchez. "But they're protecting foreign investors
are here exploiting us and violating our laws, when they should be
protecting us and enforcing the law. If it's ok for the companies to
the border to do this, I think it's not only right for workers to support
each other across the same border, it's necessary."
- 30 -
david bacon - labornet email david bacon
internet: dbacon at igc.apc.org 1631 channing way
phone: 510.549.0291 berkeley, ca 94703
Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222
____________NetZero Free Internet Access and Email_________
Download Now http://www.netzero.net/download/index.html
Request a CDROM 1-800-333-3633
More information about the Marxism