Duro Election in Rio Bravo-

Tony Abdo aabdo at SPAMwebtv.net
Tue Feb 27 11:03:46 MST 2001


Will the New Fox Government Protect Maquiladora Workers Rights or Bow to
Foreign Corporations and their Mexican Subsidiaries and Unions?

The Test Will Be in Rio Bravo Tamaulipas This Friday.

Last night in Rio Bravo, a group of about twenty women workers - members
of a new independent union at the Duro Bag Company - and a handful of
allies from organizations in Mexico City, Valle Hermoso, and the U.S.
members of the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras faced their
worst nightmare. They were surrounded in the Hotel La Mansion and
menaced by forty to fifty thugs brought in by Duro Bag from Mexico City
"unions", the CROC and CTM all trying to block a democratic election
scheduled for Friday at the company. The police lounged outside,
refusing to intervene.

Word got out by phone to CJM members in three countries who tried to
mobilize a response, but Rio Bravo is remote, and the local authorities
had earlier that day refused to take complaints by the workers when they
were beaten and almost run over by the thugs. In desperation a U.S.
board member of CJM called the U.S. consul in Matamoros to appeal for
intervention on behalf of the of Americans in the group.

Then, as if by providence, a group from a Catholic lay organization
arrived from Matamoros, led by a priest and a young politician. The
priest proceeded to talk to the workers in front of the thugs telling
them to be brave and that the church was behind them. The thugs began to
back off.
Calls were made by the politician to federal officials. Then the police
arrived calling out the name of the non-Hispanic American, and forcing
the thugs to withdraw. Thus the Mexican government provided the crucial
police protection not to its own citizens but to avoid an international
incident.

Just another day of routine organizing among Mexico s impoverished and
abused maquiladora workforce, or an incident that shows the opposing
forces mounting in the pressure cooker of the U.S. Mexican border? After
a determined campaign by the Duro Bag workers for over a year and
support for them by CJM and its member organizations in Mexico, the U.S.
and Canada, the Fox administration finally scheduled the recuento or
union representation election, which the workers had petitioned for six
months ago. The election will be held on Friday March 2nd at 9;30 A.M.
at the Duro plant, located on the outskirts of Rio Bravo.

However, the Mexican labor board rejected the independent union s
request for a secret ballot election on neutral ground, despite an
agreement reached between the U.S. and Mexican government to promote
secret ballot elections. Thus, workers must declare out loud before a
panel of bosses and union representatives which union they will vote
for. Since the election is to be held inside the company, it will
control access. The atmosphere of repression and violence has escalated
in Rio Bravo with many recent firings of independent union supporters,
daily threats by Duro that anyone voting for the independent union will
be fired; that if the independent union wins, they will close the plant;
and the thugs, who block the workers efforts to leaflet and do house
calls and attack them in the street.

Meanwhile, pressure builds as independent unions in Mexico call on the
Fox Administration to bring this rogue corporation and the traditional
impunity of gangster unions under control. On Monday in the U.S.,
religious leaders, unions, and students rallied at Duro s headquarters
in Ludlow Kentucky as company executives sneaked out the back door,
rather than face the two women workers from Rio Bravo who came from
Mexico to tell their stories and the extensive media that came to cover
it.

Demonstrations against Hallmark, Duro s largest customer and Mexican
consulates are continuing this week. (There were 20 demonstrations
against Hallmark around Valentines Day.)

On Friday, election observers from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada will
monitor the election, but it s clear that despite the strong and defiant
support by the workers for the new union, the deck may be completely
stacked against them. Without dramatic action by the Fox government, it
will be evident that nothing has changed for Mexican workers.

Duro is a Kentucky-based maker of gift bags for Hallmark, Neiman Marcus
and others. Rio Bravo is near Reynosa, which is just across the border
from McAllen, Texas. The Duro workers are receiving support from a
variety of U.S., Mexican, and Canadian organizations allied in the
Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, which is based in San
Antonio, Texas.
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