Gangster Union "Wins" at Rio Bravo- Terror Continues

Tony Abdo aabdo at
Sat Mar 10 07:45:57 MST 2001

Fwd. ..Duro Election Results and Alert from CJM

Dear union brothers and sisters and other friends and activists:
                  As many of you
know the election at the Duro plant in Rio Bravo, Mexico took place last
Friday. Unfortunately, the Mexican government failed to comply with the
agreement it had reached in ministerial consultations under the labor
side agreement of NAFTA in the ITAPSA and Han Young cases to promote
secret ballot elections. In the face of multiple discharges of union
supporters and incredible intimidation, it is not surprising that when
workers were forced to walk through a gauntlet of thugs and vote out
loud, the independent union lost.

                  This case has
conclusively demonstrated both the importance of fair election
procedures such as secret ballot elections, a neutral location, and a
fair process for ensuring that only eligible voters participate, as well
the hollowness of the labor side agreement to protect workers rights.
  What follows is the alert I just received from the Coalition for
Justice in the Maquiladoras which describes the election and requests
that you e-mail Mexican President Vicente Fox protesting his failure to
live up to his election promises and Duro and Hallmark for permitting
such a travesty.

                  Many unions,
solidarity and faith organizations, and individuals have supported this
effort. As a board member of CJM I wish to thank you all, and to
particularly thank the many observers from all three countries who
traveled to Rio Bravo on such short notice to help prevent violence and
to document the violations which occurred.
In Solidarity,
March 6, 2001
Gangster Union "Wins" In Rio Bravo
Terror Continues

On Friday, March 2nd in a government-run union election, the workers at
Duro Bag Company in Rio Bravo Tamaulipas, Mexico were robbed of their
legal, constitutional and human right to be represented by a union of
their own choosing. The election was blatantly undemocratic. The final
vote of 498 to 4 replaced the current company-dominated union, the Paper
and Cardboard Workers Union (CTM) with a similarly company-dominated
union, the Cardboard and Paper Workers Union (CROC), a union that had
provided about a hundred thugs to terrorize Duro workers in the weeks
before the election. The workers had attempted to win representation for
their local independent Union of Duro Bag Workers. Over 150 of them were
fired for organizing over the ten months of their struggle. The Mexican
government had refused to order a secret ballot election on neutral
grounds despite an agreement with the U.S. government last summer to do
so in union elections.

Second shift held prisoner
According to six members of the independent union committee who were
allowed into the plant to monitor the voting, Duro ordered second and
third shift workers to stay in the plant at the end of their shifts and
held them prisoner in the plant. The doors were blocked with metal
sheets, the windows of the doors were papered over, and rolls of paper
blocked the open areas. The Duro union observers were kept in cubicles
so they couldn't communicate with each other, and the women observers
were escorted individually into the bathrooms. The observers reported
that initially they could hear people yelling, "Let us out!" but then
loud music was played continuously. Amidst this deafening music, day
shift workers, many of whom were not entitled to vote, were ushered by
the thugs through a gauntlet of toughs into the voting area. They were
handed a slip of blue paper with only a number printed on it for the
CROC union and told to vote for it in the voice vote. Company and
company union representatives sat there taking notes. The workers didn't
even know the name of the union for which they were voting.

The independent union committee and their lawyers objected to voting by
workers not on the list but their objections were ignored and they were
unable to find out who of the second and third shift workers wanted to
vote and were prevented from so doing.

On Thursday, the day before the union election, organizers and
supporters watched in disbelief as thugs unloaded automatic weapons from
a car at the plant gate and very conspicuously carried them into the

Thirty-nine election observers from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada
including clergy, human rights and union representatives stood outside
the plant gate all day. They were refused admittance to observe the
proceedings. Media from local and international press also asked for
admittance into the plant but were kept outside with the observers.

While the voting was going on, a car came out of the plant, driven by
two of the CROC thugs. The workers recognized the car and drivers one of
whom had threatened union organizers during the week. The car hit one of
the fired workers and was stopped and blocked by an oncoming car. People
refused to let it go and insisted on searching the trunk. In it they
found banners and flyers of the independent union that had been torn
down from public places and confiscated from employees. Although,
nominally the election was between unions, it was clear to everyone that
it was really between a workers' union and the company, and it was the
company that equipped and paid for the thugs of the CROC union to harass
the organizers and intimidate the workers.
Significance of the Duro workers' struggle
The attempt of the Duro Bag workers to win a real union was supported
through an international campaign by The Coalition for Justice in the
Maquiladoras (CJM) to pressure the Mexican government, Duro Bag and
Duro's largest customer Hallmark. CJM is a San Antonio, Texas-based
coalition of North American labor, religious and human rights
organizations. CJM Executive Director, Martha Ojeda, herself a former
maquiladora worker, said, "With this shockingly undemocratic election,
the new Fox administration has made it crystal clear that it has no
intention of reforming Mexico's corrupt system of government and
company-dominated unions. Despite Fox's promise to 'put a human face on
the global economy,' we now know he will oppose any attempts by
maquiladora workers to improve their sub-poverty wages and deadly
working conditions. In fact, this represents a step backward from
promises made to NAFTA partners by the previous government to move
toward secret ballot union elections. Moreover, this election
demonstrates the repression and fraud that multinational corporations
are willing to use, that the CROC is now replacing the declining CTM,
and that in future attempts to organize their own unions the workers are
going to be fighting with gangsters."

One of the international observers, Judy Ancel, an educator from Kansas
City and member of the CJM Board of Directors said, "A number of the
foreigners wanted to know what the Spanish word for "Shame" was. I think
we were all appalled at the total lack of pretense of even minimal
fairness in this election." She added, "As the Bush, Fox, and Chretien
administrations of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada prepare to push for
NAFTA expansion to the entire Western Hemisphere, I think the Duro case
will haunt the debate. It is a clear example of NAFTA's utter failure to
improve the lives of workers."

"We won our dignity" but repression continues
The Duro workers will maintain their organization and continue to fight
for their rights. Sylvia Martinez, a Duro worker, responded to the
elections by saying, "They are the losers and we are the winners because
we won our dignity."

Latest reports indicate that having stolen the election, the thug union
is continuing a mop-up operation of revenge against the Duro workers
independent union and their organizers. On Saturday night, Pedro Lopez,
one of the supporters from CJM member group FUTURO was returning home to
Valle Hermoso in his car and was pursued by a pickup truck which tried
to force him off the road. He was hit by the truck and sustained head
injuries and needed surgery on his mouth. He is recovering at home while
his family tries to get the authorities to investigate.
Meanwhile, Eliud Almaguer reported that workers who were imprisoned in
the plant are saying that they were threatened by thugs during the
election. Many are confused as to whether the CTM or CROC union won
since the union delegate and committee are the same as before. He also
reports that some of the thugs are still in town. The Duro workers union
is following up investigating and getting testimonies from workers who
were held captive and threatened.

The repression has not just been in Mexico. On February 26th the PACE
Local representing Duro workers in Ludlow Kentucky co-hosted a press
conference and rally at Duro's headquarters at which two Rio Bravo
workers spoke. Afterwards Duro tried to fire Dave Klontz, local
president, on false charges of having left work early. Then they refused
to permit him to take off on union business or earned vacation to travel
to Rio Bravo for the election.

Protest this outrage
Please write letters protesting this blatant violation of worker and
human rights to Mexican President Vicente Fox and to Tamaulipas State
Governor Tomas Yarrington. Also call, write or fax Duro Bag and their
customer Hallmark. Inform your Congressional representatives of these
violations and point out the failure of any progress toward labor rights
under NAFTA.

Sample letter
Dear President Fox:
The recuento (union election) which took place at the Duro Bag Company
in Rio Bravo Tamaulipas on March 2 was a blatant violation of all
standards of free elections. The presence of armed thugs, the holding of
second shift workers prisoner in the plant, and the intimidation of
workers by the company and the CROC union are an outrage. I am very
disappointed that after the promises you made to respect worker rights
your government would conduct such an election.

You spoke last week in Cancun about putting a human face on
globalization. Are we to conclude that this new face is one filled with
terror? We demand an end to stolen elections, impunity and corruption in
the handling of labor rights issues in Mexico.

Send letters to:
Vicente Fox Quesada, President of Mexico. Email:
precisa at Governor Tomas Yarrington, State of
Tamaulipas: Email him from web page:

or send Fax: 01152 (1) 318 8701
Duro Bag, email them at info at or fax: 859-581-8327 Hallmark
(which buys 15% of Duro Rio Bravo's gift bags) can be reached from their
web page at or at info at or fax:
(816) 274-7555.
for more information contact CJM at 210-732-8957 or cjm at

Robin Alexander
UE Director of International Labor Affairs One Gateway Center, Suite
420 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
PGH., PA. 15222-1416
412-471-8999 FAX

Please note new e-mail address above.
Labor and related news from Mexico is reported bi-monthly in Mexican
Labor News and Analysis. Check it out on our web site:

More information about the Marxism mailing list