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UE Members in Mexico
For 40th Anniversary of FAT

UE Local 1172

Benedicto Martínez, FAT coordinator, with a plaque from UE

Benedicto Martínez, FAT coordinator and general secretary of the metal workers’ union (STIMAHCS), with a plaque from UE honoring the Mexican labor organization on its 40th anniversary. The plaque contains a poem by Local 618 Bus. Agent Lynda Leech, one of the many rank-and-file UE leaders who have taken part in worker-to-worker exchanges sponsored by UE and the FAT.

Two UE members joined unionists from Quebec, Italy, Spain, and France in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT), Nov. 23-25 in Mexico City.

John Thompson from Local 690 in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Tom Dunne from Local 1172 in South Milwaukee, Wis., were asked to attend on behalf of the union because of their extensive involvement in the union’s political action and international work. The pair were accompanied by UE Director of International Affairs Robin Alexander.

The celebration included a panel discussion about governmental transitions and their impact upon labor unions in the various countries.

It also included the release of two books on FAT history, one in English, by Dale Hathaway, entitled Allies Across the Border (South End Press) [more information about this book is available below], and the other, a Spanish language publication by longtime FAT activist, Jorge Robles. The UE members were also welcomed as special guests at a conference of the Union Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), the newest Mexican labor federation, of which FAT is a member organization.

Finally, on Saturday, a party was held which included live music, food and a chance to mingle with FAT members.


The governmental transition panel discussion, was especially relevant and had been planned by the FAT to help inform its membership and prepare them to develop a strategy for the coming period in which the Mexican labor movement faces an uncertain future with President Vincente Fox now in power. Fox is a member of PAN, a pro-business party, which has embraced neoliberal change in Mexico and seeks to expand free trade.

Some expressed a very pessimistic view, pointing to the corporate nature of Fox’s cabinet appointments, and impending battles regarding privatization and labor law reform. Others saw reason to be optimistic, pointing out that Fox’s inauguration represents a dissolution of the corporativist structure which allowed the PRI (the former ruling party) to maintain control of Mexico’s government for 71 years. They felt that things could not get any worse for Mexican workers, than in a corrupt one-party system, with "official" unions that prevent workers from joining democratic, independent unions, and that the transition would create new opportunities.

Thompson assessed the discussion, "The importance of these last days of meetings and discussions with the FAT over the current political situation in Mexico, and the transition to the Fox government was very useful for UE members because it gives us a greater understanding of the possibilities of building the UE-FAT alliance. It also gives us a greater understanding of the possibilities for change."


Allies Across the Border

South End Press,
2000, 288 pages 
(link will open a new window, taking you to information about this book on the South End Press web site)

ISBN 0-89608-632-1 paper $19.00 
ISBN 0-89608-633-X cloth $40.00

Thompson and Dunne both took part in a panel discussion during the presentation of Dale Hathaway’s book, Allies Across the Border. They talked about the book, the history of the UE-FAT alliance, and related personal stories about the impact that participating in worker-to-worker exchanges has had on them.

Hathaway, an associate professor of political science at Butler University in Indianapolis, has written a comprehensive history of FAT that goes back to its early ties with progressive elements within the Catholic church in the 1960s, through various struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, up to current battles such as that at Congeladora del Rio (CRISA), the American-owned fruit packing plant in Irapuato. Hathaway gives a favorable overview of FAT’s attempts to build alliances such as the Strategic Organizing Alliance between FAT and UE, and chronicles the fight on both sides of the border against the transnationals GE and Dana/Echlin.

For 40 years, FAT has survived an uphill battle against formidable obstacles, and yet today, survives, stronger than ever. One sign that it continues to be an organization that has a great deal of influence relative to its size, is the recent appointment of Bertha Lujan, a FAT leader for more than two decades, to a cabinet position with the newly elected center-left PRD government of Mexico City. She was honored with an award for her service during the celebration.

UE News - 01/01

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