Energy and Strength Mark
Twelfth FAT Congress
12th National Congress of the FAT. At right, new members, activists
address FAT Congress.
The twelfth National Congress of the Frente Auténtico del
Trabajo (FAT) brought together some 250 delegates from the different sectors
of the FAT, as well as friends and supporters from Mexico and abroad in the
city of Oaxtepec from Nov. 17-19.
New energy was provided by the welcome presence of
representatives of the 2,600 member bus drivers’ union that recently
affiliated with the FAT, as well as representatives of gas station attendants,
and other new groups of workers. The diversity of the organization was clearly
evidenced by the discussion involving workers from various sectors. For
example, members involved in opposition to the confiscation of land for the
new Mexico City airport participated, as did others from the FAT cooperatives
who sold jam and hand woven and embroidered serapes, T-shirts and literature.
The various unions and movements also made their presence felt
by the colorful banners that were hung in the auditorium where the main
sessions were conducted. Among them, one honoring the recently assassinated
human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa proclaimed: "...in Mexico it is more
serious to violate commercial norms than human rights."
Trade unionists attended from the National Union of Workers (UNT)
and other Mexican unions, as well as from Europe, the United States and
Canada. UE was represented by International Labor Affairs Dir. Robin Alexander
— who also delivered a message from Japan’s progressive labor federation,
FOX ADMINISTRATION A DISAPPOINTMENT
FAT leaders opened the congress by expressing disappointment
that after one year in office, President Vicente Fox had not delivered
on his promises. Instead, the Fox administration has continued protection for
official unions and company unions and presided over plant closings and
Prior to the Congress the FAT leadership developed a project
aimed at a stronger organization, with discussions within all sectors.
"The product of this discussion will be considered by the delegates at
the Congress and from their work will arise an organization which is more
cohesive, more dynamic, and more committed with the cause of workers and of
The documents adopted by the Congress reflected that intense
effort. Although the Constitution and By-laws of the organization were not
modified, the responsibilities of each of the three national leaders were
redefined, essentially as organization, finance and publicity.
The FAT’s women’s network offered a proposal as a
complementary effort to further analyze and move forward the work with women
within the FAT. In doing so, it spoke of the need for "transversality"
— that the work with women must cut across the entire organization and must
be the responsibility of all, including the national coordinators. The
proposal was rapidly incorporated with virtually no debate.
BARRIERS TO REFORM
A major barrier to reform of federal labor law, reported Arturo
Alcalde, legal counsel for the FAT, is the insistence of industry on
flexibility and the opposition of the official unions to change.
Although during the convention it seemed that several slates
might run, by the time of the election it appeared that consensus had been
reached and a single slate comprised of Benedicto Martinez, Antonio Villalba
and Erick Quesnel was elected by an overwhelming majority in a secret
ballot vote. Elections were also held for representatives of the various
sectors, and suggestions were taken for working committees.
One of the areas where delegates had concluded that work was
required was in strengthening the organization of the FAT in the various
regions in which it operates.
In the message from UE delivered by Alexander, the union
expressed its appreciation for its alliance with the FAT. "We
congratulate and thank you for your unwavering commitment to establishing
independent, democratic unions against tremendous odds, your clarity of
vision, and your willingness to take on difficult questions and to make
proposals about possible solutions," the UE officers stated.
UE News - 2/02