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Encountering a Commitment
to Democracy in Mexico

Martínez, a Suministros worker, Chavez, Arellano, a Suministros worker
District 10 Pres. Joe Chavez visits Suministros Industrial Machinery, a plant that manufactures and repairs mining equipment. Above, Benedicto Martínez, FAT national coordinator, a Suministros worker, Chavez, Hector Arellano, president of the Building Trades Council of El Paso, Texas, and a Suministros worker. At right Local 893 Sec. Pat Hasenclever, who discovered equipment from her home state of Iowa awaiting repair.
  Pat Hasenclever

Two UE rank-and-file leaders were among eight labor and community leaders from eight states who visited Mexico March 6-14 to strengthen ties with unions and community groups there. The trip was organized by UE and hosted by the Authentic Labor Front (FAT), Mexico’s national independent labor federation.

Joe Chavez, president of UE District 10 from San Jose, Calif., Pat Hasenclever, secretary of UE Local 893 (the state-wide amalgamated union in Iowa) and International Labor Affairs Director Robin Alexander represented the union.

The U.S. delegation toured two factories in Mexico City and three in Puebla, all organized by FAT, visited FAT-affiliated cooperatives, met with the head of Mexico City’s labor department and participated in International Women’s Day celebrations.

The FAT-organized factories ranged from small domestic operations to Otis Elevator, a major transnational corporation. The FAT’s commitment to union democracy came through clearly in discussions with workers at each worksite.


The U.S. visitors toured a savings and loan organized by the FAT, which serves the people of Mirador, a village located high in the hills and an hour’s drive from the city of Puebla. Loans are used mainly for farming needs such as seed and fertilizer.

Chavez, Hasenclever and the others also visited Union Provisa, a cooperatively owned plate-glass manufacturing company. Workers set up the cooperative when the owner declared bankruptcy and turned the plant and machinery over to union members in lieu of wages and benefits. Sixteen years later, the factory continues to turn out a reliable product and provide a living wage.

The U.S. visitors met with railroad workers who lost their jobs due to privatization and with electrical workers now facing a privatization threat, and with government workers struggling to maintain their jobs and benefits as their bosses use temporary workers. Workers from the ITAPSA plant of the U.S.-based Dana Corp. (formerly owned by Echlin) described their struggles to form an independent union.


Lunch on a picket line saw the U.S. activists break bread with workers who have been on strike at the Morales Brothers printing plant since July 12, 1996. Although the plant will probably never re-open under the Morales’ name, workers are fighting for their back and severance pay. There is a possibility they may take over operations as a cooperative.

Manuel Fuentes, director of the labor department of Mexico City, told the delegation how the progressive new government is attempting to make a positive impact on workers’ lives. (Fuentes addressed the 63rd UE Convention last August.) Fuentes was appointed by Cuahtemos Cardenas, whose election as mayor was considered a breakthrough in Mexican politics.

Prior to Cardenas’s election, the administration of Mexico’s ruling party, the PRI, did little for workers. Since then, the labor department has experienced a 600 percent increase in clients.

In addition to UE’s Chavez, Hasenclever and Alexander, the delegation included Bill Lange, representing the Fair Trade Campaign of the Milwaukee County Labor Council; Gary Gillespie, president of AFSCME Local 1724, Eugene, Oregon; Urzula Masny Sokolowski, representing Boston Jobs with Justice; Hector Arellano, president of the Building Trades Council of El Paso, Texas and Molly Wieser, representing Escuela Popular, Cleveland, Ohio.

UE News - 04/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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