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UE Calls for Action
On Echlin's Rights Abuses

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada

Bob Clark  

UE General
Secretary-Treasurer
Bob Clark

In testimony here Sept. 14, UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark called on the Canadian government to condemn the actions of Mexico’s labor authorities and Connecticut-based Echlin Inc. for their abuse of workers’ rights.

The UE leader represented the U.S. unions in the trinational Echlin/Dana Workers Alliance at a hearing before the National Administrative Office (NAO), which hears complaints filed under the labor side agreement to NAFTA. He was the only U.S. speaker.

For the first time since implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian government has agreed to hear a complaint brought against a U.S. multinational corporation. "This unprecedented investigation by the Canadian government shows just how severe Echlin’s abuses in Mexico have been," Clark said.

The testimony before the Canadian agency came a little more than a month after its U.S. counterpart found that Echlin, an auto-parts manufacturer, had used armed thugs, firings and other illegal intimidation to stop a union drive at its ITAPSA subsidiary near Mexico City. In its report the U.S. NAO called for ministerial consultations between the U.S. and Mexican governments. (Echlin has since been acquired by the Ohio-based Dana Corp.)

ITAPSA workers had organized with STIMAHCS, the metalworkers’ union affiliated with the Authentic Labor Front (FAT). Echlin fired more than 50 workers, among them the most active STIMAHCS supporters. On the night before the September 1997 election, some 170 thugs, some wielding metal rods, clubs and guns, were bused to ITAPSA and allowed into the plant. Second and third shift workers were not allowed to leave.

The "election" consisted of a voice vote before the company and officials of the CTM, a government-dominated union workers were trying to replace, the goons, and Mexican government officials conducting the election. Those government officials ignored the intimidation, even when one of the STIMAHCS representatives was attacked while attempting to verify the credentials of those claiming to be workers.

UE’s Clark called on the Canadian government to condemn the actions of the Mexican labor authorities, the CTM (a union dominated by the Mexican government) and Echlin. He also recommended ministerial consultations "to press for reinstatement of the fired ITAPSA workers, the meaningful enforcement of health and safety protections and the laws which protect the right to organize, and impartiality and respect for the law by the Mexican labor authorities.

"Most importantly," Clark continued, the Canadian labor officials should speak to their Mexican counterparts about the importance of secret-ballot elections, worker access to information about their unions and contracts, and the need for health and safety enforcement that really protects workers.

Workers from the ITAPSA plant also appeared at the hearing, as did Benedicto Martinez, STIMAHCS general secretary and national coordinator of the FAT, Dick Martin, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labor Congress, Lawrence McBreatry, national director of the Canadian national office of the United Steelworkers, leaders of Canadian locals of the United Steelworkers, Canadian Auto Workers and Machinists, and Canadian and Mexican labor lawyers.

UE News - 10/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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