UE Calls for Action
On Echlin's Rights Abuses
OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada
In testimony here Sept. 14, UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark called on the
Canadian government to condemn the actions of Mexicos 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 Echlins abuses in Mexico have been," Clark
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.
UEs 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.