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  Rich Drylie

Rich Drylie

The visit to an Otis Elevator plant in Mexico was an eye-opening experience for Rich Drylie, a mechanic employed by metal salvage company in Erie, Pa. The clean, modern plant produces elevator cabs through computer-operated manufacturing.

Drylie, the president of amalgamated Local 683, traveled to Mexico in June along with Local 791 Pres. Sherri Nelson and Al Harhay of Local 1111 as part of the worker-to-worker exchange program sponsored by UE and Mexico’s Authentic Labor Front (FAT).

The living and working conditions enjoyed by the FAT-represented Otis workers were contrasted with the raw poverty Drylie encountered on Mexican streets. "You’d see kids running around without clothes, filthy, and not by choice. All of sudden the U.S. and dreary Erie didn’t seem so bad," he said.

If shocked by the poverty, Drylie was also surprised by the hostility towards NAFTA expressed by FAT members from a worker-owned glass factory, textile mills and Otis Elevator and by community activists. "Developed nations like ours are taking advantage of their ‘assembly labor,’" he told the UE NEWS.

"It’s important to stay solid with the FAT," Drylie told a recent District Six Council meeting. His local supports the FAT financially.

The movement of jobs across borders should be countered with trade union organizing, not met with "prejudice and ignorance," agreed Nelson.

In discussions with Mexican unionists and members of a 15-strong delegation from Quebec, the Ohio Turnpike worker discovered that workers both north and south of the border are losing their jobs. Mexican textile workers are threatened with loss of jobs to China, for example. "The threat is always moving to the cheaper place," Nelson observed.

"We have to fight to get everybody’s wages up," she said. "That’s the only way we can combat the bosses and the corporations, to make all of us have decent living wages, decent benefits and decent working conditions."

The Local 791 president was struck by how similar the problems of working people are, regardless of nationality. "It’s as if supervisors are all cut out of the same mold," she said.

We win when we build solidarity," Harhay insisted. "When and only when all working people stand together will we achieve a fair return on our labors and a decent life for our families."

UE News - 11/98

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

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