Sunday, January 13, 2008

Strike breaking in Mexico's mining industry

One of the issues that is always completely neglected in discussions about undocumented immigrants in the United States is how much of it is driven by the rise of multinational corporations, and their success in using foreign governments to crush organized labor.

David Bacon's article Mexican Authorities Move to Crush Copper Strike at Truthout shows us a disturbing example of the trend.

Mexican labor authorities seized on technicalities to order an end to the strike at the country's largest copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, on Friday. The Mexican press reports that over 700 heavily armed agents of the Sonora state police arrived in Cananea just hours before the decision was announced, and agents of the Federal Preventative Police were sent to this tiny mountain town as well. Strikers report that the streets were filled with rocks and teargas, and 20 miners have been injured - some seriously - in the ensuing conflict. The union says that five strikers are missing.

The action by the government seeks to end the longest-running defiance of government labor policy in Mexico in decades. The mine belongs to one of the largest mining corporations in the world, Grupo Mexico, which is owned by the wealthy family of German Larrea.

On June 29 of last year, the union at Cananea, Section 65 of the Mexican Union of Mine, Metal and Allied Workers, went on strike over extreme health and safety dangers. Since the beginning of the strike, both the company and the labor board in the state of Sonora, which is controlled by Mexico's old ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, as well as the company itself, have tried to declare the strike illegal. The union won an injunction, called an "amparo," from the Mexican Federal Court on December 13, protecting the strike's legal status.

Under Mexican law, if the strike is legal, the company may not make any effort to operate the mine or make reprisals against the strikers. If the strike is declared illegal, however, the company can begin operations, and fire any striker who refuses to return to work. Miners fear the presence of heavily armed police is intended to protect a company effort to reopen the mine with strikebreakers, or to frighten strikers themselves into returning.

Smashing the strike in Cananea would have economic and political repercussions, not just in Mexico, but in the United States as well. In two previous strikes, at Cananea and its sister mine in Nacozari, in 1998 and 2005, respectively, over 2,000 miners lost their jobs. Most of them, unable to find other work in the tiny mining communities of northern Sonora, crossed the border into the US as undocumented workers in order to survive.


Labels: , ,


Blogger nunya said...

Hi Terry,

This site covers stories in Latin America a lot. Don't let the title of the site turn you off.

Here are some stories on latin american mine strikes

1/14/2008 02:33:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home