By Mick Duncan
Facing competition from China's new capitalists, the Mexican bosses are driving down wages, imposing ever poorer working conditions and constantly violating labour rights. Workers face long working hours, little or no health or safety guarantees, child labour, no freedom of association, and the violation of company Codes of Conduct.
The Mexican workers are fighting back, and we want to help them. No Sweat has launched an appeal for £2,000 to fund two specific projects being undertaken by the CAT workers' organising centre in Puebla, Mexico.
- £1,700 will be used to pay for 15 theatre presentations, which will reach more than 1,500 workers in the Puebla region.
- £300 will pay for 10 labour rights training workshops for 150 women and men workers in the communities of Atlixco, Izucar de Matamoros, Tehuacan y Tlaxcala.
This is a very practical form of international workers' solidarity. We are aiming to help a group of independent trade union activists with a proven record of co-ordinating an important - but hazardous and difficult - unionisation drive against the sweatshop bosses of central Mexico.
Following the November 2002 No Sweat conference in London we organised a British speaker tour for Josefina Hernandez Ponce from the Kuk Dong/Mex Mode struggle, and Gaby Cabrera from the CAT centre. We aimed to learn from these union activists, and help to create direct links between British activists and their organisations, and these Mexican workers.
The tour was a great success, and hundreds of people heard about the battle for independent unions in Mexico at first hand.
More recently many British activists have taken part in No Sweat actions and cyber-protests in support of the Matamoros garment workers, and against firms like Puma, who used this sub-contracting factory.
We want to help CAT build on their successes at Kuk Dong/Mex Mode and at Matamoros. We hope they will play a central role in unionising a whole region of Mexico.
CAT has adopted the approach of running initiatives like the workers' theatre project to engage the "young men and women, predominantly from rural communities and with low levels of education. [The workers have a lack of knowledge of] worker protection laws, the lack of a union culture, and the general lack of time and space that workers need to improve the quality of their home and work lives."
The CAT was formed out of the Kuk Dong unionisation battle in 2001.
The CAT helped the workers of the Kuk Dong maquiladora (now Mex Mode) achieve legal recognition of their Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores de la Empresa Mex Mode (SITEMEX, or the Independent Union of Mex Mode Company Workers). Today this union is one of the few examples in this country of maquiladora workers who have been able to form and elect their own union representation.
How to make a donation
You can send a donation for the Mexico Appeal to No Sweat, PO Box 36707, London SW9 8YA.
Please make cheques payable to our special campaign fund, "Mexican workers' solidarity".
We can send speakers to your union/student union meeting to discuss the situation in central Mexico and the fight for independent unions.
Please phone us: 07904 431 959 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A briefing about the CAT's activities is avalable in downloadable form from www.nosweat.org.uk