This summer, workers at Tarrant Garments, a maquila just inside Oaxcala State, decided to organise a union. The bosses responded by sacking the ringleaders, people like Alejandro, a young worker in his early twenties, with two children and a young wife to support, with no wage and no benefits, blacklisted from working in another maquila.
80% of the workers support the independent union, but on striking they were told they already had union. The State Labour Board told us it was the CTM, and even gave a name for the general secretary. Not only had the workers never heard of him, it was a different set of details from those the Board had previously given them.
Over a dozen workers have been sacked for their union activity, and another 200 laid off as a "downsizing" exercise.
The management at Tarrant demonstrated their belligerence to us when we asked to talk to the owner. After claiming he was in another state and would not be back for a day or so, he pulled up at the gates. In response to our request to talk he gestured and told us to "go f*** your mother". Nice guy!
On October 6, 2003, the Local Conciliation and Arbitration Board of Puebla (JLCA) denied legal registration (registro) to the Independent Union of Tarrant México Company Workers (SUITTAR). JLCA Secretary General Jorge Ramos Lobato and a clerk delivered the decision to 16 assembled members of the union's executive committee, their legal representative Lic. Alejandra Ancheita, the Worker Support Centre (CAT) and the local media.
The tension was palpable. The workers asked the clerk to read the decision out loud to the assembled group, and were refused. Finally the notification was given in writing to SUITTAR secretary-general Alejandro Rodríguez Sánchez.
The three arguments given for denying the workers' petition for registro are:
1. The original copy of the petition plus one photocopy were provided, when Mexican Federal Labour Law (LFT), Article 365 states that the original must be filed with "duplicate" copies.
2. The date that the independent union was formed was the same as the date of the election of its executive committee representatives. The JLCA says these two events should have occurred on separate days.
3. Of the approximately 750 affiliated workers listed in SUITTAR's registro petition, the name of one of the representatives of the executive committee (María Guadalupe Martínez Gonzáles) does not correspond with a name on the union's list of affiliates (Maura Guadalupe Martínez Gonzáles).
These excuses are about as feeble as you can get. The JLCA has a legal responsibility to revise all submitted documents and notify the petitioners what is lacking before considering their petition, (LFT Articles 685 and 686). They didn't do that.
United Students Against Sweatshops recently filed a complaint to NAFTA citing "systematic denial of trade union rights on technicalities". This is further evidence that this is the case in Mexico.
You can email the Federal Secretary of Labour (Secretaria del Trabajo y Previson Social), Carlos Abascal Carranza at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and to the office of President Vicente Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to demand that they instruct the Puebla labour Board to respect the legal rights of Tarrant workers to form a union of their choice and supporting the reinstatement of the 27 illegally dismissed workers whose hearings are on October 15 and 22.
An update and appeal will appear at www.nosweat.org.uk shortly. Please visit the site and take the actions requested.
You can also donate to the CAT's appeal fund for the dispute by sending cheques to Mexican Workers Solidarity at No Sweat, PO Box 36707, London SW9 8YA or by credit card at www.nosweat.org.uk.