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Mexican and American labor leaders criticizes NAFTA

10.04.11

OCTOBER 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Mexican and American labor leaders criticizes NAFTA

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, September 20th- Mexico’s independent labor unions on September 13th, which are facing ongoing repression from authorities and corporation’s, many from the United States, while the working people are being driven deeper into poverty through the erosion of their wages and human rights, testified before the United States Congress. The briefing was sponsored by House of Representative Mike Michaud (Democrat- Maine) on behalf of the Congressional Labor Caucus and International Worker Right Caucus.

“More than 15 years ago, we were told that NAFTA would create a thriving middle class in Mexico. Economists and government officials said that the agreement would lead to growing trade surpluses and that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be gained. As our friends from Mexico can attest, NAFTA did not bring these benefits. Instead, workers’ rights are being violated on a regular basis, and both the United States and Mexico are worse off for it,” stated Congressman Michaud.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Three Mexican union leaders participated in the caucus and President of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) International Union, Leo Gerard also spoke before the committee.

“It is clear that the agenda of the Mexican government is to keep workers’ wages low and use that as an economic tool, and we are here today so that representatives and their staff have the opportunity to hear the facts. The Fox and Calderon administrations in Mexico have done everything they could to repress the independent unions that were actually raising the standards of living for Mexican workers,” said Mr. Gerard.

The panel of union leaders provided a detailed accounting of the windening threat to the well-being and livlihoods of Mexican workers, increasing violent acts against unions and the growing and detrimental inequality between United States workers and their Mexican counterparts.

“The United States government must condemn this repression and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to bust unions in Mexico. It is to our advantage to help Mexican workers expose the kind of oppression and persecution they face every day. And it is very important to workers in America that Mexican workers get an opportunity to raise their standards of living,” Mr. Gerard told the congressional caucus.

The three Mexican union leaders who spoke at the event were: Francisco Hernandez Juarez, General Secretary of the Mexican Union of Telephone Workers (STRM); Marco del Toro, Legal Counsel of the National Union of Mine, Metal Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) also known as Los Mineros; and Sergio Beltran Reyes, Internal and External affairs and Recording Secretary for Los Mineros.

“We are going through very difficult times and are on the receiving end of a high level of aggression and anti-unionism by the Mexican government and business leaders. The attacks on Los Mineros and its elected leader, the dismissal of more than 44,000 electrical workers and the threat of a new labor law all designed to reverse 100 years of rights for Mexican workers. The Mexican government through its spokespeople has been trying to sell the idea that they defend labor and human rights. We’d like to show how they do not,” stated Mr. Hernadez Juarez.

Mr. Reyes said in addition to speaking for Mexican working people at the briefing, the group would also meet with congressional representatives to discuss the worker rights and safety standards. He highlighted the repeated efforts by the Calderon administration to strip Los Mineros of its rights to exist as the union continues a four-year strike by 1,000 copper miners over safety issues against Gruop Mexico.

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