Solidarity with Mexican Energy Workers: Day 1

May 2, 2010

MoveUP President Andy Ross and Communications Director Mike Bruce visited with hunger strikers and union leaders from the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) on Sunday at the workers’ protest camp. The camp, set up in Mexico City’s historical Zocalo has brought enormous amounts of workers and their supporters together in solidarity, fighting for their jobs and for the people’s ownership of their electricity resources.

Andy Ross and SME President EsperzaRoss and Bruce visited with Martin Esperza, President of SME, in the heart of protest camp in middle of the UNESCO-protected square. Surrounded by dozens of hunger strikers and workers who have been thrown out of their jobs Esperanza briefed Ross and Bruce on the history of the SME, the origins of the dispute, and the egregious and unconstitutional actions of the right wing Calderon government in Mexico.

Sitting under tarps, alongside the 71 hunger strikers and over one hundred members and supporters, Esperza told the COPE representatives about how the Mexican army moved into union facilities last fall, evicted the union, and threw 44,000 members out of worker, replacing them with non-union contract labour.

After lengthy negotiations, in June 2009 the SME reached an agreement with the Mexico state utility to work together towards modernizing and reforming the utility’s infrastructure. Working in cooperation, the union and the utility embarked on this ambitious task together, with both recognizing the need to overhaul and modernize the country’s utilities.

On October 10, 20 in the middle of the night and with no judicial authority, the Calderon government took direct control of the state utilities and evicted the workers. Esperza spoke about how this was a clear violation of the Constitution of Mexico, which guarantees the right to organize and to free and open collective bargaining.

Since then, the SME has been protesting throughout Mexico and raising awareness about the horrendous actions AN SME worker and his son lead the crowd in solidarity chantsof the government. In addition to the 44,000 workers affected by this, the government has also been freezing retirees’ benefits, including for workers who have been retired for many years.

Esperza detailed the horrors of the Calderon government’s actions, from the firing of pregnant women and workers who were weeks away from retirement, to unilaterally trying to dissolve the union, bribing members, to the military occupation of state utilities, and wholesale cancellation of collective agreements.

Following the emotional briefing, Andy Ross gave Esperza greetings of solidarity and support, and told him about the parallels between the energy industry in BC and the Campbell Government’s actions, to those of Mexico. 

During the briefing, over a hundred observers gathered, silently watching the conversation. At the conclusion, Esperza addressed all those gathered, thanking MoveUP for its solidarity and support, and led the crowd in chants, with fists raised in the air.

The inspirational atmosphere continues with the backdrop o the historic Zocalo, with workers surrounding Ross and Bruce, thanking them for their support and clearly heartened by the visit. 

Tomorrow, Ross and Bruce will join with CLC President Ken Georgetti, USW National Chair Ken Neumann and District 3 Chair Steve Hunt. They begin  the day with a visit to the Canadian Ambassador to press for workers’ rights and recognition of the concerns of the SME and Los Mineros. Then the delegation will attend the Los Mineors Convention, followed by a press conference and a visit to Juan Linares in prison.

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