Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mexico prez trying to crush labor unions legally

Mexico's oligarchs, led by President Felipe Calderon, are trying to take away workers' collective bargaining rights.

They're calling it "labor law reform," of course. Critics say it's just a political gift to the powerful industrialists who back the political campaigns of elected officials.

Gee, where have we heard that before?

People's World reports that a labor reform bill before the Legislature
...would make it much easier for companies to use small enterprises as fronts for massive "outsourcing" scams. It would permit management to do end runs around unions and negotiate different wages and working conditions from those in the collective bargaining contract with individual workers. It would legalize the existing practice of temporary and short-term labor contracts. It would control of hours and shifts away from the collective bargaining process and make it a prerogative of management only. It would virtually abolish minimum wage.
Another clause would severely restrict the rights of unions based in a single enterprise to affiliate with national labor organizations beyond their industry. The bill will make it harder to get legal strikes recognized as such.
...the right of the government to more or less arbitrarily deny recognition of elected union officials, will remain.
Mexico, sadly, has a long and proud history of respecting workers' rights, at least technically. According to In These Times,
On paper at least, the rights of Mexican workers are extensive, deriving from the Revolution that ended in 1920. At a time when workers in the United States still had no law that even recognized the legality of unions, Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution spelled them out. Workers have the right to jobs and permanent status once they’re hired. If they’re laid off, they have the right to severance pay. They have rights to housing, healthcare and training. In a legal strike, they can string flags across the doors of a factory or workplace, and even the owner can’t enter until the dispute is settled. Strikebreaking is prohibited.

In reality, the growing power of corporations (enabled by Nafta) has undermined those rights, especially in the maquiladora district in northern Mexico. Half of all Mexicans live in poverty, and even those with a formal job don't make much money. Says In These Times,
95 percent of the 800,000 jobs created last year paid only $10 per day. Yet when a maquiladora worker buys a gallon of milk in a Tijuana or Juarez supermarket, she pays more than she would on the U.S. side. Prices are a little lower further south, but not much. The price of that gallon of milk used to be fixed and subsidized, along with tortillas, bus fare and other basic necessities. Previous waves of economic reforms decontrolled prices and ended consumer subsidies, as Mexico was pressured to create more favorable conditions for private investment.
Sixteen years of Nafta have done nothing but screw workers in Mexico and the U.S. Now Mexico and the U.S. DOT want to implement the final part of the Nafta deal, cross-border trucking, so even more workers can get screwed.

If this makes you see red, you can do something about it. Click here. Click on the orange "Submit a comment" button, fill in the blanks, and type in a reason for the U.S. government to keep the border closed to Mexican trucks.