By Mike Hall
November 18, 2011—Exiled Mexican mine workers union leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia was honored with the AFL-CIO’s 2011 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award at a ceremony two days ago at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.
||Oralia Casso de Gómez, wife of Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, accepts the award on his behalf from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Photo by Bill Burke/Page One
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Gómez Urrutia is a ”truly courageous man who has shown us how difficult and how important it is to be an independent leader of a democratic union.”
Gómez Urrutia, head of the Mine, Metal, and Steel Workers Union (SNTMMSSRM), also known as Los Mineros and a longtime Solidarity Center partner, was forced to flee Mexico to Vancouver, Canada, in 2006. The Mexican government filed criminal charges against him after he publicly accused the government of “industrial homicide” following a February mine explosion that year that killed 65 miners.
Mexican and international human and worker rights organizations have dismissed the government’s charges as false.
The government’s action against Gómez Urrutia followed years of his challenges to Mexican government policies that were depressing wages, creating unsafe workplaces, and turning permanent jobs into casual work, essentially increasing the vulnerability of Mexico’s workers. He had also begun building alliances with the global trade union movement.
||Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleón Gómez Urrutia. Photo by Sindicato de Mineros de México Sección 65
(USW) President Leo Gerard—the USW is in an alliance with Los Mineros—said that even in exile, Gómez Urrutia is fighting to “bring economic justice to Mexican working families.”
From Vancouver, Gómez Urrutia said:
We have continued with our global struggle for justice, respect and dignity for all workers because we know that we have the support and solidarity from unions around the world.
Because he couldn’t secure a visa to travel to the United States, his wife Oralia Casso de Gómez accepted the award on his behalf.
The annual Meany-Kirkland award, created in 1980 and named for the first two presidents of the AFL-CIO, recognizes outstanding examples of the international struggle for human rights through trade unions.
Cross-posted from AFL-CIO Now blog, November 16, 2011
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, Diego Urdaneta, AFP
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, Alfonso Fernandez, EFE
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, Luis Alonso Lugo, AP
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