Unions Push to Strengthen Migrant Worker Safeguards

Unions Push to Strengthen Migrant Worker Safeguards

Protecting the rights of migrant workers must be an essential component of the United Nations Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, according to union leaders who met recently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to craft a worker rights agenda for inclusion in the global compact, the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement to comprehensively cover all dimensions of international migration.

The December 1–2 meeting preceded a UN gathering to assess recommendations and discuss implementation of the global compact on migration. The 17 union leaders from across the Americas crafted a shared policy agenda and outlined plans to advocate within national and regional government bodies.

“It cannot be overstated how important the content of the compact will be in terms of creating policies that will affect economic inclusion,” says Neha Misra, Solidarity Center senior specialist for migration and trafficking. “This work will set the agenda for global action on migration and the role of displaced workers for at least the next decade. It is crucial that migrant workers, and the unions and worker centers that represent them, have a voice in the global compact negotiations process.”

migration, Solidarity Center, Mexico

Elena Villafuerte, PRODESC; Neha Misra, Solidarity Center; and María Carmen Molina from CSTS in Mexico were among panelists presenting labor’s joint position on labor migration.

In a panel presentation sharing labor’s joint position with UN participants, María del Carmen Molina, general secretary of the Confederation of Salvadoran Workers (CSTS), stressed the importance of protecting all workers’ rights, regardless of immigration status, and the responsibility of governments to ensure conditions so migration is by choice, not compulsion.

Misra and Solidarity Center partners from the Central American Regional Union Committee on Migration (Comité Inter-Sindical), ProDESC and Centro de Derechos del Migrante in Mexico took part in the civil society meetings prior to the UN’s formal session, and presented their recommendations to the full UN meeting December 4–6.

Union leaders also emphasized the need to ensure accessible pathways to regularization to ensure full rights for the world’s 150 million are migrant workers, and end the global expansion of abusive and exploitative labor migration programs. They agreed to take the issue of migrant worker rights back to their respective labor bodies to continue to educate and advocate on the issue.

The UN process to develop the global compact for migration began in April 2017. The UN General Assembly will hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 with a view to adopting the global compact. Following the UN meeting, participants issued a joint statement summarizing their suggestions for implementing the global compact.

2 Striking Mexico Mine Workers Killed

2 Striking Mexico Mine Workers Killed

A group of armed civilians calling themselves the “Tonalapa Community Police,” attacked striking workers at the Media Luna gold mine in Mexico on November 18, killing two workers. The two men killed were brothers, Víctor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Peña.

Workers at the Cocula, Guerrero, gold mine went on strike earlier this month after their employer recognized the Confederation of Workers of Mexico (CTM) union, a labor organization with a history of acting as “protection union” by assisting employers in blocking independent unionization efforts. The independent mineworkers’ union, SNTMMSSRM (Los Mineros), had filed for a union election on October 13.

On November 16 and 17, union leaders and the employer negotiated a peaceful resolution  which called for the withdrawal of armed security forces and an expedited union representation election. The talks came after scores of armed police forces arrived at the mine, taking over the site on November 13.

“This is an outrageous and unacceptable attack on freedom of association and fundamental human rights,” says Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau. “The perpetrators must be found and held accountable.

“We stand with Los Mineros and workers everywhere who seek to peacefully form unions of their choosing,” she says.

Workers say an army squadron detained the attackers, some of whom they identified as CTM leaders, but immediately released them. The government has now sent in armed security forces.

In a statement, the United Steelworkers in Canada urged the Canadian government to “intervene with Mexican authorities and the company to recognize the basic rights of Mexican workers and prevent further violence.”

Canada-based Torex Gold Resources owns the Media Luna mine.

Breaking Ground: Mexico’s Miners Push For Worker Rights

Breaking Ground: Mexico’s Miners Push For Worker Rights

Mine workers in Mexico labor in difficult and sometimes deadly working conditions. But through their union, the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Similar Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM, known as “Los Mineros”), they are winning collective bargaining pacts that include significant economic benefits, essential safety and health protections, and other fundamental rights on the job.

The union is breaking ground by raising the visibility of the work and activism of women members through the Mineras de Acero (Women Miners of Steel) leadership and gender equality training, a program jointly developed by the Solidarity Center, United Steelworkers (USW), Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (Border Committee of Workers, CFO) and Los Mineros.

During the most recent collective bargaining training, union members looked at family-friendly contract language and strategies for promoting gender equality and ensuring that women’s key issues get on the list of bargaining priorities—and stay there. Female miners and their sisters in allied industries are building a network throughout the national union as a result of this work.

In this photo essay, Los Mineros members working in the Fénix and Monje phosphate mines in La Paz, a large commercial center in the Mexican coastal state of Baja California Sur, demonstrate the daily courage and quiet dignity of miners at work.

Photos by Roberto Armocida for the Solidarity Center, unless otherwise specified.

Mexico, gender equality, Solidarity Center, unions, miners

Miner Ileana Vasquez, repairing machinery nearly 1,000 feet from the surface, has worked three years as an instrumentalist and electromechanic. Vasquez and other women miners are challenging Mexico’s cultural and social taboos regarding women working in mines.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Juan Pablo Bautista Gómez, with the protective equipment he wears in the mine, gets set to leave for work from his home in La Paz, where he lives with his daughter and grandchildren. Gómez has worked in the mines since 1978 and is in charge of maintaining equipment and external logistics.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

In the Fenix Mine shaft, César Estrada Cueva from Guadalajara, Jalisco, is among 30 miners who work on each of three excavation shifts that keep production going 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Mine worker Ruth Rivera, 45, a single mother of three, gets ready for work. Rivera, a union steward, has worked as a miner for six years and was a founding member of Mineras de Acero.

Ruth Rivera and her co-workers travel through the mines in a cart that transports all personnel.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Ruth Rivera (center) and her co-workers inside the Fenix mine, where the tunnel height varies between 59 inches and 62 inches.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Miner Ruth Rivera also is responsible for the delivery and recovery of personal protective equipment. The equipment allows miners to survive without air for a maximum of 60 minutes.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Workers operate a conveyor belt to extract rock and deposit it outside the mine. Miners load the rock onto trucks and drivers carry it to the processing plant.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

A crew of miners, a team leader and a supervisor organize their work at the excavation system in the Fenix mine shaft, where workers excavate phosphate rock, the basic ingredient for fertilizer.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Luis Alberto Bernal Díaz at the Fenix mine, working nearly 1,000 feet below the Earth’s surface.

Miners in the Monje mine shaft finish the morning shift and return safety equipment such as personal protective devices and rechargeable lamps.

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Lizbeth Garcia, a geological engineer, goes over an excavation map during a training for women mine worker members of Los Mineros. Credit: Julia Quioñez, CFO

Mexico, miners, Solidarity Center, Los Mineros

Women miners take a break during from mining, welding and related work to participate in a workshop on collective bargaining focused on strategies that include gender equality and family friendly language in contracts. Los Mineros members include Maria de los Angeles Nuñez de la Rosa (center), Alma Yadira Martinez Ramirez (top right) and Eliza Martinez Carrillo (top left). Credit: Los Mineros

Mexico, miners, gender equality, unions, Solidarity Center

In Mexico, Ruth Adriana Lopez Patiño, from Los Mineros, Julia Quiñonez, CFO, and Mariela Sanchez Casas, Los Mineros, all founded the “Mineras de Acero” (Women Miners of Steel) training program. In February, they participated in a tour of a gold mine during a training on gender equality and women’s leadership. Credit: Los Mineros

Mexican Domestic Workers Launch Job Contract Campaign

Mexican Domestic Workers Launch Job Contract Campaign

The Mexican domestic workers union, SINACTRAHO, last week launched a far-reaching campaign to ensure domestic workers across Mexico are covered by employment contracts.

“Our goal is to have 10,000 workers sign a formal contract with their employers, in time for December holidays,” says Marcelina Bautista, SINACTRAHO co-president.

“Trabajo Digno por Ti, por Mi y todas Mis Compañeras” (“Decent Work for You, for Me, and all My Sisters”) also is gaining unlikely support—from employers.

“This is not an act of kindess, this is an action of responsibility,” says Maite Azuela, speaking on behalf of “Hogar Justo Hogar” (Home, Just Home), a group of employers that aims to work jointly with workers to improve rights and labor conditions.

“The unjust conditions that exist in our country and in our workplaces, we as employers too often replicate at home,” she says. “Building the country that we truly want is work that begins at home.”

During the campaign launch June 23, which coincided with Mexico’s annual day to celebrate domestic work, the union presented two model contracts, one for domestic workers who labor full time for an employer, and another for part-time workers. The contracts include a calculation sheet to determine proper accrual and payment of benefits afforded to workers under law.

“I appreciate Marcelina´s work and support, and all the people here, because I am beginning to understand that there are people who support us,” says SINACTRAHO member Yazmin Méndez.

“I know that we can change the situation that we as workers live. Our work is the same as another job, we have rights and resposibilities.”

SINACTRAHO was founded two years ago and has since grown to some 900 members nationwide. The struggle by Mexico’s domestic workers for rights on the job is documented in the film, “Day Off” (Día de Descanso), in which SINACTRAHO executive board members take part.

Farm Workers March across Mexico for Fair Wages

Farm Workers March across Mexico for Fair Wages

Dozens of day-labor farm workers (jornaleros) demanded improved wages, democratic representation, an end to sexual harassment and access to clean water as they marched across Mexico in a national caravan, “Fair Wages and Dignified Life.”

Mexico, farm workers, Solidarity Center, job safety and health

A proposed new law would make it much harder for farm workers to get compensation for job injuries. Credit: Solidarity Center/Gladys Cisneros

The workers, who left Baja California March 4 and arrived in Mexico City on March 17, sought to raise renewed awareness of their struggle for decent working conditions in the San Quintin Valley and hold employers accountable for their failure to uphold agreements reached in 2015. Although the settlement negotiated in 2015 included raising day wages to between 150 and 180 pesos (approximately $7 to $9), these wage levels have been unevenly applied.

“We are here to demand the same things we have been asking for, for two years,” says Lorenzo Rodriguez, general secretary of the SINDJA union.

Following the 2015 jornaleros strike, workers formed a national independent union that has grown to include farm workers from four Mexican states. Registering their independent union, SINDJA, is the only demand that has been met so far, say union leaders. Workers negotiated the agreement with the government, but the agribusiness owners and growers must comply.

“We don’t even have the right to live,” says farm worker leader Bonifacio Martinez. “And with proposed new government reforms, we are forbidden to get sick at work,” he adds, referring to proposed legislation that would place government and employers, not medical professionals, in charge of determining whether an injury is work-related.

A 2015 Los Angeles Times series found many workers on export-oriented farms “essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.”

The national caravan included families of the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, who continue to seek answers and justice. The march coincided with the two-year anniversary of a historic 12-week strike and popular mobilization in the San Quintin Valley.


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