Remarks by Ken Neumann, USW Canadian National Director, at the 37th Ordinary General Convention of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic. (Mexico City, May 3, 2012)
Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, General Secretary of Los Mineros, Comrade and Friend
Members of the National Executive Committee of Los Mineros
Honourable Delegates to the 37th Ordinary General Convention Representatives of the I.M.F., the I.C.E.M., Workers Uniting, and trade unions from around the world who stand in solidarity with Los Mineros and Napoleón Gómez
Distinguished Senators and Deputies of the Mexican Congress
Representatives of the Business Community
On behalf of the International President of the United Steelworkers, Leo Gerard, I thank you for the invitation to speak at this inauguration of the 37th Ordinary General Convention of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic. It is truly an honor to stand here in the presence of heroes like Napoleón Gómez, Juan Linares, and every one of the Mineros who have fought, and died, in the defense of workers' rights.
When we began this fight in solidarity with Los Mineros more than six years ago, we did not know how hard it would be or how much it would cost.
We knew only that the members of Los Mineros and the United Steelworkers work in the same industries and for the same companies - American Steel Foundries and ArcelorMittal and Dana and Goldcorp and Grupo Mexico and Johnson Controls.
We knew only that if we did not stand with workers in Mexico to fight for higher wages and better living conditions, then our own wages in Canada and the United States would be driven downward.
We knew only that when our members were on strike at Grupo Mexico in 2005, Los Mineros walked our picket lines and stopped work in solidarity.
We knew only that here was a union - Los Mineros - and a leader - Napoleón Gómez - who believed that Mexican workers had the right to good wages and benefits and dignity and respect, who were willing to fight for this right, and who understood that it was necessary and possible to build a single union representing mine, metal, steel and manufacturing workers from the southern border of Mexico to the Arctic Circle.
Comrades, today we do know the cost. We know the cost of lives lost at Pasta de Conchos and Lázaro Cárdenas and Nacozari and Zacatecas.
We know the cost to families that have buried their loved ones and sustained strikes and repression for many years. We know the cost to comrades who have been falsely accused and prosecuted and imprisoned.
But we also know that WE ARE WINNING THIS FIGHT.
For more than six years, the Mexican government and Grupo México have persecuted Napoleón Gómez with baseless criminal charges. They have attempted to discredit him internationally and with his members.
But we are winning the fight. The Government of Canada reviewed all the charges against Napoleón and concluded that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
We are winning in the courts. Every appeals court in Mexico that has reviewed the accusations against Napoleón has found them without merit, and two weeks ago the last arrest warrant was cancelled.
And yesterday, the Supreme Court of Mexico clearly affirmed what we all know: that the Government acted illegally when it refused to give Napoleón the toma de nota in 2008, and that it must now recognize him as the legitimate, democratically elected leader of Los Mineros.
We are winning through solidarity. At the Steelworkers Convention last year, the Steelworkers and the Mineros signed a Solidarity Alliance that unites us in a common program of organizing, bargaining and political action in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Further, In November, the AFL-CIO presented Napoleón with its highest honor, the Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award.
We are winning by mobilizing our members. Last year workers in more than 50 countries demonstrated at Mexican embassies in support of Los Mineros and democratic unions in Mexico.
You are winning by fighting back. Over the past six years, Los Mineros have negotiated the best contracts with the highest wages and benefits of any union in Mexico.
Further, Los Mineros have organized more than 6,000 new members in the past two years and - together with the Steelworkers and the UAW - is continuing to organize new workers at Excellon, Flex-n-Gate, PKC and other companies.
They have failed and you are winning. And that is a victory not only for Los Mineros, but for all workers in Mexico and in the world.
So let me conclude these remarks with a message.
To the next President of Mexico, whoever that may be: now is the time to end the fruitless, useless, harmful campaign of attacks slander and against Los Mineros, Napoleón Gómez, and democratic unions in Mexico.
Los Mineros are not your enemy. They only want what every honourable Mexican citizen wants: a decent living standard, opportunity for their children, respect and dignity.
To the Canadian and U.S. Governments: if you truly want to support justice and the rule of law in Mexico and to create political stability and economic opportunity, then you will support the efforts of Los Mineros and other democratic unions to end the scourge of protection contracts and corporate unions. Give Napoleon a visa to travel to the U.S! Demand real social responsibility from Canadian mining companies!
To the representatives of the business community who are here with us today: Your presence clearly demonstrates that while Los Mineros may drive a hard bargain, at the end of the day they are committed to working together with investors to generate economic growth, good jobs, and sustainable communities for the benefit of Mexico. Some companies don't understand this, but you do, and that is good for all of us.
To the representatives of the international labour movement who have joined us here in Mexico: Thank you. Your tremendous solidarity in the fight to win justice for democratic unions in Mexico is making a difference. We have a long way to go still, but our unity and solidarity will carry us forward.
Finally, to Napoleón Gómez Urrutia and to all the members of Los Mineros, the Steelworkers and Workers Uniting say: you are our comrades. You are our sisters and our brothers. Your struggle is our struggle. Together we will organize and bargain and strike and rally.
Together we will keep standing up and fighting back against the traitors and the greedy billionaires and the corrupt politicians, until victory.
Thank you. Gracias.