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Activists protest in Belmont over fired Mexican Workers

The Union Leader
Manchester, NH November 21, 2002

By Roger Amsden
Union Leader Correspondent

Belmont – A half-dozen labor activists marched along Route 106 near the Noyes Fiber plant yesterday with signs protesting the treatment of Mexican workers by Noye’s parent company, Alcoa Fujikura.

Taking part in the protest was Rafael Salinas, one of the leaders of an independent union at Macoemex/Alcoa in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, who was fired last month for union activism.

Speaking with the aid of interpreter Andy Davis of Albany, Salinas said the state-sponsored labor union, the Confederation of Mexican Workers, is “in cahoots with management and tramples on the rights of the workers.”

He was one of the 20 workers fired a week after an independent slate of candidates won a challenge over the entrenched union at two Macoemex’s plant in northern Mexico.

A father of four who has worked nearly six years at the Macoemex plant that makes wire harnesses for the automotive industry, Salinas said about 5,000 people, half of them women, are employed at three plants where challenges were mounted to the state-sponsored unions.

Workers make about $40 a week and receive no benefits such as health insurance or time and a half pay for overtime work.

“The majority of the workers support us despite the repression,” said Salinas, who said the company was putting out announcements over loudspeakers in the plants telling workers not to talk with union organizers and threatening disciplinary action against those who did.

Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee, New Hampshire coordinator for the Quaker group that helped organized the protest said, “for more than a year, Alcoa has resorted to threats, interference in union elections, video surveillance of workers inside and outside the plant and similar tactics aimed to undermining worker organizing.”

He said the firing of the 20 rank-and-file union organizers on Oct. 4 was the “last straw” and that labor union activists are asking supporters in the United States to put pressure on Alcoa for fair treatment.

New Hampshire ALF-CIO President Mark MacKenzie, who also joined the picketers, said, “workers everywhere have a right to organize independent unions. We are proud to take a stand alongside our Mexican brothers and sisters.”

“This is happening all over the world. It’s a race to the bottom by global companies trying to exploit workers,” said MacKenzie.

He said the protest in front of Alcoa’s subsidiary was designed to raise awareness of how workers’ rights are being trampled by the globalization of the world economy.

Alcoa Fujikura, a joint venture of Pittsburgh based Alcoa and a Japanese company, employs 17,000 workers at 13 automobile engine wiring harnesses factories in northern Mexico, according to Alpert, who spent four days in Mexico in March with a delegation looking into working conditions at the plants.

“Alcoa’s actions violate Mexican labor law and the Mexican constitution, both of which guarantee freedom of association, including the right of workers to democratically choose their own unions,” said Alpert. “They also violate the company’s own statements which affirm Alcoa’s support for freedom of association and other human rights,” he said.


    is produced in cooperation with the
Mexico-U.S Border Program
of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO)
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Piedras Negras, Coahuila
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