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Spanish Version



Alcoa workers vote for democratic union

Maquila network update
December 2002, Vol. 7 No. 4

Despite ongoing management harassment, workers at two auto parts plants in Piedras Negras, Mexico have sent a clear message to the company that they want an independent union.

On October 18, workers at Plant #1 voted overwhelmingly in favor of the independent “For Unity” slate, shutting out candidates supported by the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and Alcoa management. The CTM is an “official” union controlled by Mexico’s historical ruling party, the PRI, which still control the government of the state of Coahuila where factories are located.

The vote came only weeks after 20 workers form both factories were fired for staging a legal protest outside the factories on October 3 and 4. Five of the fired workers had been candidates running for the leadership of the union in Plant #1. After firing them, Alcoa management forcibly drove several of the workers to different points in the city to prevent them from communicating with their co-workers.

At Plant #2, among the workers fired were four members of the union sectional committee. Although still technically affiliated with the CTM, last March, new leaders of the committee won a historic election to oust their corrupt predecessors and democratize their union. For six months, they achieved unprecedented success by leading an experiment in democratic unionism inside the plant of almost 2,000 workers. However, because of continuing harassment by local CTM officials, Alcoa workers at both plants are now seeking legal recognition on an independent union.

Despite the recent electoral victory, workers face an uphill battle to win the right to be represented by the union of their choice. As in many Mexican states, the local conciliation and arbitration board, which has the power to accept or reject applications, continues to be dominated by members of the PRI and former leaders of the “official” unions. For that reason, labor rights groups, including MSN, are pressuring Alcoa to respect the results of this election, immediately reinstate the 20 fired independent union supporters, and ensure that there is no further harassment by management personnel or CTM officials.

For many years, the 14,000 workers employed at Alcoa’s maquiladoras in the Mexican city of Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña fought successfully to organize and bargain collectively. They won significant improvements in their wages and working conditions. But during the past year, workers had to defend these important achievements against Alcoa’s attempt to slash benefits, reverse contractual gains, and attack the worker’s right to freedom of association.

The recent firings of key leaders in the fight for a democratic union is the latest event in Alcoa’s continuing pattern of harassment and repression against the independent organization formed by its employees.

Last year, Alcoa fired 185 workers in Ciudad Acuña, and in February of this year it fired six other workers from Plant #1 in Piedras Negras. In Mexico, the worker’s efforts to win an independent union are being supported by the Border Workers Committee (CFO), and in the US and Canada by a number of labor and solidarity group, including MSN, AFL-CIO, Campaign for Labor Rights and Students Against Sweatshops.

Check the Maquila Solidarity Network website for current news on these and other stories:


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

Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO)
Monterrey #1103, Col. Las Fuentes
Piedras Negras, Coahuila
C.P. 26010, México