AFT tells Mexico: Stop targeting workers!

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The AFT has joined members of the international labor community observing a Global Week of Action and calling upon Mexico to stop intimidating and detaining workers. The week of awareness, Feb. 19-25, is in its third year and marks the anniversary of the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster of 2006, which killed 65 miners. This year, events are designed to draw attention to Mexico's labor policies, which regressed, trade unionists say, with the passage of so-called reforms this past December. Demonstrations are taking place outside Mexican embassies all over the world.

On Feb. 21, the AFT joined a delegation of AFL-CIO affiliates protesting at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., and delivered a letter from AFT secretary-treasurer Lorretta Johnson to Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto. The letter expresses the AFT's concern over evidence that "trade unionists have been targeted for exercising their rights to organize and act as independent trade unions." Mexico is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

"International reports have described anti-union practices by government authorities and employers that have resulted in the detention of union leaders, the non-recognition of independent unions, and the promotion of employer-controlled unions," the letter says. "Although there have been several initiatives to reform labor laws at the federal and state level, these have yet to prove completely effective in protecting workers' rights.

"Trade unions representing miners, electricians, oil workers, and agriculture workers are among those that have been the victims of discrimination, intimidation and unfair dismissals. These are part of a reported pattern against groups and individuals—many are teachers, healthcare workers, political activists, or members of the human rights community—seeking to exercise their basic rights."

The letter asks Mexico to honor its commitment as an ILO member and guarantee its citizens "fair protection under the law, the freedoms of speech and association, and dignity in the workplace."

The Global Week of Action is spearheaded by Global Union Federations, the International Transport Workers' Federation and Public Services International, which has a model letter to the Mexican president on its website. [Barbara McKenna, Eric Duncan, Pat Keefer]

February 21, 2013