Solidarity with Mexican miners

March 31, 2011

Chicago–Black, Latino and Anglo workers here showed solidarity with workers in Mexico on Feb. 19, the fifth anniversary of the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster in Mexico. Over 100 people came out, mostly steelworkers, joined by Jobs with Justice, Arise Chicago Worker Center, and News and Letters.

In recent years the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic, or “Los Mineros,” has reached out to workers in other countries, including the United Steelworkers, for support in their struggles against bosses backed by a repressive state. Rallies took place in several U.S. cities and in at least 30 countries.

Workers at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, had warned of dangerous conditions for months before the Feb. 19, 2006, explosion that killed 65 miners. The bodies of 63 are still entombed in the mine. We picketed in front of the Mexican consulate here, many of us carrying signs with names of those killed. Speakers told of the exploitative wages and conditions Mexican workers face, and the violent repression when they organize and fight back.

Since 2007, Los Mineros Section 65 has been on strike at the copper mine in Cananea, Mexico, against the same mine owner, Grupo Mexico, over dangerous conditions and contract violations. Last year, 3,000 federal and 500 state police occupied the Cananea mine, driving workers out of the mine, then gassing those who took refuge in the union hall.

They allowed the company to send scabs into the mine until a judge granted an injunction against it. After this, 1,100 miners’ wives formed the Women’s Support Committee. (See “Labor’s battlefronts,” April-May 2008 N&L.)

All protesters were asked to sign a letter to the Mexican Consul General that contained four demands:

Hold employer and government officials accountable for the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion that killed 65 miners on Feb. 19, 2006;

Abolish systematic violations of workers’ freedom of association, including employer-dominated “protection contracts” and interference in union elections;

End the use of force–by the state or private parties–to repress workers’ legitimate demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions, and good health and safety conditions;

End the campaign of political persecution against the Mexican Miners’ Union and the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union.

One speaker, Luis from Arise Chicago, brought history to life by telling how the strike of miners at Cananea in 1906 helped bring on the Mexican Revolution, then linked it to the origins of May Day in Chicago. Around the world, May Day is known as an international revolutionary workers’ day. Why not in Chicago? He suggested we could reconnect with this important history today in creating real international labor solidarity. As many demonstrators were saying, an injury to one is an injury to all!

–Franklin Dmitryev

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