Posted December 19, 2000
In this alert:
[ Information for this alert provided by: the Coalition for Justice in the
PHANTOM UNION ARRIVES AT DURO PAPER BAG COMPANY
Eliud Almaguer and Felipe Barron, former workers and union leaders at Duro
Bag, appeared at a hearing of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board
(JFCA) in Mexico City on December 13th in the hope that the president of the
Board would set a date for the union representation election at Duro in Rio
Bravo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. They were astonished, however, to find an
additional union at the hearing. The Regional Confederation of Workers and
Peasants (CROC) were in attendance and demanded the right to represent Duro
A common problem in the maquiladora sector is the appearance of a union
which is in fact a company and/or government backed union. The term
'phantom' is commonly uses in Mexico to describe this type of union. The
CROC is considered by independent Mexican unions as a phantom union. Both
the CROC and the CTM (Confederation of Mexican Workers), the company-backed
union in the Duro plant currently, sells protection contracts to companies
in order to block workers from organizing democratic unions and defending
In response to the demands of the CROC, the JFCA consented
to bend the rules set out in the law and postponed hearing dates in order to
give the CTM and the CROC sufficient time to organize workers against the
union organizing drive of the independent, worker-led union. Tactics often
used include buying votes, intimidation and threats towards workers. The
Conciliation Board did NOT set a date for the union election. They did set
another hearing date for January 18th to give the CTM and CROC more time to
intimidate the workers. With three parties entering the election, the winner
will be the union that gets the most votes.
PHANTOM UNION AND CROC BACKGROUND
Several years ago in Tijuana the Han Young workers, represented by their
democratic union - STIHMAC - had to face the same corrupt strategy of
phantom corporate unions when they were vying against the CROC in a union
election. The CTM appeared from nowhere and with no base among the workers.
The CTM entered into the conflict and the result was third party chaos.
Despite the fact that they had no base in Tijuana, the CTM made a deal with
the CROC and the company to enter the representation elections as another
way to block the workers from winning justice.
Now it appears that the CROC is reenacting this scenario in reverse for the
CTM at Duro. With no presence in the state of Tamaulipas, let alone at Duro,
the CROC suddenly appeared out of the blue with membership forms signed by
the workers, demanding to represent them in an election against the Duro Bag
Workers Union which has struggled since June to win its official
registration and against the CTM (National Paperworkers Union). Thus the
CROC returns the favor that the CTM did for it in Tijuana.
BACKGROUND ON DURO STRUGGLE
Duro is a maquiladora located in the city of Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas bordering
Pharr, Texas, and about 15 minutes from Reynosa (across the US border from
McAllen, TX). Duro assembles gift bags for different corporations such as
Hallmark and Neiman Marcus. The company is a privately held, family-owned
company and is based in Ludlow, Kentucky Duro workers put up their strike
banners on June 18 after going out on strike on June 12 in order to
establish an independent union and force the reinstatement of their elected
leaders who were illegally fired. The workers demanded a union willing to
negotiate better conditions such as: medical attention inside the plant,
life insurance, bathroom breaks, basic safety equipment and sanitary
conditions in the bathrooms and cafeteria.
The governor's office has acknowledged that Duro has some of the worst
working conditions of any of the maquiladoras (factories producing for
export) in the area.
The workers were forcefully and illegally removed from the Duro premises by
police armed with machine guns on the first day that they put up their
strike banners. Mexican law grants workers the right to strike and to close
the production facilities with such banners. Since then they have been
occupying an encampment in the city plaza in Rio Bravo.
HOW TO ORGANIZE A LEAFLETING AT YOUR LOCAL HALLMARK STORE
The Cross Border Network is organizing a leafleting on December 23rd at
Hallmark which buys gift bags from Duro to pressure them and thus Duro to
respect the workers' right to choose a union democratically and to refrain
from taking sides in the union election or intimidating the workers.
If you'd like to organize an action at Duro or at a Hallmark store, contact
Judy Ancel at email@example.com or 913-677-2158.
SEND A LETTER SUPPORT FOR THE DURO WORKERS TO THE NEW PRESIDENT
Lic. Virgilio Mena Becerrahas been appointed as the new president of the
Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board. Welcome the new President of the
Federal Conciliation and ArbitrationBoard by sending him a letter of support
for the Duro workers and a copy to Mexican President Vicente Fox. A sample
Lic. Virgilio Mena Becerra
President of the Federal Conciliation & Arbitration Board
Undersecretary "A" of the Department of Labor and Social Welfare
Fax: 01152 (5) 6452345--5722-8768--5722-8769 --761-0022 Conmutador
Dear Mr. Mena:
We are aware that the Duro Bag Workers Union in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas have
petitioned for a union election to represent the workers there and replace
the National Paperworkers Union of the CTM. When the Duro Workers leaders
appeared at the hearing conducted by your office on December 13th, they were
confronted by a phantom union in the form of the CROC which without any
existence in the State of Tamaulipas, much less at the Duro Company presumes
to demand to represent the workers. How long must the workers endure these
phantom unions, which promote only protection contracts for the employers?
How long must they wait for the right to freedom of association supposedly
guaranteed in the Federal Labor Law and the Constitution?
We thought that with the fall of the old system, the workers would get
justice and democracy especially with the signing by then candidate Fox of
the Twenty Principles for Freedom of Association. However, it appears that
your government will start the New Year by continuing the anti-democratic
practices of phantom unions.
Please make the process work. Schedule the union election as soon as
possible and protect the rights of the workers to a free and democratic
union election without being obstructed by phantom unions. Please guarantee
that all workers be permitted to vote and that they have a secret ballot.
Cc: Vicente Fox Quezada
President of Mexico
(Remind him of his having signed the 20 Principles of Freedom of Association
during his campaign.)