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Cablegate: International Workers, Day Celebrations Highlight

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PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2388/01 1342151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 142151Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6880
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 002388

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL/AWH AND ILCSR, WHA/MEX AND PPC, USDOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV PINR PHUM SOCI MX
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL WORKERS, DAY CELEBRATIONS HIGHLIGHT
THE DISUNITY IN MEXICO,S ORGANIZED LABOR MOVEMENT

REF: (A) 06 MEXICO 6038 (B) MEXICO 1358

1. SUMMARY: In most countries May 1, (International
Workers, Day) is viewed as a date to commemorate labor
unity. That said, public events proclaiming the goal of
worker unity were not much in evidence this year in Mexico.
Instead, the most obvious display to come out of this year,s
May 1 celebrations was a marked demonstration of the disunity
that exists in Mexico,s organized labor movement. Moreover,
for the first time in modern history, the Mexican Government
completely and formally severed its ties to the country,s
Labor Day celebrations. Now, for all practical purposes,
Mexico,s organized labor movement is divided into three
separate factions. The factions have similar goals (i.e.
pension and fiscal reform, job creation, higher minimum
wages, combating child labor, and more effective labor laws),
but political party affiliations, personal ambitions and
different definitions of those overall labor goal will make
it difficult to achieve specific objectives anytime in the
near term future. END SUMMARY.


WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!
---------------------------

2. In Mexico, as in many other parts of the world, May 1 is
International Workers, Day (IWD). The date is an official
GOM holiday when schools, government offices and most
businesses are closed. Traditionally Labor Day festivities
in Mexico are marked throughout the country by parades, mass
gathering, and speeches proclaiming the goal of worker unity.
The largest of the IWD celebrations always took place in
Mexico City and often ended with a mass rally in the
&Zocolo8, the city,s largest square. More often than not
Mexico,s president would be invited to attend the rally at
the Zocolo as the guest of honor.

3. During most of Mexico,s modern history, when the country
was essentially ruled by a single political party, the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), May Day celebrations
were also an occasion for party leaders and the party
faithful to declare their solidarity with Mexico,s workers.
Until relatively recently almost all elements of the
organized labor movement in Mexico were closely tied to the
PRI as the ruling government party. One of the common
criticisms of Mexico,s organize labor at that time was that
it frequently acted in the party,s, as opposed to the
workers,, best interests. During these times, for better or
for worse, there was real labor unity in Mexico in that the
unions and the government/party supported each.


THE TIMES, AND LABOR UNITY, MOVE ON
-----------------------------------

4. The good old times of labor unity, between the government
and organized labor, and among labor unions themselves, ended
with Mexico,s 2000 presidential elections when the PRI was
defeated for the first time in its history (Reftel). Almost
from the time of the PRI,s 2000, the Mexican government, now
ruled by the National Action Party (PAN) began distancing
itself from the International Workers, Day celebration
hosted under the auspices of the country,s organized labor
movement. At first the government declined to attend the IWD
celebrations but normally invited the leaders of the
country,s largest labor unions to some highly publicized
event, normally held at the official residence, &Los Pinos8
(the Mexican White House). This year, Felipe Calderon, the
president of Mexico,s second successive PAN government
formally declined to associate himself in any way with the
IWD events. Los Pinos issued a public statement
congratulating the workers for the occasion of IWD but the
statement also indicated that President Calderon considered
it inappropriate for the government to take a place of
prominence on a day that belonged to the workers.

5. With the PRI,s fall from power, the labor movement
elements tied to it saw a rapid acceleration of a number of
debilitating factors (increased part-time hiring,
outsourcing, the growth of the informal economy, job lost due
to global competition and mass migration to the US) that had
already begun to take a toll. Over the past 10-15 years the
factors negatively impacting the unions caused them to lose
membership and resources. This lost of members and funds
prompted the different elements of Mexico,s organized labor
movement to reassess their relationship with the PRI and with
each other. This divergence of interests was on stark
display in this year,s International Workers,/Labor Day

MEXICO 00002388 002 OF 003


festivities on May 1.


LABOR UNITY IS NOW A LABOR TRINITY
----------------------------------

6. One of the most telling indications of the current
weakened unity of Mexico,s organized labor movement was the
fact that they could not even work together to organize a
joint Labor Day celebration. This year,s main International
Workers Day parades in Mexico City were in fact celebrated in
three separate events. Which union organized and attended
which event was mostly determined by that union,s
affiliation with a particular political party (and partially
by the personal aspirations of the union,s national leader).

7. The first of these events (attended by post,s Labor
Counselor) took place in the Zocolo under the auspices of the
Congress of Labor (CT), an umbrella association of labor
unions. The CT is mostly composed of unions affiliated with
the PRI and grouped together in the Confederation of Mexican
Workers (CTM). The CTM was the official labor wing of the PRI
in the times of single party rule. It was, and remains, the
single largest labor association in Mexico although its power
and membership are much diminished from what they once were.
Of all the labor organizations in Mexico the CTM maintains
the strongest ties to the PRI. At the same time, it has
established a respectful, if not exactly close, relationship
with the current ruling PAN government of President Felipe
Calderon (Reftel B).

8. This close relationship notwithstanding, the current
national president of the PRI, Beatrice Paredes, prominently
attended this year,s Labor Day CT event. This year,s event
began promptly at 0800 and was done by 0930 at which point
the PRI affiliated unions swiftly departed the square to make
room for the next event.

9. Once the PRI departed the Zocolo another gathering
organized by the co-called &independent unions8 under the
auspices of the National Workers Union (UNT) followed almost
immediately. At one time all of the associate unions that
compose the UNT were as closely tied to the PRI as the
organizations that now make up the Congress of Labor. Since
the CT unions were, at one time the GOM,s official unions,
the UNT refers to its member organizations as &independent8
because they are not officially linked to any particular
political party. Unofficially they could not be more closely
associated to what is now Mexico,s main opposition party,
the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Because of its
close ties to the PRD, UNT members are seldom genuinely
interested in cooperating with the PAN government of
President Felipe Calderon. The UNT unions are more
combative, openly declare their leftist inclinations and tend
to favor public as opposed to private solutions to economic
and social problems. The UNT is strongest in the Mexico City
area and the southern parts of Mexico. They often use their
strength in the Mexico City area to launch protest
demonstrations that have a reasonable record of winning in
concessions from the GOM and the country,s various
legislative authorities.

10. The third group of unions to hold their own separate May
Day event (a short distance away from the Zocolo) was made up
of labor organizations that juggle their allegiance between
all three of Mexico,s major political parties. At one time
the three most prominent unions at this gathering were all
closely associated with the PRI. Two of those unions, the
Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants/Farmers
(CROC) and the National Union of Miners and Metalworkers
(SNTMMSRM), formally state that they are still affiliated
with the PRI. In practice these two unions often flirt with
the PRD. The third organization, the National Teachers,
Union (SNTE) has officially left the PRI and formed its own
political party, the New Alliance Party (PANAL). In practice
the SNTE, which is reportedly the largest union in Latin
America, more often than not works in close association with
Mexico,s ruling PAN party. All three of these unions
severed or substantially diminished their ties to the PRI
because their national leaders wanted some type of (labor,
political or civil society) position that the party refused
to give them or because they felt the PRI did not support
them on some critical (but highly personal) issue.


CAN,T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
---------------------------


MEXICO 00002388 003 OF 003


11. In their separate International Workers, Day events,
all three factions of Mexico,s organized labor movement
stated variations on the same themes. To varying degrees and
with differing levels of emphasis all of them reportedly
called for the following: pension reform (although each had a
different definition of what that would mean); fiscal reform
(in which business and corporations would pay their fair
share of taxes); increased job creation and higher minimum
wages (to stem the flow of people with needed talents
emigrating to the US); combating child labor (in particular
child prostitution); and more effective labor laws
(especially to prevent the formation of phantom unions that
have no real members and which represent the interests of the
employers and not the workers).

12. The person who called out most stridently for labor
unity was the national leader of the CROC, Isaias Gonzalez
Cuevas. Gonzalez pointedly underscored the challenges facing
Mexico,s organized labor movement and implored all concerned
to join together for the good for their common good and for
the good of the average Mexican worker. Ironically, the
CROC,s national leader all but withdrew from the PRI and
then distanced himself from many PRI affiliated unions when
they and the party failed to support his bid to be come the
president of the Congress of Labor. Last year, in a fit of
anger over being denied this position the CROC,s leader
actively campaigned for the PRD candidate in Mexico,s 2006
presidential elections. The PRD candidate lost but only just
and the election was without a doubt one of the most
controversial ballots in Mexico,s modern history. At no
time during or since the May 1 celebrations has anyone
publicly commented on the disconnect between the CROC
leader,s rhetoric and his actions.


COMMENT
-------

13. For only the second time in its modern history, a
political party other than the PRI is governing Mexico. This
change in the country,s political history is occurring at a
time when Mexico is striving to improve its democracy and
simultaneously expand its economy while, at the same time,
facing sharp global competition from various other developing
nations. Almost every institution in the country has to
adapt to these changing times and Mexico,s organized labor
movement is no exception. If the goals sought by all
factions of Mexico,s labor organized movement are negotiated
in a spirit of compromise and thoughtfully implemented, there
is little doubt that they will significantly the entire
country. The desired changes (assuming common definitions
can be agreed) could strengthen the economy, enhance
government finances and improve general social welfare. In
their May Day declarations, all three factions of Mexico,s
organized labor movement called for unity in order to improve
both the country an the quality of life of the Mexican
worker. The months ahead will determine of any the major
unions are prepared to act on the admirable principals of
unity they so loudly proclaimed on International Workers,
Day.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
GARZA

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