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Cablegate: Formation of a Second Miners Union Underscores

VZCZCXRO7523
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #5161/01 2682139
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 252139Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8988
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2327
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MEXICO 005161

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL/AWR AND ILCST, WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC AND USDOL FOR
ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV PHUM PINR MX
SUBJECT: FORMATION OF A SECOND MINERS UNION UNDERSCORES
MANY OF THE PROBLEMS OF ORGANIZED LABOR IN MEXICO

REF: (A) MEXICO 1925 (B) 06 MEXICO 6655 AND PREVIOUS

(NOTAL)

1. SUMMARY: The ongoing saga of Mexico's national
miners union (SNTMMSRM) took a significant but little
noticed step in late 2006 when a dissident group of
approximately 100 people within that labor organization
formed a break-away union. Because of the lead up to and the
protracted challenge surrounding Mexico's 2006 presidential
elections, the formation of this second miners union was
largely overlooked until a few weeks ago. In early September
this new organization, the National Mine Exploration and
Exploitation Workers Union of the Mexican Republic
(SNEEBMRM), won control of several mining collective
bargaining contracts in northern Mexico. The SNEEBMRM
victory over what had been the country's sole mining union
was ratified via a hotly contested and closely monitored
election in which mine workers held a voted to determine
which union would be their recognized labor representatives.
The electoral contest between the new miners union was only
narrowly prevented from becoming violent when local police
arrested a group of approximately 25 people armed with
homemade bombs and various other weapons en route to a
confrontation with their competitors. The circumstances
under which the election was held, its results (which are
being legally contested), credible allegations that the GOM
is not a neutral arbiter in this intra-union dispute, and the
barely averted outbreak of violence were all systematic of
the many problems currently facing organized labor in Mexico.
END SUMMARY


BACKGROUND
----------

2. In May of this year Mexican authorities temporarily
reinstated Napoleon Gomez Urrutia as the leader of the
National Miners Union, SNTMMSRM when increasing evidence
indicated that charges against him for embezzling union
pension funds were based on falsified documents. This
reinstatement was followed by a national SNTMMSRM convention
on April 17, 2007, in which the deposed Gomez was then
definitively reaffirmed as the leader of the Miners union.
GOM authorities left open questions related to the ultimate
validity of the embezzlement charges against Gomez for
allegedly mishandling 55 million dollars in union pension
funds; the exact whereabouts of the funds (last seen in the
Canadian owned Scotia Bank), Gomez ongoing self-imposed
exile in Canada to avoid other pending charges against him,
or who to hold accountable for the apparently fraudulent
documents that formed the basis for Gomez 2006 removal from
office by the administration of then Mexican President
Vicente Fox.

3. Gomez mid-2006 removal as the leader of the miners union
generated a considerable amount of interest and controversy
in labor circles both within Mexico and internationally.
Most of those within the rank and file of the Miners union,
although certainly not all, continued to support Gomez even
after he was deposed. Moreover, many of Mexico's more
established unions came out in support of Gomez. On the
other hand, the Congress of Labor (CT), Mexico's largest
umbrella federation of labor unions, is divided over Gomez
restoration to his leadership position despite the fact that
the SNTMMSRN is a member of this coalition. Internationally,
the United Steelworkers unions (USW) in both the US and
Canada strongly support Gomez. The USW even filed a (now
resolved) public submission on SNTMMSRN's behalf under the
terms of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation
(NAALC), a labor side agreement to NAFTA. In addition, Gomez
also received considerable support from the International
Metalworkers Federation.


THE BIRTH OF A NEW MINERS UNION
--------------------------------

4. Gomez mid-2006 removal from leadership of the SNTMMSRN
on apparently fraudulent charges prompted widespread strikes,
random work stoppages, out-breaks of violence between Mexican

MEXICO 00005161 002 OF 004


authorities and striking miners and even two deaths.
Overall, most of the rank and file of the National Miners
Union supported Gomez Urrutia throughout his deposition and
the related legal problems. During the period of Gomez's
apparently improper removal the National Miners Union was led
by a long term rival, Elias Morales Hernandez. At the time
most local labor observers focused their attention on the
rivalry between Gomez and Morales. Little public notice was
taken of a group of approximately 100 mine workers in
northern Mexico who in late 2006 decided that they would
rather not have either Gomez or Morales as their union
leaders.

5. This group of some 100 workers (Mexican Federal Labor Law
permits the formation of a union with as few as 20 workers)
decided to form a miners union of their own that was in no
way connected to either Napoleon Gomez Urrutia or Elias
Morales Hernandez. The new organization formed by those 100
mine workers became the National Mine Exploration and
Exploitation Workers Union of the Mexican Republic
(SNEEBMRM). Prior to the formation of the SNEEBMRM, the
National Miners Union led by Gomez was the only such labor
entity in Mexico. From the time of its formation in late
2006 until very recently the SNEEBMRM kept a low profile as
it organized among miners in northern Mexico. The results of
this quiet organizing effort became shockingly evident to the
union lead by Gomez when it found itself challenged to an
intra/inter union election in late August. To the surprise
of the National Miners Union led by Gomez the new SNEEBMRM
union won elections in eight different Secciones (Locals) in
northern Mexico. At issue was control of the collective
bargaining contracts for slightly over 4000 miner workers.


AUTHORITIES PREVENT OUTBREAK OF VIOLENCE
----------------------------------------

6. Not surprisingly, the election to determine which union
would represent the miners in northern Mexico was hotly
contested. This contest only narrowly avoided turning into a
dramatically violent conflict when police authorities in the
state of Coahuila were alerted to a planned attack by one
group of miners against another. It is not clear whether the
attackers were associated with the National Miners Union or
with the new SNEEBMRM union; media coverage of the events
surround the planned attack provide conflicting information.

7. Initial reports stated that the potential attackers were
identified as members Seccion 14 of the National Miners
Union headed by Gomez. For all practical purposes
identifying the potential attackers as part of Seccion 14 was
a meaningless exercise since the foiled attack took place
before the election establishing the new SNEEBMRM union as
the designated representative of the mine workers in
Coahuila. Prior to that election, all mining employees in
Coahuila were members of and officially represented by the
National Miners Union. Moreover, the group in question was
detained by the Coahuila police while reportedly in route to
a union office building already controlled by the National
Union. No public explanation has been put forth as to why
these men would want to attack the office building of the
union they supported. The only publicly available
indisputable fact about the foiled attack is that the
Coahuila police detained 25 men. During the investigation
surrounding the detention the police discovered 11 Molotov
cocktails along with a wide assortment of clubs and homemade
weapons.


TYPICAL UNION ELECTION WITH ALL THE TYPICAL PROBLEMS
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. The vote to determine which union would represent the
miners in northern Mexico was held on September 6 and took
place at various mining operations in the states of
Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora and San Luis Potosi. The results
of the vote, as reported in a variety of Mexican media
outlets, was overwhelming (upwards of 96 percent) against the
National Miners Union headed by Gomez and in favor of the
new SNEEBMRM union. The actual voting procedures were typical

MEXICO 00005161 003 OF 004


for a union election in Mexico in that they in no way
approximately anything remotely close to a secret ballot.

9. Miners who wanted to vote were required to first identify
themselves before senior officials of the two competing
unions and of the GOM's Labor Secretariat (STPS). Once this
was done miner then had to be certified as a current worker
by a representative of the mining company. Only after
passing through this three step identification would the
miner be allowed to cast a verbal vote to determine which
union the worked wanted to serve as his/her representative.
This lengthy process of public self-identification in which
everyone knows instantly for whom a worker voted has been
criticized as being open to easy intimidation and
manipulation but it is the standard by all union elections in
Mexico are conducted.


LOSING UNION CRIES FOUL
-----------------------

10. As soon as the stark results of the election were known
the National MinersQ, Union immediately protested its loss
and filed an appeal to have the election overturned. At this
point there appears to be little chance that the appeal will
succeed since the procedures under which the SNEEBMRM won the
election are exactly the same as the ones in place when
Napoleon Gomez was reaffirmed as the Secretary General of the
National Miners Union this past April. That said, Gomez
and his supporters can honestly say that it required roughly
a year, numerous strikes and demonstrations, two deaths and
international pressure before the National Miners Union was
allowed to reaffirm him as its leader. Reportedly, only
eight days passed between the time the SNEEBMRM requested an
election to challenge the National Miners Union and the
date on which the election actually took place.

11. The National Miners Union has also argued that the
STPS, the Federal Labor Board (roughly equivalent to the US
National Labor Relations Board), and the Grupo Mexico mining
company colluded to deny the workers a fair vote. The
National Miners Union outlined a list of reasons that the
election was illegitimate:

- Of the 1,200 miners who might have voted, 900 unionized
miners in Sonora were prevented from participating in the
recuento,8 a process similar in some ways to a
decertification and representation election in the United
States.
- At San Luis Potosi 15 miners were fired to prevent them
from participating in the election and to intimidate other
workers.
- At Nueva Rostia, Coahuila, workers from the second shift
were locked in the mine to keep them from voting.
- At Nacozari, Sonora, the election took place after laying
off 900 workers.
- Grupo Mexico had brought charges against National Miners
Union representatives for extortion in order to intimidate
them.
- At some locations police or soldiers were used to
intimidate workers.
- In all locations outside toughs were brought in to
intimidate workers and the local population.
- In some instances the company bribed workers with between
USD 150 and USD 350 for each for their votes.

12. Following the union representation election, the
National Miners Union (SNTMMRM) won a court decision
reinstating 1,700 miners from in Sonora. The union says that
the return to work of these miners invalidates the earlier
election conducted in their absence. At present there is no
indication that the GOM intends to move forcefully to
investigate the above allegations. Its position is that the
appropriate labor authorities should be given the time needed
review the allegations and process the pending appeal in
accordance with established legal procedures.


COMMENT
-------

MEXICO 00005161 004 OF 004

13. The formation and apparently successful election of the
new SNEEBMRM union as the representative of the workers in
various mining operations is typical of many of the problems
facing organized labor in Mexico. Looked at from one
perspective, the establishment of the new miners union can be
seen as an example in Mexico of the right of free (labor)
association. When looked at differently the speed with which
the union was registered and then allowed to then allowed to
hold a decertification and representation election was in no
way typical of the norm in Mexico; except when the
challenging union has the tacit support of the GOM and or
some influential interest group.

14. The procedures under which the SNEEBMRM/National
Miners Union election were conducted were exactly the same
as those employed nationwide for this type of balloting; in
other words nothing different occurred during this election
than normally happens in any union election in Mexico.
Unfortunately, these standard election procedures easily lend
themselves to worker intimidation and manipulation. All of
these elements are further complicated by the fact that the
National Miners Union is one of the more combative (and
some say corrupt) labor organizations in Mexico and its
leader, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, has yet to get a compelling
accounting of what happened to the USD 55 million in union
pension funds he is accused of embezzling. Allegations of
corruption, union busting, embezzlement, government failure
to act as a neutral arbiter, threats of violence and flawed
union election procedures were all part of the formation of
the new National Mine Exploration and Exploitation Workers
Union of the Mexican Republic (SNEEBMRM). Unfortunately, all
of these elements were also typical of what many average
Mexican see as the established norm in the countryQ,s
organized labor movement.

15. This cable was cleared by AmConsul Monterrey.

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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