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Cablegate: Teachers and Petroleum Workers Unions Form

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RR RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHNG RUEHNL
RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHME #1869/01 1712050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 192050Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2277
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF EDUCATION WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MEXICO 001869

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL/AWH AND ILSCR, WHA/MEX AND USDOL ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON ENRG SOCI PINR PGOV PHUM MX
SUBJECT: TEACHERS AND PETROLEUM WORKERS UNIONS FORM
ALLIANCE TO PROMOTE &A NEW LABOR POLICY IN MEXICO8

1. Summary: On May 30 the leaders of Mexico,s National
Teachers, Union (SNTE) and the Petroleum Workers Union
(STPRM) announced an alliance to promote &A New Labor Policy
in Mexico.8 Reportedly, some 40 other unions joined the
teachers and the petroleum workers to help advance this
proposal. At present this newly announced alliance appears
to be a temporary accord aimed at promoting a specific set of
ideas rather than a long-term arrangement to form a new labor
organization. According to an alliance spokesman, in
addition to advocating for unionized workers this loose
association of unions hopes to involve workers on the
informal economy, labor lawyers, academics/intellectual and
migrants in their discussions on developing a new strategy.
The reactions to this alliance by the various elements and
observers of Mexico,s organized labor movement span the
spectrum from cautious support to outright condemnation.
Thus far most of those commenting on the alliance view it
negatively pointing out that the names of the leaders of the
teachers, and the petroleum workers, unions typify
everything most Mexicans identify with the most shameless
corruption in Mexico,s organized labor movement. That said,
these two unions are both on very good terms with the GOM.
Moreover, their cooperation or at least concurrence is
essential if the administration of Mexican President Calderon
hopes to gain legislative passage of his energy, education
and labor reforms. End Summary.


MEXICAN ORGANIZED LABOR IN CRISIS
---------------------------------

2. Since at least the late 1970,s Mexico,s organized labor
movement has suffered a slow but ongoing crisis whose origins
are a complex combination of domestic political issues,
global forces and large scale migration to the United States.
Over the last 10-15 years in particular, Mexico,s labor
unions have lost members, resources and political power. On
the domestic side some of the factors affecting organized
labor include such things as stagnant and/or falling wages,
corrupt and undemocratic unions, inter-union disputes, jobs
lost to foreign competition, outsourcing, a poorly educated
workforce, lax enforcement of labor laws and an all but
officially sanctioned growth of company controlled unions
(White Unions) and of unions which only exist on paper
(Protection Contract Unions).

3. A considerable amount of study and discussion has gone
into examining the causes behind the decline of Mexico,s
organized labor movement. One of the most intractable
problems facing Mexican labor has been a near constant series
of harsh and debilitating inter-union disputes almost always
having to do with a jockeying for power and influence among
union leaders and little to do with disagreements with
employers over worker rights and compensation. Countless
forums have been held and recommendations made to address
these problems. So far few, if any, of these forums or
recommendation have halted the downward slide of Mexican
labor unions. To their credit, the various elements of
Mexican labor continue seek solutions to the problems facing
the movement and in late May another such initiative was
launched.


TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION
----------------------------

4. On May 30 the leaders of Mexico,s National Teachers,
Union (SNTE), Elba Ester Gordillo, and the Petroleum Workers
Union (STPRM), Carlos Romero Deshamps, announced an alliance
to promote &A New Labor Policy in Mexico.8 At the time of
the announcement nearly 40 other unions had reportedly agreed
to work with these two large and powerful unions in order to
confront the problems facing Mexico,s organized labor
movement. The majority of the other organizations are a part
of Mexico,s federal employees, union, FSTSE (Federation of
Unions of State Workers). At present the purpose of this ad
hoc alliance is to serve as a discussion and analysis group.
However, once these matters are dealt with the group
indicated it might consider the formation of a new labor
federation in Mexico at some point in the future.

5. According to a spokesman for the alliance the item that

MEXICO 00001869 002 OF 004


finally prompted the formation of this impromptu group was
the prospect of a sharp rise in food prices that has been
much discussed in the Mexican media in recent weeks and
months. However, to paraphrase the spokesman, the possible
negative impact on workers of a potential rise in food prices
was only the straw that broke the camel,s back. The leaders
of the SNTE and the STPRM have reportedly been worried for
some time about the deteriorating situation in Mexico for
workers and their unions.

6. By coming together in an ad hoc group the leaders of the
SNTE, STPRM and others hope to possible solutions to some of
the problems facing Mexican workers. In a press conference
to announce the formation of the alliance its spokesman took
pains to underscore that the group,s purpose was to provide
a forum that welcomed the participation of other labor unions
or organizations. The alliance,s hope was that a broad
range of unionized workers as well as workers on Mexico,s
the informal economy, labor lawyers, academics/intellectual
and even migrants (who are, have been or who might be going
to the US) would join them in their discussions on developing
a new strategy for the country,s organized labor movement.

7. The immediate goal of the alliance,s discussions was to
reach agreement on ways to promote economic growth, raise
worker salaries, create jobs, and strengthen and unify
organized labor. In order to do this, the spokesperson said,
Mexican unions would have to become more transparent, work to
eliminate protection contracts (unions which only exist on
paper but which collect dues and control the right to truly
organize), establish true freedom of association, and
increase accountability of union leadership. The stated
longer term objective was to help ensure that Mexico,s labor
movement would be consulted in any debates on national
issues.


TRUTHS MANY SEE AS SELF EVIDENT
--------------------------------

8. There are very few persons, either as participant or
observers, of organized labor in Mexico who do not recognize
the many problems confronting the movement. Moreover, there
is near universal agreement within Mexico,s organized labor
movement that conditions for Mexican workers have
significantly deteriorated, particularly in the past 10-15
years. Specifically, membership has dropped, unions believe
there has been a significant loss of worker purchasing power,
and the fact that union leaders are no longer easily
nominated for elective office are some of the points the
labor sector, jobs lost to foreign competition or unionized
jobs lost to outsourcing are just some of the things often
mentioned when discussing the crisis in Mexican organized
labor. Everyone would like to see improvements in this
situation but there are relatively few who believe that Elba
Ester Gordillo or Carlos Romero Deschamps are even remotely
qualified to usher in these desperately needed improvements.
In fact, for many Mexicans these two individuals are
synonymous with the term &corrupt labor leaders8 and they
symbolize the very worst elements of the country,s organized
labor movement.

9. One prominent academic referred to the call by Gordillo
and Deschamps to form an alliance as a &siren song8 that
would entice workers to their doom. A syndicated columnist
for one of Mexico,s major national newspapers (Reforma) went
to great lengths to point out the many faults of these two
national level union leaders. Among the points he cited, and
which are considered common knowledge within Mexico,s labor
movement, are such things as the fact that both Gordillo and
Deschamps have been the leaders of there respective unions
for an inordinate period of time, both rose to those
positions under highly questionable circumstances, both have
used their unions positions to amass huge personal fortunes
and to be appointed to positions as Federal Deputies
(equivalent to a US congressman) in Mexico,s national
legislature. (Note: Mexico has a proportional system of
representation which allows political parties to appoint
individuals to legislative office.) Others have pointed out
that Gordillo and Deschamps are known for their
high-handedness, corruption and their lack of commitment to
real freedom of association and truly democratic unions.

MEXICO 00001869 003 OF 004

10. Among those who have spoken out against the SNTE/STPRM
alliance (the overwhelming majority of those who have
publicly commented) the consensus seems to be that these two
leaders are looking out for there own interests. For a
variety of reasons both of these leaders have a direct and
generally positive relationship with Mexican President Felipe
Calderon. Deschamps developed a close relationship with
Calderon in the previous GOM administration when he served as
the government,s Secretary of Energy. Even though Gordillo
and Calderon are in different political parties a dispute
with the then leader and presidential nominee of her own
party (PRI ) Institutional Revolutionary Party) prompted
here to throw her union,s support to Calderon in Mexico,s
2006 presidential elections. Because of the well documented
relation both Gordillo and Deschamps have with President
Calderon it is widely assumed that one of the real aims of
their ad hoc alliance is to support his administration.
Another reason frequently cited is that both of these leaders
are working to position themselves to be able to influence
Mexico,s 2009 mid-term elections.


JOBS, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
------------------------------------------

11. Despite the numerous faults that many individuals and
groups attribute to Gordillo and Deschamps, not everyone is
prepared to dismiss their proposed alliance out of hand.
Three notable exceptions are the leaders of the National
Railroad Workers Union (STFRM), the National Workers Union
(UNT) and the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). The
UNT and the SME both have close ties to Mexico,s main
opposition party, the PRD (Party of the Democratic
Revolution) while the Railroad Workers Union is officially
affiliated with the PRI.

12. None of these labor organizations have yet decided to
join the ad hoc alliance but they have expressed a
willingness to at least wait and see. Like every other
element that makes up Mexico,s organized labor movement the
STFRM, UNT and SME are keenly aware of the problems facing
Mexican workers. Their initial reactions to the announcement
of the ad hoc alliance were to acknowledge not just the
faults of Gordillo and Deschamps but also the realities of
what they can bring to the table.

13. Gordillo,s SNTE is the largest individual labor union
in Latin America with over one million members. Deschamps,
STPRM is in a position to either support or significantly
contribute to a defeat of the GOM,s plans for comprehensive
energy reform. In addition to the well known good
relationship these two labor leaders have with President
Calderon the support of their unions could well be the
difference between the success or failure of the GOM,s other
high priority reforms in education and labor. Thus, Gordillo
and Deschamps, and the unions in alliance with them, have the
potential to greatly influence GOM policy and behavior.
Consequently, the UNT, SME and STFRM have decided to keep
their options open by waiting to see whether the Teachers and
Petroleum Workers alliance will actually come up with
anything that might eventually accomplish any of their stated
goals and objectives before deciding whether or not to
support their efforts.

COMMENT
-------

14. Most of the public commentary so far about the ad hoc
alliance of the SNTE, STPRM and the unions who have chosen to
join them portrayed the formation of this ad hoc group as a
cheap trick or empty gesture to advance the personal
interests of Gordillo and Deschamps. In all likelihood there
is some element of truth to this conclusion. Nevertheless,
it would be difficult to objectively deny the potential the
Teachers, Petroleum Workers and other unions could
conceivably exert to improve the lot of Mexican workers.
Given the many problems that everyone involved with organized
labor in Mexico freely acknowledges, it is hard to see who
the SNTE, STPRM alliance could make things any worse.

Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at

MEXICO 00001869 004 OF 004


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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