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Cablegate: United Farm Workers Want a Piece of the Guest

VZCZCXRO9814
RR RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHNG RUEHNL
RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHME #2054/01 1852311
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 032311Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2454
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 002054

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB CVIS EAGR PGOV SOCI PINR MX
SUBJECT: UNITED FARM WORKERS WANT A PIECE OF THE GUEST
WORKER (H-2A) ACTION IN MEXICO

1. SUMMARY: The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) sees a
real potential for union organizing and growth in Mexico.
This is especially true, the UFW concludes, if the next US
presidential administration succeeds with some type of
immigration reform. Consequently, a little over a year ago
the union began preparing for what it believes will
eventually be the establishment of more formalized ties
between US agro-businesses and migrant Mexican workers. As a
part of this preparation two officials recently called on
Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor to discuss UFW plans for
expansion and organizing in Mexico. The UFW,s Mexico
initiative is still very much in the information gathering
stages. Nevertheless, the two officials made clear the
UFW,s view that it will ultimately be able to show both US
agro-businesses and Mexican migrants that better use of the
H-2A visa Guest Worker program is in their best long term
interest. End Summary


PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
------------------------

2. On June 26, Mission Mexico,s Labor Counselor had an
extended meeting with two officials of the United Farm
Workers of America (UFW). The two union officials were the
UFW,s International Director based in Tacoma, WA and its
Director of Operations, Guest Worker Fund based in Keene, CA.
According to the two officials the UFW is in the process of
re-assessing how it can be more effective as a labor
organization. For the UFW, part of this process means
preparing itself for the future and taking full advantage of
potential opportunities for growth. For a variety of
reasons, the UFW sees Mexico as an area where it can grow.

3. One aspect of the growth strategy the UFW is pursuing is
a national effort to represent guest workers who enter the US
on H2A visas. Based on what the two officials said during the
meeting with Mission Labor Counselor, it appears that up
until recent years the UFW did not do as much as it could
have to look into the possible advantages of organizing
workers before they arrived in the US. The union is now
trying to correct that shortcoming -- and Mexico, because of
its proximity and the long established patterns of
agricultural workers migrating to the US in search of
employment, fits in very well with the UFW,s vision for
future growth. At this point the UFW is still every much in
the information gathering stage and has confirmed what it
(and everyone else) already knew anecdotally; that by far the
vast majority of migrant farm workers in the US come from
Mexico. The officials made clear that there are also
surprisingly large numbers of farm workers in the US from
such diverse places as Thailand and the Philippines but for
sheer numbers, Mexico and then Central America are
respectively numbers one and two.

4. Once its organizing activities in Mexico begin to gear up
the UFW believes it will be in a position to offer value
added to both US agro-businesses and potential Mexican
migrant workers. As an indication of what it believes it can
accomplish the UFW officials referred to a negotiation the
union concluded this year with an agro-business in the United
States. This past April the UFW concluded what the labor
organization says is the first nationwide union contract
protecting agricultural workers signed with Global Horizons.
Global Horizons, which the UFW describes as, one of the US,s
largest suppliers of imported foreign farm workers, operating
in dozens of states. The UFW agreement allows Global
Horizons to provide assurance to the American growers who
contract its services that it is in full compliance with all
relevant USG laws and regulations. In other words, the
growers can devote themselves to the business of producing
food while Global Horizons takes handles all the details
associated with bringing in foreign guest workers in
compliance with US law. Moreover, the workers who sign on
with Global Horizons under the UFW contract will receive
legal protection and full benefits such as employer paid
medical care (while in the US), standard wages and seniority
protections so workers are hired or laid off based on years
of service with the company.

MEXICO 00002054 002 OF 003

MEXICO, LAND OF OPPORTUNITY BUT (
---------------------------------

5. Given the large numbers of Mexican migrant farm workers
in the US the UFW wants to position itself so that it can
better organize these laborers. The UFW officials indicated
that their union believes Mexico provides significant
opportunities for growth; both for their organization and
with regard to improving the lot of workers who can benefit
from a legal and orderly way of obtaining employment in the
US. In order to prepare itself to take advantage of these
potential opportunities UFW officials have made a series of
visits to Mexico in the past year. One of the things the UWF
has learned in visiting Mexico is that not everyone is
enthusiastic about the union expanding its operations here.

6. One of the UFW,s first stops when it began visiting
Mexico was a call on the Mexican Foreign Ministry (SRE) to
both inform them of their activities and to seek GOM support
for their organizing activities. Since their initial contact
with the Foreign Ministry the UFW has concluded that, despite
verbal assurances of Mexican government interest, there has
been no meaningful follow-up on the part of SRE. Mission
Mexico Labor Counselor opined that while it was certainly
well worth the effort to inform the SRE of the UFW,s
activities there are other GOM agencies that might be a
better fit for what the US union hopes to accomplish. Labor
Counselor offered to share with the UFW officials some of his
contacts at the Secretariats of Labor and Agriculture.

7. In addition to a lack of follow through from the SRE the
UFW is now aware that it can expect considerable resistance
from an assortment of recruiting agencies that specialize in
contracting agricultural workers for US growers. The
recruiting agencies have, what is probably, a well deserved
reputation for charging potential farm laborers exorbitant
fees for finding them work in the US. Currently it is not
unheard of for these recruiters to charge workers seeking
employment as farm laborers in the US as much as USD 3,000.
For this the laborer,s name may or may not be placed on a
list of persons being legitimately contracted for employment
in the US as an agricultural worker. In a large number of
cases the recruiters have already been paid by the US growers
to hire potential laborers and have received assurances that
no additional fees will be collected from the prospective
workers.

8. These recruiters also often have a reputation for
threatening and abusing prospective workers. It is also not
unusual for these recruiters to place intending immigrants on
their lists of prospective laborers. From what the UFW
officials learned (and a significant amount of anecdotal
information reaching Mission Labor Counselor) these
recruiting agencies will not look kindly on a US union coming
to Mexico to organize farm worker. The UFW officials
expressed awareness that their union could face violent
opposition once it begins actual organizing activities in
Mexico.


UFW BELIEVED HISTORY WILL REPEAT WITH IMMIGRATION REFORM
--------------------------------------------- ------------

9. The bedrock assumption underlying all of the UFW,s plans
for organizing in Mexico is the union,s firm expectation
that no matter which party win this year,s US presidential
election the next administration will ultimately obtain some
type of US immigration reform. Based on it conversations
with US agro-business the UFW knows that many large and
influential American companies are pushing for a significant
expansion of the H2A visa program.

10. The UFW has no doubt that future US immigration reform
will include some process that allows undocumented workers to
legalize their status. According to the UFW officials, a
large number of undocumented workers in the US are currently
employed as farm laborers. The UFW, and according to the two
officials who met with Mission Labor Counselor, is assuming
that once immigration reform is passed history will repeat
itself in that many farm workers employed in US agriculture
will leave the fields and seek other, better paid

MEXICO 00002054 003 OF 003


opportunities. This, the UFW officials said, will create an
incredible demand for replacement workers as US
agro-businesses struggle to maintain a stable labor force.
The UFW has no doubt that this demand for labor will be
filled one way or another with foreign guest workers. When
this happens the union wants to be able to offer prospective
workers and potential employers a legal and fully reliable
method for meeting both their needs.


COMMENT
-------

11. The UFW is not the first American union whose main focus
is agricultural workers to set their sites on Mexico. The
AFL-CIO affiliate FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) has
been in Mexico for some time and event has a permanent office
in the northern industrial city of Monterrey. As noted above
the UFW is still gathering information as it develops a plan
of action for organizing in Mexico. A lot of what the UFW
hopes to accomplish in Mexico as based on the assumption that
the US Congress will pass some type of immigration reform in
the not too distant future. The UFW does not appear to be in
a particular hurry to begin its Mexico expansion. The
officials who met with Mission Mexico Labor Counselor seemed
much more concerned with doing things right as opposed to
doing them fast. That said, once this well established US
union gets going in Mexico they could play a significant role
in helping to ensure that migrant agricultural workers
seeking employment in the US do so in a form that is fully in
compliance with relevant American law and regulation.
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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