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Cablegate: Mexico,S Ruling Party Proposes Freedom Of

VZCZCXRO8198
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #5428/01 2851413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121413Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9192
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 005428

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PHUM PGOV PINR MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO,S RULING PARTY PROPOSES FREEDOM OF
INFORMATION TYPE REQUIREMENTS FOR UNIONS

1. SUMMARY: Mexico,s Federal Labor Law is amazingly
detailed with regards to the obligations that employers have
towards employees but surprisingly silent when it comes to
the obligations the unions have towards their members.
Mexican unions are under no obligation to their membership on
such things as who holds leadership positions or how much
union officials earn, how much workers can be charged for
union dues, what is done with union funds, what property the
unions own, or even the details of their collective
bargaining contracts. In fact, Mexicans unions have very few
legal obligations to provide their members with any
information at all on the internal administration of their
organization. Because of the obvious potential for abuse the
Senatorial faction of Mexico,s ruling National Action Party
(PAN) has proposed a change in the country,s labor laws that
will impose freedom of information type requirements on
organized labor unions. If passed, this legislation would
usher in a significant and positive change in the way labor
unions operate in Mexico. Alas, the chances of this proposal
becoming law are not good. Despite declining membership and
a consequent loss of political power, Mexico,s labor unions
still wield considerable clout when it comes to vetoing
legislation they do not want. END SUMMARY.


UNION AUTONOMY
--------------

2. Regardless of what labor organization they may belong to,
one of the most frequently discussed aspects of Mexico,s
Federal Labor Law among senior labor leaders is the statute
governing union autonomy. Labor leaders consider this
autonomy to be the basis for independent unions. The
overwhelming majority of Mexican labor experts and a
significant portion of its political class, at least
publicly, can be counted on to support the idea of union
autonomy as one of the bedrock principles underpinning the
growth of a more democratic Mexico. Union autonomy is viewed
as one of the ways in which the broader human rights of
freedom of speech and freedom of association are guaranteed.

3. In theory, union autonomy prevents any attempt by the
government to take over an organization intended to promote
the economic well being of average Mexicans and using it for
political gain. In practice, union autonomy in Mexico seldom
appears to be about protecting human rights. More than
anything else, &union autonomy8 in Mexico has come to
symbolize one of the things that most clearly demonstrates
the need for urgent labor reform; namely a corrupt union
leadership completely free of any type of accountability.


UNIONS OPERATE ON A NEED TO KNOW BASIS
--------------------------------------

4. Mexico,s Federal Labor Law derived from the country,s
constitution, specifically Article 123, which establishes a
set of principals and rules applicable to all laws regulating
labor relations. Over time these rules have developed into
an intricately detailed set of regulations covering the
obligations employers have towards employees. However, these
regulations are all but silent when it comes to the
obligations unions have towards their members. As a result
the reality of union autonomy in Mexico has changed from a
tool in the defense of basic human rights to a de facto
blanket justification for labor leaders to operate on a need
to know basis.

5. Mexican Federal Labor Law does not obligate unions to
divulge any information whatsoever about their internal
administration. Consequently, labor leaders closely guard
such information claiming that the details of internal union
administration are freely available to their organizations,
membership since they are they only ones who really need to
know. In reality, since the law does not require labor
leaders to release information about the internal workings of
their unions, most of them do not do so.

6. The average Mexican union member receives little or no
information on the organization,s internal administration.
They have no right to such basic information as the names of
the persons in union leadership positions, how much union
officials earn, how much workers can be charged for union
dues, what is done with union funds, what property the unions

MEXICO 00005428 002 OF 003


own, or even the details of their collective bargaining
contracts. In a disturbing number of cases, such as when the
&union8 exists only on paper, the workers are not even told
that they are members of a union. In such instances, which
by some estimates occur in over fifty percent of all
collective bargaining contracts, workers are denied the right
(to?) read the statutes which govern internal union
administration yet they are nevertheless required to pay
bi-weekly union dues.


PROPOSED LAW WOULD REQUIRE OPENNESS
-----------------------------------

7. A shockingly large number of abuses have occurred in
Mexico,s organized labor movement under the cover of union
autonomy. The most spectacular of these in recent times is
the allegation that the leader of what had been Mexico,s
sole Mine Workers, Union, reportedly misappropriated USD 55
million in union pension funds.
As a result of this and other abuses of union autonomy, the
Senatorial faction of the ruling National Action Party (PAN)
in the Mexican congress has proposed to change the Federal
Labor Law and oblige labor union to divulge any and all
information about a union,s internal administration.

8. If passed this proposed change in the law would be a
significant and positive step in the way unions operate in
Mexico. The proposal would also require changes in the way
union elections are held in order to make then more secure
and accurate. Currently most internal elections for union
leadership positions are conducted via a public show of hands
where workers can be and often are intimidated into voting
for someone other than the candidate of their real choice.


UNION LEADERS CRY FOUL
----------------------

9. Not surprisingly a number of union leaders, some of whom
are members of the lower house of the national legislature,
have denounced that proposed change in the law. The
criticism of the proposed change has come from union leader
associated with Mexico,s two main opposition political
parties, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Labor leaders
associated with these parties have accused the PAN of trying
to do away with union autonomy as a prelude to eliminating
legitimate worker rights.

10. Some labor leaders have stated that the timing of the
PAN,s proposal to change Federal Labor Law is not motivated
by a desire to increase the workers, (and the public,s)
right to know. Instead, they claim, the proposal is a
political ploy to divert attention from the ongoing public
outcry about the shockingly lavish home of former Mexican
President, Vicente Fox. Former President Fox is a member of
the PAN. In recent weeks he has been at the center of
considerable (unfavorable) public comment prompted by a news
magazine story and detailed pictures of his personal
residence since leaving office. Thus far there is nothing
that would indicate that the PAN,s proposal to change
Federal Labor Law is in anyway connected to an attempt to
divert attention from former President Fox or the fact that
many Mexicans are still not satisfied with the explanations
about how his lavish personal residence was paid for.


PROPOSING A CHANGE IS MUCH EASIER THAN ACTUALLY MAKING ONE
--------------------------------------------- -------------

11. Changing the law that has allowed serious abuse to take
place in the name of union autonomy would be a significant
positive step toward promoting the development a more open
and democratic labor movement in Mexico. However, proposing
to change a law and actually having the votes to do so are
two different things. Although the PAN is currently the
largest party in the Mexican congress it does not have enough
votes by itself to change a law with such entrenched special
interest support. The proposed change has generated some
support among legislators in Mexico,s other two main
political parties but at present that support does not appear
to be very widespread.


MEXICO 00005428 003 OF 003


12. Most of the labor unions in Mexico are in one way or
another tied to the country,s two main opposition parties
and it is unlikely that these parties will move strongly
against an important part of their base. By any objective
standard Mexico,s organized labor movement is only a
fraction of what it once was. For a variety of reasons (such
as job loss due to global competition, mass migration to the
US, a significant growth in the informal economy, etc.) the
unions have lost membership which means they have lost votes
and with that political power. It has been some time since
organized unions in Mexico were able to call the shots with
regard to passing what they considered to be labor friendly
legislation. However, this does not mean that they are
powerless. When unions see vital interests at stake they can
be extremely effective in voting legislation that they do not
like.


COMMENT
-------

13. According to a Mission Mexico labor lawyer contact the
Mexican government has been trying, unsuccessfully, to change
the Federal Labor Law for at least 20 years. The recent
proposal to change the law with regard to opening up internal
union administration to public scrutiny would undoubtedly
work to prevent (or least somewhat restrain) abuse of union
autonomy. Thus far the PAN,s proposal to change this
portion of Mexico,s labor appears to have originated with
the party,s senatorial faction and although the proposal has
generated a fair amount of public commentary as yet there is
no indication of whether it has the full support of President
Calderon,s administration. It could be that the
administration is waiting to see what the broader public,s
reaction will be to proposal. If President Calderon comes
out strongly in favor of the proposal its chances of becoming
law will greatly improve. However, to date there has been no
indication that President Calderon and his administration are
prepared to take on the union over an issue that will greatly
complicate the lives of some very entrenched special
interests.


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 /
BASSETT

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