Grupo Mexico Imposes Company Union at Cananea Mine

Grupo Mexico, the largest mining company in Mexico, has imposed a company union on workers at its Cananea copper mine in Sonora in northern Mexico. This comes just days after the Mexican government used helicopters, tear gas, and thousands of police to dislodge striking members of the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union from the mine.

The new union is part of the National Federation of Independent Unions (FNSI), which was created by the industrialists of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, in 1936 as an alternative to the government-dominated Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), founded in the same year. Since then, with backing from powerful corporations, the federation has grown to include many workers in Nuevo Leon and some in other northern states.

While called “independent,” these are unions completely dominated by the corporations and often called “sindicatos blancos” or “white unions,” a term meaning company unions. The company unions collaborate with management in restraining workers’ demands for higher wages and better benefits and working conditions.

The head of the new union, Rupertino García Reyes of the Gulf Coast state of Tamaulipas, resides in Monterrey where he serves on the FNSI executive committee. He began his career in the company union while a baker in an industrial bakery, and has never had anything to do with the mining industry.



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The town of Cananea remains occupied by 3,500 Sonora and federal police. The police have been escorting Grupo Mexico’s new contractors and workers into the mines, playing a cat-and-mouse game with members of the ousted union, who block roadways with stones until police chase them off. The police in turn are stoned by miners and other residents once they enter the town. Many in the town feel intimidated by the presence of so many armed men, and there is fear for the safety and wellbeing of the miners' families.

The Cross-Border Network for Justice and Solidarity, based in Kansas City, is asking supporters of the miners to write letters of protest. For addresses, click here.

For information in Spanish see the Mexican daily La Jornada.

Dan La Botz is editor of Mexican Labor News and Analysis.


Jairo Perez Gonzalez (not verified) | 06/16/10

I am a supporter of the labor movement everywhere there is injustice.

Cananea is not one of those places.

The situtation in Cananea was not caused by the mine owners -- "Grupo Mexico" -- despite the fact that they inherited the largess of unfair privitization during the corrupt Salinas de Gortari regime.

Rather, the union went on strike due to the exclusion of the "greasy" labor boss Napoleon Gomez Urrutia...

whose criminality is well known and whose arrest was sought through a warrant which was issued at the ulitimate direction of then-President Vicente Fox.

That former union president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia fled to Canada to avoid arrest after corruption charges were filed by the ofice of Attorney General of the Republic at the behest of President Fox.

The miners' union in Cananea headed by Carlos Pavon Campos occupied the mine site and prevented other non-mining workers from entering the gates or retrieving their equipment and personal property.

The town of Cananea for three years patiently has suffered privation and lack of any significant income for other people who live in the town but do not work in the mines.

Every segment of society has suffered and the area has become a conduit of illicit drug smuggling.

The federal police arrived two years ago after armed narcotraficantes entered the town and execution-style killed four police officers.

That day's reign of terror began with a shootout in the streets of Cananea and ended 12 hours later in a little town to the south called Arizpe. Twenty-two people where killed that day.

The citizens of Cananea are very glad the Mexican Federal Police are in the town in force and putting an end to the lawlessness of the drug traffickers and the striking miners occupying private property and disadvantaging their fellow citiziens.

I support the right of workers to organize for collective bargaining... but when the labor bosses are criminals, it is hard to understand how anyone who knows the facts could support their position.

The people of Cananea are happy that the mine shall reopen and that we again can puruse our livelyhoods in a safe community -- which was on the verge of becoming a ghost town!

We encourage foreign-based fuzzy-minded labor movement supporters to better analyze their lock-step position concerning the Cananea strike...

and put it in the perspective of the facts and not their emotional attachments to a romanticized notion of poor miners being abused by a big uncaring, multi-national corporation.

I say "venceremos" (we shall overcome) for the people of Cananea,

and "no" to the corrupt miners' union which has caused so much grief and economic privation.

Saludos amigos,

Jairo Perez Gonzalez