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 		 [IndustriALL Global Union marked a historic moment as Mexican
union leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, returned to his country after
12 years in exile to be sworn in as senator, in a ceremony in Mexico
City on 29 August. ] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 MEXICAN UNION LEADER, NAPOLEÓN GÓMEZ URRUTIA, SWORN IN AS SENATOR
  [https://portside.org/node/18077] 

 

 IndustriALL Global Union 
 August 30, 2018
IndustriALL Global Union 

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 _ IndustriALL Global Union marked a historic moment as Mexican union
leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, returned to his country after 12
years in exile to be sworn in as senator, in a ceremony in Mexico City
on 29 August. _ 

 , 

 

Mexican union leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, sworn in as senator

30.08.2018

IndustriALL Global Union marked a historic moment as Mexican union
leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, returned to his country after 12
years in exile to be sworn in as senator, in a ceremony in Mexico
City on 29 August. 

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, president and general secretary of the
Mexican Union of Miners and Metalworkers’ Union, known as Los
Mineros, was included on the winning ticket of the Mexican
President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his National
Regeneration Movement (Morena) party in the general elections on 1
July. 

Gómez has been a titular member of IndustriALL’s Executive
Committee since it was founded in 2012 and IndustriALL affiliates
around the world have united behind him and the campaign for
democratic unions in Mexico.

IndustriALL general secretary, Valter Sanches, as well as IndustriALL
affiliates, the United Steelworkers (USW) International President,
Leo W. Gerard from the USA and Canada, and Len McCluskey from UK and
Ireland trade union, Unite, were among those present at the ceremony
on 29 August.  The unions have been unwavering in their support of
Napoleón Gómez and Los Mineros, even before he was compelled to
leave Mexico.

Valter Sanches said it was a source of great pride to have an elected
compañero as part of the new government, which promises to take up
the cause of workers. Speaking before the ceremony, he said:

“To all of our brothers and sisters who have fought throughout the
years, and for those who have shown international solidarity around
the world, today is a day to celebrate because solidarity has
triumphed again.”

The story of Napoleon’s exile begins with terrible tragedy on 19
February 2006, after an explosion ripped through Grupo México’s
Pasta de Conchos coal mine in the northern state of Coahuila, trapping
65 miners hundreds of metres beneath the surface.

Unlike the San José mine collapse four years later in Chile, when 33
miners were miraculously found alive after 17 days trapped
underground, rescue efforts at Pasta de Conchos were stopped after
only five days. Grupo México and the Mexican government even
disconnected the electricity to the mine to stop the search and hide
the safety violations that could incriminate the company. This was
before they knew the miners were dead. 

Before the disaster, Napoleon Gomez, whose union represented miners at
Pasta de Conchos, had already warned of the dangerous conditions in
the mines, and asked that production be stopped until conditions
improved. Now it was too late.  

Almost twelve years later, the bodies of 63 of the 65 miners remain in
the mine and the Mexican government has failed to investigate or
prosecute those responsible. 

Following the tragedy, Gómez strongly condemned Grupo México and
the Mexican government, accusing them of industrial homicide for
neglecting to correct more than 40 health and safety violations in the
mine. 

In retaliation for his outspoken comments, the Mexican government
removed Gómez as union leader and imposed Elías Morales as acting
general secretary of Los Mineros. The move sparked international
outcry and a global campaign was launched by IndustriALL’s
predecessor organizations, in support of Gómez and union autonomy in
Mexico. 

After receiving death threats for criticizing Grupo México, and under
increasing oppression from the authorities, Gómez and his family fled
Mexico in early March 2006 with the aid of the United Steelworkers. On
18 and 19 March 2006, Los Mineros rank and file membership voted
overwhelmingly in favour of Gómez as their general secretary,
renouncing Morales.

Gómez was then persecuted through the courts on sham charges of
corruption of Los Mineros funds. Gómez successfully contested the
accusations eleven times until a federal court finally put an end to
the case, denouncing the charges as baseless and unconstitutional. 

Los Mineros leaders were targeted and imprisoned by authorities,
including Juan Linares, who was illegally incarcerated for more than
two years. A week of action by global unions and their affiliates was
a determining factor in securing his release from prison in 2011.

In 2013, Gómez was finally taken off Interpol’s red alert list of
wanted suspects and the Mexican government was heavily criticized for
using Interpol for its own political purposes. It meant Gómez was
able to leave Canada, where he had taken refuge with his family under
protection of the USW, for the first time since 2006 and attend a
meeting of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee in Geneva,
Switzerland. 

In May 2014, Napoleón Gómez was awarded the prestigious Arthur
Svensson International Prize for trade union rights for his leading
role in the struggle for democratic unions in Mexico. 

In the years that followed the Pasta de Conchos tragedy, the
government continued its attacks on Los Mineros by freezing the
union’s financial accounts, imprisoning the union’s leaders on
false charges, attempting to eliminate the union’s legal right to
strike, and using police and military force in violent attacks on
workers, resulting in the deaths of at least four union activists
and injuring many more.

Yet despite this, Los Mineros has continued to be the most successful
trade union in Mexico. Gómez successfully concluded collective
bargaining agreements from abroad negotiating the highest wage
increases of any union in the country. 

Gómez, who has been unanimously reelected as leader of Los Mineros
multiple times, says that one of his first tasks when he returns to
Mexico is to reopen the investigation into the Pasta de Conchos
tragedy. He will also lead the fight against protection contracts in
Mexico, (negotiated between corrupt unions and employers behind
workers’ backs), as well as other violations of trade union rights
that form the basis of IndustriALL’s complaint to the International
Labour Organization
[http://www.industriall-union.org/ilo-complaint-filed-against-mexican-government-for-violating-freedom-of-association]. 

Speaking on the occasion of Gómez’s inauguration, Leo W. Gerard,
from United Steelworkers, said: 

“The fight of Napoleón Gómez and Los Mineros is a critical
struggle for workers in North America and around the world. With
Napoleón in the Senate, Mexico’s new government is poised to
overcome decades of corruption and corporate domination and make real
improvements to the rights and living standards of Mexican
workers. The global labour movement must support these efforts and
demand accountability for the victims of decades of repression,
including the families of the Pasta de Conchos miners.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “For 12 years Napoleon
Gomez resisted the efforts of the Mexican government and Mexico’s
largest corporations to destroy him and his union. Napoleon’s return
to Mexico to be sworn in as a senator for the Mexican republic is not
only a victory for his and Los Mineros’ courageous and dignified
campaign, but for global solidarity in the face of injustice. Unite is
proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Napoleon and his union. His
fight is our fight and we wish him every success in transforming
Mexico in the fight for a better world.”

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