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Worker’s Victory in Mexico

September 27, 2007

A crowd gathered in protestComité Fronterizo de Obreras (Border Committee of Women Workers), has been one of Hesperian’s earliest partners, and a collaborator on our forthcoming book A Factory Worker’s Guide to Organizing for Safety and Health. CFO educates, organizes and empowers factory workers to improve working conditions and the quality of life for workers, especially women and their families.

CFO sent us a recent update about a group they are supporting in their home town of Piedras Negras, Mexico. Workers at Fujikura, an automotive parts manufacturer have had a recent success in their struggle with their employer. The following is a summary of their fight:

Workers score a second victory over Fujikura’s greed! After a long and heated clash, 725 Fujikura workers have accepted a compromise offer of 4.5 million pesos ($400,000) in additional compensation as part of a buyout agreement with the company.

When ownership of the plant passed to Fujikura in 2005, the company pledged to honor the existing labor contract. Soon after, however, they announced plans to lay off the entire workforce, void the collective bargaining agreement, and rehire the same workers — under new and less attractive terms.

The workers did not try to fight the mass layoffs, but insisted that the buyout offer should include an additional 20 days of salary for each year of seniority. They argued that this was a fair exchange for relinquishing a range of benefits they had acquired through collective bargaining, and that Fujikura, under the new rules, would save millions of dollars in labor costs. For almost two years the rank-and-file workers stayed united, even defying their own union. They refused to work overtime or on weekends — putting pressure on management.

As a company-imposed deadline to sign the compromise agreement approached, managers, foremen, government officials and union leaders began literally begging the workers for their signature. One worker said, “In the factory they were almost grabbing our hands for us to sign.”

This was a better-than-hoped-for outcome of a battle marred by management maneuvering and harassment by Fujikura to pressure its workers into accepting a bad bargain. In the end, as many as 400 workers took their checks and simply walked away from the promise of new jobs.

Another worker summarized the agreement by saying, “The sectional committee leaders feel satisfied because they made their best effort, and the rank and file appreciated it despite not achieving 100 percent of our objective.”