Mexican Appeals Court Cancels Charges Against Napoleón Gómez; Union Lauds Definitive Decision Absolving Union

The United Steelworkers (USW) in the USA and Canada has praised a Mexican appeals court decision that definitively quashes criminal charges against Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, President and General Secretary of the National Mine and Metal Workers Union, aka Los Mineros.

In a unanimous decision issued in open court on August 28th, the Fourth Collegiate Tribunal for Criminal Matters of the First Circuit in the Federal District ruled that the government’s criminal charge against Gómez, based on the dissolution of a union trust fund in 2005, was baseless and unconstitutional.

This is the eleventh time that the Mexican government charged Gómez with the same offense and the eleventh time that the appellate courts have ruled in his favor.

Because of the accusations, Gómez has lived in exile in Canada since 2006. He was granted Canadian citizenship in June of this year.

“This is a triumph for the USW-Mineros alliance and for the international trade union solidarity campaign spearheaded by Workers Uniting the global union formed by Unite in the UK and Ireland and the USW in the USA and Canada and the IndustriALL Global Union,” said USW International President Leo Gerard.

Since 2005, the USW and Los Mineros have constructed a North American solidarity alliance based on joint bargaining, organizing and political action.

“This court decision should finally end the political persecution of Napoleón Gómez,” Gerard said. “Since 2005 Gómez and Los Mineros have been attacked by the Mexican government and giant mining companies like Grupo Mexico.

“Los Mineros has been targeted for winning the highest wage increases of any workers in Mexico and for organizing thousands of new members in a democratic labor organization, as well as denouncing corruption and industrial homicide in the mining industry.

“Now it is time for justice. Mexico must immediately tell Interpol to withdraw its Red Notice so that Gómez can travel freely outside of Canada.  In addition, Grupo Mexico and the other Mexican mining interests must sit down with Los Mineros to negotiate an end to the existing labor conflicts. Canadian mining companies such as Excellon that have flouted the rights of Mexican workers and landowners should also come to the table.”

The ruling of the Fourth Collegiate Tribunal, like the ten previous appellate court decisions, found that the dissolution of the trust – established for the benefit of the union – was lawful.  The Mexican Attorney General’s office announced that it would respect the decision, which cannot be appealed.

The government and the mining company Grupo Mexicohad alleged that by dissolving the trust, Gómez and other union leaders “stole” $55 million that should have been distributed to workers.

In fact, an audit conducted by the Swiss accounting firm Horwath Berney Audit S.A. in 2007 accounted for all of the funds in the trust. The audit report pointed out that over $21 million was paid out to former workers, and another $20 million has been frozen by the Mexican government since 2005.

“The persecution of Napoleón Gómez is a case study in impunity,” Gerard said. “The United States and Canada should not even think of expanding Mexico’s trade benefits under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or any other trade agreement, until it is clear that Mexico is going to respect its own law and deal fairly with Los Mineros.”

Wall Street Journal report – click here.

Read Napoleon’s book, ‘The Collapse of Dignity” a New York Times Top Ten Bestseller. Click here.

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VSC Solidarity Reception & Fringe At TUC Congress 2014

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ETUC Warns EU Risks Losing Support Of Europeans

austerity_is_not_working_-_ictu_2The European TUC has warned EU leaders that the EU needs to tackle unemployment or risk losing the support of the European people.

Speaking at the ‘Conférence des Ambassadeurs’ in Paris with Laurent Fabius the French Foreign Minister and Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation warned Europe risked establishing a European Union which does not have the support of ordinary Europeans.

Attacking EU policies that included cuts in public spending, wages and benefits, and policies which undermine collective bargaining and job security she said: “Social progress seems to have become an obstacle to Economic and Monetary Union rather than its objective”.

So told the conference: “The EU and its member states have put enormous resources into saving the financial sector from its own mistakes. Do the EU and its member states consider employment, social protection and democracy to be just as important? If so, it is necessary to make the same effort to overcome the social crisis and jobs crisis.”

“The danger today is to build a Europe without the support of Europeans or worse, against the wishes of Europeans.”

She urged the EU to adopt ETUC proposals for a large-scale investment plan to boost manufactuting, industry and employment, as part of a transition to a more sustainable economy.

Ségol noted that the new President of the Commission, the ECB President, and the French Government have all recently supported the idea of a large public investment programme.

Full speech – in French only.

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Steelworkers and Brazilian Union Picket Huhtamaki

Huhtamaki photo 8By Ben Davis, United Steelworkers, Pittsburgh

Union members and employees of Huhtamaki North America picketed outside the company’s Waterville plant today (Wednesday) in an effort to draw attention to their inability to come to terms with the paper goods manufacturer on a new contract.

A dozen members of the Steelworkers Local 449 United Steelworkers Union picketed between shifts beginning Wednesday morning. Wearing shirts bearing the word “solidarity” and other pro-union logos, the pickets displayed signs demanding a “fair contract.”

Rank and file union members say they have been without a contract for about two years. Lynne Hancock, a Pittsburgh-based spokeswoman for the Steelworkers, said the issues in the dispute are wages, health benefits and whether employees would receive retroactive pay for the period that began when the previous contract expired.

“An agreement was reached in July on most language issues with the contract,” Hancock said.

Huhtamaki employs about 360 union workers at its sprawling complex on the Waterville-Fairfield municipal boundary.

The Waterville plant is one of 15 manufacturing plants operated by the Finland-based company in the United States. Five of the company’s installations are represented by the United Steelworkers, Hancock said.

Best known for its Chinet brand of disposable tableware, Huhtamaki manufactures a variety of disposable paper products at its Waterville plant. The company began operations in Waterville as Keyes Fiber in 1908.

The firm was sold to a Dutch concern, which was later acquired by Huhtamaki.

Huhtamaki photo 4Meanwhile in Brazil, workers in Sindiquimica, Bahia, affiliated to the CNQ union in Brazil  stopped work at Huhtamaki for three hours in solidarity with workers in the Huhtamaki workers in the USA this morning.

Their banner reads: “Solidarity and Support for the Struggle Against Precarious Work at Huhtamaki in the USA”

A Huhtamaki spokesman could not be reached for comment on the labour dispute.

The supportive action reflects other recent actions by unions with members in Huhtamaki, the Finnish paper products company. The company in in its home country works with unions – as it does in other EU countries – but is taking an increasingly hard line with the United Steelworkers in the USA, which is now proving the norm with many European companies who oppose union organisation and collective bargaining in their US plants.

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Selective Strikes, Work-To-Rule KOs EDF In UK

UnknownBy Dick Blin
For the Utility Workers Of America

Unite the Union and 500 meter fitters and meter engineers won respect and handsome pay gains in a highly coordinated campaign that forced big French energy company EDF to ante up at the table. The French energy giant also operates more than 100 renewable energy plants in the U.S., plus a 49% stake in three nuclear plants in Maryland and New York.

From May to July this year, unionized staff at over 20 worksites across the southern part of Great Britain, including London, used escalating and rolling strikes, as well as job-protected actions short of striking to secure adequate backdated 2013 pay gains.

The agreement also holds EDF accountable over changes to the 2012 collective agreement, changes meant to bridge the pay differential gap between southeast utility workers and those in London. EDF had been ducking that issue.

The workers install and repair meters, and they are front-line EDF theft detection employees. In city after city – from Plymouth to Bristol to Exeter to Bexleyheath in Kent (and London) – they received sympathy and support from the public due to EDF’s inflation-beating electric rate hikes.

The company’s early summer pay offer, however, fell far short of inflation. EDF sought a consolidated 2013-14 pay offer of 2% plus a miniscule £20 one-off payment to each worker. The company’s rejected offer also would have short changed staff of the eastern revenue protection team.

Following the job actions, EDF increased the offer significantly and a mediated resolve came in early August. The 2% increase becomes retroactive to April 2013.

The one-off payment was increased to £480 per worker, and EDF agreed to begin bargaining on a 2014 pay deal immediately. A vastly improved deal was also given the eastern revenue team that means full earnings count as salary, and not a proportion of “additional payments.”

A Unite the Union representative said the disciplined job actions translate to a wake-up call for EDF, one that most definitely will extend into 2014 talks.

See Unite’s ‘Great Pay Victory’ article here.

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United Steelworkers Convention 2014

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Steelworkers Fight For Union Rights At Huhtamaki

huhtamakiNote: The following opinion piece was written by a single mother of two children who fears losing her job. For this reason her name has been withheld. The United Steelworkers in the USA are fighting to secure union recognition at the company site in Commerce, California. This blog first appeared on the Capital & Main site.

“What does “Made in America” mean to you? For consumers, it means a quality product. For workers, it means a good paying job and an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet “Made in America” can also stand for opportunity to exploit workers under harsh conditions and unfair wages. That’s what it means in the manufacturing plant where I work in Commerce.

I’ve worked three years for Huhtamaki, a Finnish-owned packaging manufacturer located in the Los Angeles area. We make ice cream containers and other products for Walmart. And the job, it’s just not what people are talking about when they talk about investing in new manufacturing jobs in our country.

As a single mother of two, making ends meet is hard. My paycheck barely covers my bills and I rely on Section 8 assistance to pay my rent.

When I first started at Huhtamaki, I loved my job. While I still go every day to support my children, there is no future and no financial security that I can build through this job. My colleagues, like me, are struggling to get by on our low wages while the cost of living continues to rise. Our plant is unbearably hot — I have seen a co-worker faint in the heat.

My daughter is young, and I work hard so she will never have to work at a place like this, so she can have a job with dignity. My parents taught me to work hard and to do my job well. I want to set the same example for my children.

Good jobs don’t pay poverty wages. Made in America shouldn’t mean being forced to work in conditions that have resulted in workers fainting and managers threatening workers; yet this is what too many American manufacturing workers face every day.

This week, as Walmart hosts a U.S. Manufacturers’ Summit, where its public face will show support for American manufacturing and American workers, I think it’s important to consider what kind of jobs we’re really talking about. While it is important that we bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, it is just as important that we ensure that the jobs that come back are ones that we can be proud of – and that means jobs that pay enough for workers to support their families.

We need jobs that pay a decent wage and allow workers the right to collectively bargain for benefits and better conditions. We need jobs where hard work is recognized and rewarded. Finally, we need jobs that let us provide for our children, and jobs that will let them build their lives when they’re grown.

As CEOs attending Walmart’s Summit  discuss the future meaning of “Made in America,” I hope they remember that labels and slogans don’t equal the American Dream, and that not all American jobs are created equal.

We can make that dream a reality, but only if manufacturing corporations like Huhtamaki and super retailers like Walmart understand that it’s a good paying job that is the value that Americans have in mind when they think about the investment in manufacturing. The creation of more low-paying jobs that keep us struggling is nothing to hold up for recognition.”

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Honeywell Workers Locked Out (Again) In Metropolis

Lockout Fact SheetThe giant US multi-national company Honeywell has once again locked out its workforce,members of the United Steelworkers at it plant in Metropolis, USA.

USW local 7-669 has 150 members at the plant, which processes uranium and they work around many extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals.

The company is demanding changes to working contracts and the use of contractors to replace permanent staff.

Honeywell had previously locked out its workforce in June 2010 – once again we have a multi-national attacking workers in an effort to break their union.

So how can you help?

USW Local 7-669 is a strong local (branch) but you can help them by doing the following:

Visit their website by clicking here.

Follow them on Twitter @USW7669

Visit the Facebook Page by clicking here 

Sign their petition by clicking here

Send messages of support to the local via Patrick Young at pyoung@usw.org.

Print out the flyer and circulate or repost on your sites etc.

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Banging Out : Fleet Street Remembered

This brilliant film was launched at St Brides, the printers church on the 16th July 2014 and is being shown at libraries, schools and archives across London. It tells the story of the printing industry on Fleet Street in London, the one time centre of the UK’s newspaper industry.

To visit the website and for more information on the film click here.

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United Steelworkers Convention, August 12th.

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