February 19th marks the five year anniversary 65 miners were buried in the bowels of Grupo México Pasta de Conchos coal mine in the northern state of Coahuila. Five years later, the bodies of 63 of the 65 miners that died at Pasta de Conchos remain buried and the Mexican government has failed to investigate or prosecute those responsible.
The Mexican Miners' Union is not alone. The few other genuinely independent trade unions seeking to improve the lives of Mexican workers have found themselves increasingly under fire. In October 2009, President Calderón used an executive decree to dissolve the country's second largest electrical power distributor and in doing so he also sacked the entire 44,000 workforce, and disbanded their union, the 95 year old Mexican Electrical Workers' Union (SME).
As part of a series of actions across the United States and Canada this week, a rowdy crowd of more than 100 union leaders and community activists rallied in the pouring rain in front of the San Francisco Mexican Consulate Friday, February 18th calling for the Mexican government to:
1) Hold employer and government officials accountable for the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion that killed 65 miners on February 19, 2006.
2) Abolish systemic violations of workers' freedom of association, including employer-dominated “protection contracts” and interference in union elections.
3) End the use of force – by the state or private parties – to repress workers' legitimate demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions, and good health and safety conditions.
4) End the campaign of political persecution against the Mexican Miner's Union and the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union.
Tim Paulson, Executive Director of the San Francisco Labor Council led the rally and Alan Benjamin, OPEIU 3 and SF CLC Executive Committee member helped with translation. This action was supported by LCLAA, San Francisco and the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) SF solidarity organizing committee, building on over a year of organizing in San Francisco in support of Mexican workers' struggle. Other speakers included: Catherine Houston, USW who shared a story from the Steelworkers campaign in Mexico with Los Mineros; Martha Hawthorne, SEIU 1021, a public health nurse standing in solidarity; and Olga Miranda, President of SEIU 87, the local janitor's union.
One thing is certain with this crowd: THEY'LL BE BACK!