By Adam Kader
On Saturday, February 19th, over 100 demonstrators rallied in front of the Mexican Consulate in support of the Mineros, the Mexican Miners Union. Arise Chicago, along with other community groups and unions, joined the United Steel Workers to participate in the Global Days of Action.
In 2006, 65 miners were killed at a mine in Cananea. 63 of the workers’ bodies were never removed. The company and the Mexican military have prevented the families of the workers from removing the bodies of their loved ones. The families have not received any compensation from the mining company, Grupo Mexico. The struggle for compensation is part of a larger struggle that genuinely independent unions in Mexico are fighting for better wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and the right to form unions and collectively bargain free from repression and violence.
Groups planned actions at Mexican consulates around the country, delivering a letter that demanded that the Mexican government:
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.
Luis Juarez, a Mexican national and a member of Arise Chicago Worker Center, was one of nine speakers at the event. In his native tongue, Juarez reminded the crowd that the Mineros was one of the earliest and most important unions in Mexico, and that their 1906 strike in Cananeo was a spark for the Mexican Revolution. Just as immigrants fought for the 8-hour work week in Chicago 125 years ago, immigrant workers in Chicago today are struggling against the same global corporations that are exploiting workers in Mexico. Juarez’s words of inspiration served to show that the true border is not between U.S. and Mexican workers, but between all workers and the companies that exploit those they employ, regardless of nationality.
In the spirit of solidarity, other speakers noted that like the Mineros, workers were struggling for their fundamental freedom of association in the workplace across other borders closer to Chicago—in Madison and Indianapolis. Amidst the chanting of “One day longer!” a fellow demonstrator told me she planned on traveling to Indianapolis next.
– Adam Kader is the Director of the Arise Chicago Worker Center