On February 19 and 20, 2010, the Mineros held a national forum for respect for the right to strike in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. The Mineros have been on strike against Grupo Mexico in Cananea for more than 2 1/2 years, and in the last few weeks the Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled that the strike is “inexistent,” or in U.S. terms, not protected.
This leaves Grupo Mexico free to fire all the employees, break the bargaining relationship with the union and hire new employees and sign a contract with the company union that they have established at some of their other properties. The only hope for the Mineros now is to build enough political pressure to keep the government from using force to break the strike. The forum was a part of this effort.
The forum began on Friday at the union hall in Cananea. A crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 heard messages of support from members of the Electricians and Telephone workers, as well as other non-governmental organizations. Manny Armenta, USW District 12 Sub Director, spoke for the Steelworkers.
On Saturday the forum moved outside to the plant gate. The entire congressional delegation from Cananea (all from the PRI, or Party of the Institutional Revolution) spoke in support of the Mineros and promised to work in the Congress to force a withdrawal of Grupo Mexico’s concession to operate the mine.
USW District 7 Director Jim Robinson spoke on behalf of the Steelworkers. During the rally, the Mineros operated the mine equipment, proving wrong the basis for the court ruling. The ruling was based on the argument that the strikers had left the plant unable to operate through lack of maintenance and vandalism.
The United Steelworkers has a long history of solidarity with Mexican miners, including adopting 3,000 striking miners' families and providing safe haven in Canada for Napoleon Gomez, the leader of the union to which the Cananea workers belong, the Mining and Metalworkers Union of Mexico (Los Mineros). The government of Mexico improperly removed Mr. Gomez from his position as Los Mineros general secretary on charges that have proven, again and again, in Mexican courts to have been trumped up.
The USW and Los Mineros formed a strategic alliance after Los Mineros provided crucial support in 2005 to USW members striking Asarco, a company owned by Grupo Mexico.