USW Blasts Seizure of Mexico's Electricity Plants by Federal Police as Another Attack on Labor Rights

CONTACT:  Jerry Fernandez of United Steelworkers (USW), 412-562-2611

PITTSBURGH, -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today sharply criticized the actions of the government of President Felipe Calderon for his announcing the liquidation of the Central Light and Power Company of Mexico (LyF) and the termination of the workers following the seizure of plants by the Mexican Federal Police. By terminating the workers, the government seeks to eliminate the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), a frequent critic of Calderon's government policies.

SME has criticized the government's plan to privatize the electrical industry. It appears that by seizing LyF, which provides electricity to Mexico City and several states in central Mexico, the government is planning to merge its facilities with the Federal Electrical Commission and sell the facilities to a private corporation.

"The actions of the Mexican government in using Federal forces to take over the public utility, dismissing the workers and thereby effectively disbanding their union is an outrageous act of union busting," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "It is similar to actions taken against the Miners Union and provides further evidence of the government's anti-worker, anti-union agenda and its scorched earth policy against democratic and independent unions."

While the Calderon government moved to suddenly seize the plants, its actions were no surprise. The administration has previously utilized police and military force in launching attacks on labor unions such as the Mexican Miners and Metalworkers Union. Additionally, Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano declared in September that the Mexican Electrical Workers Union elections were invalid and that general secretary Martin Esparza and other union officers would not be recognized by the government. Without legally recognized union officials, the union could not engage in contract negotiations or other activities.

The union is currently demanding the revocation of the government decree liquidating the company; the immediate evacuation of the Federal Police from the plants; and discussions between the government and the union about financial and administrative issues. The last item is to address government claims that its actions are justified because the Light and Power Company was both inefficient and exorbitantly expensive. If it was truly inefficient, the government should have fired the managers they appointed, Gerard said.

The Mexican Electrical Workers Union has called upon Mexican unions and unions of other countries to rally to their support. "We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in these unions and call upon the government to reverse this decision and uphold the internationally recognized rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining," said Gerard.

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