Fw: FTAA: Open Letter from Mexican Unionists

Subject: FTAA:  Open Letter from Mexican Unionists
Date: 24 Jul 2002 18:57:48 -0400

"We call on North American workers and their trade union federation, the
AFL-CIO, to redouble their efforts and to exert pressure on their
Congressional Representatives and Senators to vote against Fast Track."

Mexico City, July 5, 2002

To the Unions and Workers of the United States and the U.S. Population in

To the Representatives and Senators of the U.S. Congress,

Accept these warm greetings from the workers and organizations of Mexico
have convened in the city of Mérida, Yucatán, the 29th of June 2002 for the
Eighth National Convention Against the FTAA and For Labor Rights  For All.

It has been eight years since the implementation of NAFTA, a free trade deal
signed between the governments of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

In the U.S., NAFTA in practice coincides with the "speculative bubble" from
the mid-nineties that ended in a precipitous stock market decline.

NAFTA creates all the measures that the large corporations are trying to
impose in their own cities and towns and in all the cities and towns of the
planet: overexploit workers, that is to say, reduce salaries, control
resources (reduction in the costs of raw materials), eliminate laws, norms,
and regulations ("freedom of movement of capital"), especially within labor,
the environment and
finances. All of these put the unity of our nations in danger.

In Mexico, an undetermined but important number of businesses have been
seriously affected by not being able to confront the growing foreign
competition in both local and international markets.

The purchasing power of Mexicans, a basic element of the internal market,
fell 25% between the great crisis of 1994 and the new crisis that began in
2000. In order to promote an export policy, that is to say, the policy of
corporations which run sweatshops, it is they who sell abroad almost half of
the exports classified as made in Mexico.

Since NAFTA has been in force, private sector workers' pensions have been
privatized (a creation of Afores). Now, the Afores have the right to
speculate with the papers of private businesses and, on the other side, the
government is preparing the dismantling of the Institute of Social Services
for State Workers (ISSSTE). This policy, as has occurred with the pensions
U.S. unions that were invested in Enron and Global Crossing stocks, only
serves to increase the
penalties for the workers and the employees.

The farming sector is among those that has suffered the consequences of
the most. Traditional crops that form the diet of the Mexican people are
being imported in great quantities. Around 25 million people live in the
countryside and among them is the greater part of the 30 million Mexicans
that live in "extreme poverty." The opening of the market, on the other
has in no way benefited
small and medium sized farmers in North America.

Today the multinational agro-industrials in the United States dominate the
Mexican market for seeds and commercial agricultural products. Local
production tends to be limed to certain "exportable" products.

Finally, the immigration of Mexican workers to the United States and the
installation of maquiladoras in Mexico that pay wages that are 10 times
than in the United States has increased with NAFTA, which has exerted an
enormous pressure on the salaries and collective bargaining contracts of
North American workers. The policy of North American companies of imposing
lower wages, was simultaneously expressed in the ruling of the U.S. Supreme
Court justices which
denied the right of free unionization to immigrant workers of Mexican

This situation will worsen with the introduction of a Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA).

Now faced with the struggle of the Mexican workers in the maquiladoras to
form independent unions and faced with a so-called "strong peso," the
maquiladora companies, especially in textile fabrication, are migrating
towards other countries with even lower wages. In Mexico the cost of the
labor force in the maquiladoras is
$2.38 dollars per hour, in the Central American countries it is almost
in Sri Lanka, $.58 cents, in Malysia, $.99, and in China $.43. More than 350
maquiladoras previously installed in Mexico have moved to China.

In the framework of crisis and for the first time since its creation in the
60s, the maquiladora industry has stopped growing; part of the process in
which North American industry has reduced production. In some cases, such as
in textile fabrication, which is one of the most important, industry has
started to transfer to other countries with lower salaries. One-hundred
thousand jobs were lost in the
maquiladoras between May of 2000 and October of 2001.

The maquiladoras have pressured for an even further reduction in the wages
Mexico. In order to deal with the complaints of the multinationals, the
Mexican government is trying to offer a "docile and cheap labor force" in
south and southeast of the country, with the so called "Plan" Puebla Panama
(the first step toward FTAA in our country). In addition, it raises the
problem of expulsion of
the indigenous from their communities. The government is explicitly trying
compete with the low wages in China, that is to say, trying to lower wage
costs in Mexico even more, which will bring as a consequence an increase in
immigration towards the United States and therefore a greater pressure on
living conditions and wages of North American workers.

But doesn't the same occur in the United States, where the automobile
manufacturers transfer their operations to the southern part of the country
where they don't want to see "a union 100 miles from the plants"?

Is it not an essential element of democracy to recognize the right of
to organize independently to defend their rights? Don't they intend to deny
this right in the maquiladoras in Mexico and the plants in the south of the
United States with NAFTA and the FTAA?

It is a process to reduce the living conditions of U.S. workers, employing a
reserve labor force that is mainly Mexican.

In Mexico they are trying to modify the labor law to introduce a work day
longer than eight hours without overtime pay and to drastically limit the
action of unions and the rights to collective bargaining contracts, in
opposition to what is stipulated in the conventions of the International
Labor Organization (ILO).

For all of the above reasons, we call on North American workers and their
central trade union, the AFL-CIO, to redouble their efforts and to exert
pressure on their congressional representatives and senators to vote against

We believe that our peoples need to relate to one and other in a democratic
way, in which the right to independent organization of the workers is
respected and the rights contained in the conventions of the ILO are

In our country we have been promoting a signature campaign to endorse a
letter directed to President Vicente Fox. It asks him to "withdraw from the
FTAA negotiations because he has no mandate to participate in them." In
Brazil the people and the workers have demonstrated against this agreement.
In Argentina, Peru and Paraguay, in varying degrees, the population has
demonstrated its opposition to the policies of privatization, deregulation
and "free trade."

In our Eighth National Convention Against the FTAA And For Labor Rights For
All, we decided to add our names to the proposal to hold a Continental
Conference Against FTAA and Privatizations -- a proposal that had been
decided by the delegates from the American continent who attended the
International Conference Against Deregulation and For Labor Rights For All,
held in Berlin, Germany, this past February.

Let us decide together to hold the Continental Conference Against the FTAA
2003! This would be a proposal that does not try to enter into contradiction
or competition with other proposals, but rather seeks to contribute to
strengthening the bonds of unity among workers and their organizations!


Organizing Committee of the Eighth National
Convention in Merida, Yucatan
(June 29, 2002)