Auto Workers Mount Continental Protest

By Witt, Matt | Canadian Dimension, April-May 1991 | Go to article overview

Auto Workers Mount Continental Protest


Witt, Matt, Canadian Dimension


Auto workers in Canada, Mexico, and the US held a highly unusual international labour protest Jan. 8, 1991, to denounce exploitation of workers in Mexico and resulting job loses in Canada and US.

The coordinated protests commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of Mexican worker Cleto Nigno at Ford's Cuautitlan plant near Mexico City.

Nigno was killed and eight others wounded in January 1990 when professional thugs were brought into the plant and opened fire on unarmed workers who had been demanding payment of earnings the company had illegally withheld, and control of their own union.

In an action endorsed by the Canadian Auto Workers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) council of all US Ford assembly local unions, and the Mexican Ford Workers Democratic Movement, thousands of workers in all three countries reported for duty this Jan. 8 wearing black armbands or stickers with the message: "Remember Cleto Nigno -- Solidarity and Struggle for Justice."

At rallies, news conferences, and a memorial service outside the Cuautitlan plant, workers explained that, in addition to marking Nigno's death, their joint protest was aimed at proposals by President George Bush and Carlos Salinas and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to make their three countries a "free trade" zone.

Free trade, workers charged, is designed to make it easier for transnational corporations to produce in Mexico under low-wage conditions and export back to the US and Canada. Workers in the US and Canada said they fear job losses and pressure to accept reduced pay and working conditions in order to compete with Mexican conditions, while Mexican workers fear they will continue to receive a small fraction of US or Canadian wages.

"Mexican workers do not want to be used as scabs by the corporations or steal our jobs," noted a leaflet distributed by the CAW at all Ford operations in Canada. "They want to figh for better wages and working conditions. It is in our interest to stand with our Mexican brothers and sisters to help them come to our level, or we could eventually face a decline to theirs."

Added Tom Laney, a leader of UAW Ford Local 879 in St. Pau Minnesota, "we're not just against free trade. We are for raising Mexican workers pay so they can buy what they produce and take part in expanded trade that would support jobs for all of us. …

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