MAC: Mines and Communities

Victory at Alcoa - but action still needed

Published by MAC on 2002-10-25

Victory at Alcoa - but action still needed

From: Labor Alerts by Campaign for Labor Rights
(01) 202-232-5002

October 25, 2002

In this Alert:
1. Victory at Alcoa Plants in Mexico, Demands for Justice Still Pending
2. Violent Attacks Followed Election of New Leadership
3. Firings do not Stop Election
4. Long Term Strategy
5. Take Action NOW, Support Alcoa Workers Fight for an Independent Union.

Victory at Alcoa Plant in Mexico, Demands for Justice Still Pending

Despite facing an anti-union campaign that included the illegitimate firing of about 20 union supporters on October 4, 2002, workers at Plant #1 of the Alcoa Fujikura, Ltd factories in Peidras Negras, Mexico elected a new democratic, independent union leadership slate, called For Unity, to represent them on October 18, 2002. The For Unity slate defeated two others supported by Alcoa management and corrupt leaders of the party-affiliated union, the CTM. The election reinforces the election of the For Unity slate in Plant #2 on March 4, 2002.

Violent Attacks Followed Election of New Leadership

Workers began organizing for independent unions in both of the Alcoa Fujikura plants in January 2002 to protest a wage agreement negotiated by the management-supporter CTM union leadership representing them at the time.

The wage agreement was never ratified by the membership and resulted in givebacks of important contractual gains, including customary seniority-based wage increases.

When, on February 22, workers from Plant #2 elected a new union leadership, the former leadership, run by Leocadio Hernandaz (a supervisor at Alcoa), reportedly violently attacked two women workers outside the meeting area. Two days later, the workers loyal to Hernandaz entered the factory and attacked union supporters during work hours. They then announced, with the support of management, that six workers have been *fired* from the union (and, thus, the company) due to suspicion that they sympathized with the democratic union movement.

Despite the violent repression, a second vote was held that confirmed the ousting of former CTM leadership on March 4.

The next seven months passed with continued anti-democratic union movement activities including harassment, Alcoa sending private security guards to videotape activists in meetings held off company property, and massive "therapy" sessions against the democratic movement inside the plants. However, the new leadership, in a show of its diplomacy and strength, was able to negotiate a Mother's Day celebration on factory property with some gifts contributed by the company. The new leadership also won a campaign promise and succeeded in negotiating the reduction of union dues withheld from paychecks.

Firings Do Not Stop Election

The situation deteriorated when workers in Plant #1 began to demand a union election. On October 4th, the company fired 20 union supporters in both plants, including all five of the members of the democratic leadership slate, called For Unity, in Plant #1. However, the movement for an independent union prevailed on the 18th when For Unity won the elections.

Long Term Strategy

While these elections have all been for the CTM leadership, the Alcoa workers voted to create an independent union and filed for the legal recognition necessary to gain the right to represent the workforce at Alcoa on April 30. That petition was denied at the end of August, but by the end of October, Mexican labor authorities will be considering an appeal.

Alcoa, Inc., is the world's largest producer of aluminum. Headquartered in New York and Pittsburgh, Alcoa has 129,000 employees in 38 countries. Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo was recently named to Alcoa's Board of Directors, while Paul O'Neill, Alcoa's CEO from 1987 to 2000, left the company to become secretary of the treasury under George W. Bush.

The Alcoa Fujikura Ltd. Division (AFL) is one of the five largest suppliers of automotive electrical distribution systems in the world. In Mexico, it manufactures wire harnesses for Ford, Volkswagen, Subaru, Harley-Davidson, and other firms. AFL's maquiladora operations in Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña employ more than 17,000 production workers.

The Alcoa workers have had support from the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO), an organization that works in six cities along the Mexico-U.S. border to promote union democracy and workers' rights. The Alcoa workers have asked for international support in their fight for a democratic union.

Take Action Now! Support Alcoa Workers Fight for an Independent Union

1) Contact Alcoa. Tell the company about your support of the fight for democratic union representation at the Alcoa Fujikura plants in Peidras Negras, Mexico. Urge the company to discontinue all harassment and intimidation of workers inside and outside the plant and to reinstate all the workers fired for supporting the democratic union initiative. Also ask that the company replace Paulino Vargas and José Juan Ortiz, the general manager and human resource manager respectively, of Alcoa in Piedras Negras, who are responsible for firings and harassment of independent union supporters.

* Contact Alain Belda, CEO, Alcoa Inc. Chairman and CEO Alcoa, Inc., 201 Isabella Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Fax: 412-553-4498

2) Contact the workers. Send a message of solidarity to the workers of Alcoa at:

Note: Please let us know about the messages you sent so that we can send you and the union an accurate report on our collective action. Email us at


In Solidarity,
Daisy Pitkin
Campaign Coordinator
Campaign for Labor Rights

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