Solidarity With Striking Mineworkers in Cananea, Mexico

On February 19th 2006 a methane gas explosion occurred in number 8 shaft of the Pasta de Conchos mine owned by Grupo Mexico in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.

Photo Credit.

View YouTube footage of Mick Doleman, Deputy National Secretary, MUA and Ray Familathe, ILWU making representations at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles about abuses of miners by the Mexican Government and Grupo Mexico.

On February 19th 2006 a methane gas explosion occurred in number 8 shaft of the Pasta de Conchos mine owned by Grupo Mexico in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.   65 miners were buried in that blast and the government of Mexico and the mine owner chose to seal the mine and not undertaken a recovery of the dead and what many of the miners union leaders believe, the recovery of those that were alive.


Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman reports that from that time on the union and its leadership have been in a herculean struggle against the combined efforts of the government and mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico.  It is estimated that the cost of the dispute with the mine closure to this point is $3 billion USD.  "But to the purist economic flat earther, the reduction of terms and conditions and limited OH&S application over the life of a 40 year mine, the $3bn is well worth the effort" says Mick.


The leadership of the Mexican mineworkers union have been threatened with violence and its leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia forced into exile.


The MUA and other unions will continue to organise solidarity actions on this issue.


On March 3 2010, the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued the following statement:

Solidarity with Striking Mineworkers in Cananea, Mexico

Since July 30, 2007, 1,200 members of the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSRM) have been on strike in Cananea, Mexico.  The Mexican government and the employer, Grupo Mexico, have tried unsuccessfully to break the strike and destroy the union.  Three times the Federal Labor Board declared the strike illegal, and each time the courts overturned this declaration.

The company then asked the Labor Board for permission to fire the striking workers, arguing that the strike had rendered the mine’s machinery inoperable.  Refusing to consider evidence presented by the union, the board granted Grupo Mexico’s request.  On February 11, 2010, a panel of the Mexican Supreme Court upheld this decision, effectively exterminating the right to strike in Mexico.  The government is now threatening to send troops to remove the strikers, who continue to occupy the mine.

This decision is only the latest in a series of actions intended to destroy the SNTMMSRM.  In the past three years the Mexican government has:

  1. ·Refused to certify the election of the union’s General Secretary Napoleón Gómez and other Executive Committee members.
  2.  Filed bogus criminal charges against Gómez and other union leaders 
  3.  Imprisoned union leader Juan Linares since December 2008 despite multiple court rulings that the charges against him are baseless;
  4. Frozen the union’s bank accounts, arguing that if the funds are released they will be used for drug trafficking;
  5. Sanctioned violence by government security forces and company thugs that has resulted in the deaths of four SNTMMSRM members.

These attacks are just part of a broader pattern of attacks on democratic union organizing in Mexico.  In October 2009, the federal government fired 44,000 members of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME).  The murder of FLOC organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz in April 2007 has not been investigated.  The government’s proposed labor law reform would reduce worker benefits and facilitate subcontracting at a time when the global economic crisis has caused Mexico’s GDP to shrink 6.5 percent in the past year. As U.S. companies continue to move jobs to Mexico, the Mexican government has made it clear that it will not hesitate to use repression and violence to keep wages low.

The AFL-CIO calls on the Mexican government to end the repression of democratic unions, allow workers the right to organize and restore the right to strike.  We urgently ask the government to withdraw its threat to use military force to dislodge the Cananea strikers and to negotiate peacefully with the union.  We call on the government to drop the criminal charges, unfreeze the union’s bank accounts, release Juan Linares and recognize Napoleón Gómez and the other elected leaders of the SNTMMSRM.

Congress and the Obama administration must publicly condemn the violations of labor rights in Mexico and must take steps to withhold assistance from Mexican government agencies that are involved in anti-union repression.  We call on the congressional leadership to promptly hold hearings on violations of labor rights in Mexico and to enact legislation to include enforceable labor rights protections in NAFTA.

Finally, we pledge the moral and material support of the AFL-CIO and its members to the striking workers at Cananea and their families.