LABOR HEADLINES–MONDAY, FEB. 18, 2019
A few weeks ago, I opened the headline segment saying I had seen nothing in the local paper or national news about this unbelievable strike of workers in India and I had to repeat the number. 200 million workers had walked off their jobs in what was being called the largest strike in history.
Once again, I have to say that I have seen nothing from the corporate media bout this important strike in Mexico, taking place along the border. With all the endless coverage of Trump and his wall, why not a word about it?
So here is the story.
At his inauguration, the newly-elected president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez said that he would double the minimum wages in the zones along the border to $9 a day where some 1200 maquiladoras operate and employ some 2 million Mexican workers. These are foreign-owned plants which produce items for export to the US, not for domestic consumption. Often runaway plants from the US, they set up just over the border and pay poverty wages with little worker safety and environmental laws to follow.
So in Matamoros just across from Brownsville, Texas, towards the end of January, tens of thousands of workers decided to act for themselves and went on strike demanding a 20% increase in pay and a 32,000 peso one-time bonus. Initially it was workers at 45 of the 130 maquiladora plants that make auto parts, medical equipment,lighting fixtures, plastics and other goods for the US market. These workers can make up to $12.50 a day and their work day is 12 hours. Some of these factories have corrupt, company friendly “unions” that operate to continue the grossly profitable exploitation of thousands of workers.
However, over the last few weeks, a number of the bosses have agreed to raise wages at least 20% and pay one-time bonuses from $1085 to $1700, an amount that is a significant fraction of their annual pay..
But with every victory, workers at more plants strike. The movement has spread beyond the export manufacturing sector to supermarkets and other businesses that serve the domestic market.
Of special interest to us in Atlanta, HQ of Coca Cola is that the workers at its bottling plant have just walked off the job too, demanding the same 20% raise and an end to unpaid overtime.
From Denver comes news of another victory for education workers.
When 15 months of negotiations with the Denver School Board failed to address the low pay, overcrowded classrooms and staff shortages, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association voted to strike beginning Feb. 11.
The announcement of a settlement came on Valentines Day, Feb. 14 with most of the demands of the teachers met.
While the contract still has to be voted on by the 2000 plus DCTA members, the following elements of the agreement were publicly released.
Starting pay for new hires will be $45,800 with a 20 step salary progression that defines increases for seniority and additional training and degrees.
Current teachers will get an 11% increase across the board.
In the second and third years of the contract, full cost-of-living increases will be added.
The demand for decreased classroom size was also achieved but the exact details on accomplishing this and other additional staffing of student services wasn’t released.
The fight to end large bonuses for senior administrators was successful while incentives for teachers to work in schools with high poverty rates was retained.
Student and community support was a key factor both on the picket lines and the substantial number of students whose parents did not send them to school.
For the three days of the strike, substitutes were given double pay and the 1400 central staff employees were told they would be fired if they did not cross the picket line to act as supervisors controlling the students who did come.
I should say that in many cases this attempt was to no avail as students posted videos of big groups sitting in the auditorium watching movies, wandering the hallways or walking out of school. Clearly no book learning or teaching was going on.
As part of the agreement, up to 150 high salary staff will be cut with the money going to fund the school teachers’ raises.
The Labor Forum extends out congratulations to the Mexican workers and the Denver teachers, proving again that “when we fight, we win!”