Two factories in San Luis de Potosi, one of Mexico’s main industrial centres, produce tyres for major multinational companies, Continental Tire and Goodyear. Only a few kilometres separate the two plants, but the way they operate couldn’t be further apart. Much of that comes down to a question of union representation.
Currently, workers at Goodyear are ‘represented’ by infamous Senator Tereso Medina, a CTM union leader known for signing ‘protection contracts’ with employers behind workers’ backs.
Says a young operator at the plant, Francisco Javier Cuestas:
We’ve never seen these so-called representatives. They don’t know the first thing about us. Because we have nobody to speak for us, the company gets away with paying very low wages - less than a dollar and a half per hour - for what is very dangerous and difficult work
Conditions are so bad that the entrance has become a revolving door. Says Pablo Reyes Medina Hernández, who also works at the plant:
It just doesn’t make any sense. The company invests heavily in training, but within weeks new recruits have already quit because the job is so bad. It’s not like Goodyear can’t afford to provide decent wages and conditions. It does elsewhere, so why not here?
After reading a newsapaper article about how independent unions at Audi, Bombardier, Bridgestone, General Tire, Nissan, Volkswagen have come together as part of an IndustriALL-driven initiative to protect workers' rights in the auto sector, the young workers decided it was time for change. When the company refused to listen, they stopped work to demand the right to genuine union representation.
A short distance away, at the Continental Tire plant, things are very different. Says Federico González, general secretary of the independent union at the plant, SNTGTM, an IndustriALL affiliate:
We do the same job, using the same technology. We have a democratic union that engages in negotiation, and as a result, we have much better wages and working conditions, as well as a stable and committed workforce. We all work for world class companies, and there is no reason they should earn so much less than we do. That’s why we’re supporting them in their struggle.
IndustriALL and some of its affiliates with members in Goodyear or its supply chain, including USW in the US and Canada and CNM-CUT in Brazil, as well as other independent unions in Mexico, have written to the company demanding that it respect the fundamental right of its workers to form the union of their own choosing and that it honour its pledge of non retaliation against the striking workers.