The independent Honda workers union of Mexico (STUHM) was dealt a bitter blow on Thursday after being narrowly defeated in an election marred by serious irregularities.
Victory would have made it one of only a handful of independent unions with bargaining rights in the country’s booming auto industry.
On 15 October, five years after the company dismissed 12 union leaders for forming an independent union, 2,500 workers were finally able to choose between the STUHM and the incumbent yellow union, the CTM’s SETEAMI.
A team of a dozen national and international observers, including IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates from Unifor in Canada, the United Auto Workers Union in the US and Los Mineros in Mexico, were denied access to the polling and to workers. Also present were over fifty enthusiastic supporters from Mexico’s independent labour movement and civil society.
It had been clear from the outset that this was not going to be a fair contest, with the company, the elections board and the yellow unions colluding to deprive workers of their right to a genuine union in what is a well-worn pattern in Mexico’s dysfunctional labour system.
In the days and weeks leading up to the poll, the election board failed to provide a reliable voter’s list and called the election with only a few days’ notice. It also allowed the vote to take place inside the factory without proper guarantees for a fair process, putting STUHM at a considerable disadvantage.
On the day of the election, management delayed access to the union’s three appointed representatives, ignored the election board’s decision to allow three observers to be present and let the incumbent union intimidate workers. The deployment of riot police inside the compound - at the company’s request – also helped to create a chilling atmosphere.
In the end, the STUHM lost by a slim margin gaining 44 per cent of the valid vote. The union plans to appeal the election.
IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes applauded the union and the workers for putting up a good fight and the union’s many allies for their tireless support. He pledged IndustriALL’s ongoing support to the STUHM and to the rest of Mexico’s independent labour movement.