USW, Los Mineros Announce Cross-border Unification Commission

Both unions condemn Mexican government’s attacks on striking Cananea copper miners

Toronto (Jun. 21, 2010) -- The United Steelworkers (USW) and the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) – known as Los Mineros – announced a joint declaration to create a cross-border commission to explore unification of a potential union representing one-million industrial workers in Mexico, Canada, U.S. and the Caribbean.

In signing the declaration over the weekend, USW President Leo W. Gerard and Napoleon Gomez, general secretary for Los Mineros, jointly renewed the two unions “common commitment to democracy, equality, and solidarity for working men and women throughout North America and throughout the world.”

Citing a global strategic alliance signed in 2005, Gerard and Gomez said the declaration establishes a joint commission of five members from each of the two unions’ executive boards to propose “immediate measures to increase strategic cooperation between our organizations as well as the steps required to form a unified organization.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, while Los Mineros represents about 180,000 in Mexico.

Both the USW and Los Mineros members have been under assault in lengthy mining strikes. The USW is in the 11th month of a strike in Canada against Vale Inco – a Brazilian mining giant with 3,500 nickel miners in Sudbury; and 1,100 Los Mineros copper miners are nearing three years on strike against Grupo Mexico in a small desert mining town called Cananea in northern Mexico.

The two unions condemned the “cowardly and brutal attack by Mexican federal police on the striking mineworkers and their families at Cananea, and on the family members of mineworkers at Pasta de Conchos.”

On Jun. 6, an estimated 2,000 federal and state police garbed in riot gear – backed by armed helicopters, armored personnel carriers and tear gas – forcefully evicted the striking miners while beating and injuring at least three Los Mineros leaders.

Simultaneously during the same day, 20 car loads of state police stormed a small group of miners and widows occupying the entrance to the Pasta de Conchos coal mine owned by Grupo Mexico in Coahuila state – where 65 miners where killed in a February 2006 explosion. Five widows and two mothers of the dead miners were arrested. The mine was sealed from further entry to block any effort for retrieval of the entombed miners.

Los Mineros General Secretary Gomez has been leading his union in exile from Canada for the past four years, battling legal efforts by the Mexican authorities to have him extradited on trumped up charges alleging misappropriation of union funds and for calling the 65 coal miners’ deaths “industrial homicide.”

Multiple court decisions by Mexican judges have cleared the Los Mineros leader of any such government claims – yet he cannot return to Mexico without risking imprisonment by the conservative government that seeks his ouster for demanding workplace safety and better wages.

The declaration was released while the USW and Los Mineros leaders were participating in an assembly of two global union federations representing 45 million workers from 132 countries at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.

If the USW and Los Mineros are successful in their exploration of a merger to consolidate North American industrial worker strength against trans-national mining and metal corporations, it could build upon the more than three-million-member global union called ‘Workers Uniting’ created by the 2008 trans-Atlantic merger between Unite in the UK and the USW in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

The declaration by the USW and the SNTMMSSRM, or Los Mineros, can be accessed by clicking here.

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