Workers vote for representation by the leftist FAT (Frente Auténtico de Trabajo) union in the Grupo Navarra garment factory in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico, but doubts remain over the effectiveness of the organisation and the status of 45 fired workers.
The elections follow a long campaign of letter-writing and lobbying by various international anti-globalisation non-governmental organisations in conjunction with the FAT. During the organising drive, (as Libcom previously reported) around 50 workers lost their jobs, 45 of which are still demanding reinstatement.
The 19 de Septiembre union (affiliated to the FAT) received 263 votes, as compared to a total of 190 votes for the incumbent CROC and CROM unions, both of which are organs of the PRI-run (Partido Revolucionario Institutional) state government and local labour authorities. Corruption is rife within Mexican state infrastructure, especially on a local level, with many unions and labour arbitration panels being controlled by mafiosi-esque government and business cartels.
The elections were held in hugely intimidating conditions, with workers having to verbally state their vote to a table comprised of the employer's representatives and CROC and CROM officials. As such, a victory for an independent union in such conditions should be recognised as an anti-corruption vote, and for the material benefits it is likely bring to the largely indigenous female workforce.
However, despite winning the vote, the FAT is still far from gaining official recognition. Grupo Navarra, CROC and CROM are contesting the elections, claiming that the votes of dismissed workers should not be counted. They also dispute the legality of 19 de Septiembre, and Grupo Navarra are making renewed threats to close the factory. Should either of CROC or CROM file complaints with the local labour authority (Junta Local de Conciliación y Arbitraje – JLCA), the FAT (which has connections with the social democratic PRD [Partido Revolucionario Democrático] party) should expect no favours from the priístas which control it.
In these terms, the current ambitions of 19 de Septiembre are merely to attain bargaining status with Grupo Navarra, with reinstating the fired workers and maintaining the factory's operations being secondary demands. How workers in the factory (which makes jeans for, amongst others, Gap, Levi and Abercombie and Fitch) will be affected by the wrangling of various local peredista and priísta políticos remains to be seen.