Over 50 employees of a garment factory in Tehaucán, Puebla have been sacked for their affiliation with rival trade unions and non-governmental organisations.
The workers had been organising against the interference of the Puebla state government by way of the FROC-CROC union’s presence in the Grupo Navarra factory, which makes clothes for Abercombie & Fitch, Gap, Levi and Calvin Klein, amongst others. FROC-CROC is affiliated to the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institutional) political party, which runs the state government. The two bodies have been colluding against worker’s organisation, psychologically and physically harassing workers, withholding wages and union-busting.
The fired workers were connected to an organising drive by the FAT (Frente Auténtico de Trabajo), a union which has numerous links with the leftist social democrats PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democrático). Mainstream Mexican unions are largely workplace mouthpieces of political parties, with their leaders plucked from the upper rungs of the party apparatus as if it were a ministerial position (a practice called charrismo), and there remains fear that the workers have lost their jobs merely through acting as pawns in party politicking.
The factory first rose to attention of the national press when the local CDH (Comisión de Derechos Humanos – Human Right Commission) called for “urgent action and solidarity” with the denim factory workers. This was interpreted by various Mexican and American liberal non-governmental organisations as a call to lobby Grupo Navarra’s clients (such as the ones mentioned above). They eventually succeeded in pressuring the American brands into writing a joint letter to the PRI-run Puebla state labour authority (Junta Local de Conciliación y Arbitraje – JLCA), requesting that they schedule elections for FAT representation in the factory.
Their efforts were in vain, as on top of the fired workers, others have been intimidated into resigning and threatened with redundancy via the factory’s closure. The JLCA has since stalled the appeal process of a number of the sacked employees who are filing for unfair dismissal.
The various anti-globalisation NGOs still paying attention to the case continue to call for more letter-writing to the priísta (PRI) state authorities in support of FAT representation, despite the consequences of the last letter, while the case has become ammunition for the political ambitions of local perredistas (PRD politicians), themselves a split from the PRI.