Steelworkers, Los Mineros Explore Cross-Border Unification

Unions condemn Mexican government's attacks on striking copper miners

TORONTO, June 21 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) and the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM) - known as Los Mineros - are creating a cross-border commission to explore a unified union representing one-million industrial workers in Mexico, Canada, U.S. and the Caribbean.

In signing a joint declaration over the weekend, USW President Leo W. Gerard and Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleon Gomez 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 union's 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.

About 3,500 USW members in Canada are in the 11th month of a strike against Brazilian mining giant Vale, while 1,100 Los Mineros copper miners are nearing three years on strike against Grupo Mexico in the small desert mining town 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 June 6, an estimated 2,000 federal and state police 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 last 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 Gomez of the government claims, but he cannot return to Mexico without risking imprisonment by the conservative government.

The joint declaration was released by USW and Los Mineros leaders who were in Toronto to participate in an assembly of global union federations representing 45 million workers from 132 countries.

If successful, the merger being explored by the USW and Los Mineros would build on the three-million-member global union called Workers Uniting (www.workersuniting.org), created by the 2008 trans-Atlantic merger between USW and the British union Unite.

The joint declaration by the USW and Los Mineros can be viewed at www.usw.ca and www.usw.org.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-487-1571; Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990; 705-562-8588 (c); dstpierre@usw.ca


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