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Acuña, Mexico: Fraud and harassment taint union representation vote

November 14, 2012

The Mexican National Miners’ Union (Los Mineros) is challenging the results of a union representation election at the Finnish-owned PKC auto parts factory in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

According to the official count, Los Mineros narrowly lost the vote – 2,311 to 2,509 – to a “protection union” affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) that was supported by the employer.

“If the process had been transparent and legal, Los Mineros would have won without a doubt,” says Julia Quiñonez of the Border Workers’ Committee (CFO), which has been providing advice and support to the PKC workers.

She points to a number of anomalies on the day of the election, including the company listing approximately 2,000 workers “inactive,” allowing ineligible employees (engineers, administrative staff, supervisors) to vote, not allowing votes to be counted openly, and denying the union committees the right to review voters’ credentials.

She also notes that the employer had rehired a number of workers two weeks to a month prior to the election in order to have their votes included. Now that the election is over, those workers are no longer employed by the company.

In addition these examples of blatant election-day fraud,in the months leading up to the vote, PKC management was actively and openly favouring the CTM and harassing and threatening Los Mineros supporters.

According to Los Mineros, CTM delegates were given free reign of the factory and allowed to hold captive-audience meetings with the workers, while representatives of their independent union were denied entry.

The employer openly expressed its support for the CTM, telling the workers that they should vote for the “official union” for their own good and for the good of the company. There were constant threats that the factory would close and workers would lose their jobs if Los Mineros won the vote, threats that were repeated in all the local media.

PKC’s lack of respect for freedom of association was confirmed in a Finnish television exposé in which its CEO Harri Soutari admitted that the CTM “probably is not a real trade union in the Finnish or European sense… but the employer can protect himself this way and it has been done.”

In response to the media exposé and to shareholder protests, PKC put out a press release explaining that “Mexican law allows unions to register as the employees’ representative irrespective of the will of the employees….”

According to Quiñonez, “people did not vote for the CTM because they supported that union – the CTM has done nothing to help the workers. Those who voted for the CTM did so because they were afraid that the company would close down; they were victims of the company’s intimidation.”

Despite the fraudulent vote results, the union feels significant progress was made toward winning an independent union. In an Opinion piece in La Jornada, Los Mineros leader Napoleon Gomez Urrutia commented, “The workers have in no way been defeated. They are on the road to achieving dignity and union autonomy and eventually will be able to reverse these unfavourable results.”