The strike movement involving over 50 thousand workers of 45 maquiladoras, begins to move all of Mexico and transcends its borders. Undoubtedly, whatever the outcome of this battle, the workers of Matamoros can proudly say: “Together we make history!”

By Corriente Socialista de Los Trabajadores  (Mexico), Workers’ Voice (USA), Corriente Obrera (USA)

Matamoros, State of Tamaulipas Mexico – On Friday, January 25 at 2 in the afternoon, the strike broke out in the maquila sector of this city on the border with the United States. 55 thousand workers called out more than 40 companies, in demand of a salary increase of 20% and the payment of the annual bonus of 32 thousand pesos, in addition to the benefits owed to them since last year. The negotiation period expired to start this general strike without reaching an agreement between the workers and the employer sector, despite conciliatory mediation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, who arrived the day before to try to avoid the strike

In the beginning, since January 11, most of the mass media pretended to ignore the movement. Days later, when the strikes and rallies of thousands were widening, they began to talk about the “serious damages” brought to the companies in the region, such gatherings of “ignorant and angry” incited by agitators. Then they focused their guns on demonizing lawyer Susana Prieto, who arrived from Chihuahua, and legally represents many workers sanctioned and dismissed and guides them through flagrant betrayal of the leaders of the two unions that group the workers in the maquiladoras. We are not surprised, because mass media is the spokesperson paid by the companies, many of them powerful multinationals, such as Autoliv, Inteva, Novalink, Parker, Aptiv …

Neither was it a surprise that these employers dismissed several dozen activists in retaliation, seeking to install fear among workers. Nor has the majority of workers been surprised by the cowardice and betrayal of union “charros,” such as Juan Villafuerte, the hated general secretary of the Union of Laborers and Industrial Workers of the Maquiladora Industry (SJOIIM), who after 12 days of strikes, was forced by the increasing pressure of the workers’ bases to declare the beginning of the strike, to “comply with the law”.

Tense Vigil and Worker Firmness

There is tension throughout the industrial city of Matamoros. Brigades of working men and women guard factories gates, under rain and cold, in tents and in the open. They also support the intimidating surveillance of state police. They are worried about provocations or something like what happened at the Decofimex factory, where the striking workers were about to face blows with state police.

Meanwhile, between Saturday and Sunday, three more employers accepted the workers’ requests: Tidi de México, Cambridge International and Easy Way. Fifteen companies agreed to sign workers’ claims. The red and black flags are still flying in 30 other maquila plants. Fatigue is noted in all workers. They distrust some false announcements of supposed agreements by the companies and demand to see the signed acts. But they remain increasingly confident that the triumph is near due to the great strength of their struggle in unity and the moral and material support they receive from people.

A True School of Workers’ Struggle

Some companies, such as Cepillos, were adamantly refusing to grant the increase and announced that they would close their plant in Matamoros. Before this, many workers fell into uncertainty and fear of unemployment. But in the framework of the assemblies and groups of workers it was stated: “Enough of blackmail! If the company leaves, that is to say the employers, they do not have the right to take the machinery and materials. Everything they have we have produced.  The owners can go but the factory stays here. For the state to expropriate and hand control over to the workers and technicians”… We do not know how many workers share this reasoning. But it would seem that the company Cepillos saw that their threat did not take effect, because on Sunday they announced they would remain in the city…

Another issue is that of the dismissed and the indispensable struggle for their reinstatement. Accustomed to precariousness and fixed-term contracts, many young workers, when dismissed, only think about how much they will get for their liquidation. Thus, unintentionally, they favor companies that impose complete job instability and hinder the development of the basic organization necessary to sweep delegates sold out to employers.

During the strike assemblies, the reinstatement of all those dismissed since the beginning of the strike who wish to recover their job has been included among the demands.

The Strike is Legal, but now faces Attacks from Federal Institutions

The first great triumph that cost immense sacrifices: on January 25 the strike was officially declared by the union that has “taken note” – that is, legal recognition – although the local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, faithful lackey of the employers, declared incompetence to legalize the strike in a list of companies. And sent the conflict into the bureaucratic labyrinth … to the Federal Conciliation Board. This is not surprising either. It is part of the surrealism of the Mexican employer state, accustomed to declaring “nonexistent” strikes of real and legitimate existence. Thus, they do not recognize, in fact, the constitutional right to strike. But the reality is that the workers’ strike remains firm.

However, what does surprise – and especially the workers who voted for AMLO  as president – is that at midnight on the 26th to the 27th, the Autoliv factory was surrounded by numerous police officers from the State of Tamaulipas lead by union “ charro” Villafuerte with a lawyer. They advised the workers who were on guard to end the strike and avoid being beaten. This action quickly spread and in a few minutes, more than 500 working men and women gathered to defend the continuity of the struggle. Also present was lawyer Susana Prieto Terrazas, adviser to the Movimiento Obrero de Matamoros (MOM), who denounced the coordinator of the Morena party in the Senate of the Republic, Ricardo Monreal Ávila, to exert pressure on the workers to lift the strike in 32 manufacturing plants.

“At midnight he spoke to me by telephone to ask me to talk to the employees, to be asked to return to work this Monday, in an interference that cannot be ignored, as he also spoke to Juan Villafuerte to arrive at the Autoliv doors to undo the strike… It annoys me to see how you want to abuse the worker in such a vile way, believing that they can bypass their constitutional right to strike, and that just for being a senator of the Republic think you can trample such a dignified movement. This fight continues. It will not stop because of the calls of Ricardo Monreal,”[1] warned Susana Prieto. The growing presence of workers from all the factories of the four industrial parks, dissuaded the strikebreakers sent by the illustrious senator. That attempt failed and the Autoliv workers continue the strike. But the loitering and police incidents continued so far in Aptiv, Pebac and others…

“For the Good of All, first the Poor”?

But this serious episode left many questions. Does Senator Monreal make his own decisions? Does the president – who controls Morena with an iron fist – not know what his party senate coordinator is doing?The answers that Monreal gave to lawyer Prieto – by speakerphone in the presence of workers – give us some clues about who they serve and how the current powers of the Mexican state reason: “We must be congruent. We are going to comply with the labor law and the union law of the workers that you defend so much… But we are not going to allow the economy to fall in the state and in the municipality.” Mr. Senator: What is the economy of the state and the municipality? The profits of  foreign corporations that cry for the hundreds of millions of dollars that they stop receiving due to stoppage or the miserable salaries of the 80 thousand workers in the maquiladoras?

This is leading to a profound reflection on the workers, on the meaning of the “Fourth Transformation”, which the new government repeats as its central motto. We trust that striking workers will arrive sooner rather than later at the conclusion: the true “hope of Mexico”, the true Transformation will be work of the working class. When we move from defending ourselves from the employer and imperial grievances to deciding on the destinies of the country that we build and the riches we produce with our own hands.