Miners’ union leader Gómez Urrutia returns to Mexico as a senator
Napoleón Gómez Urrutia | IndustriALL_GU

MEXICO CITY — It’s taken 12 years of exile and strong support all that time from the United Steelworkers, but Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, president of Los Mineros, the independent Mexican union of steel workers, mine workers and metal workers, is finally back in Mexico City – as a senator.

Gómez Urrutia, who had to flee bogus fraud charges and lived in Vancouver, B.C., ever since 2006, was sworn in August 29 as a Mexican senator at large, not from a particular state. He’s part of the overwhelming majority in the Mexican Congress for the Morena Party of incoming progressive president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“With your swearing-in, a new world of possibilities begins for Los Mineros and the working class of Mexico,” Steelworkers President Leo Gerard wrote to Gómez Urrutia before leading his union’s delegation to Mexico City for the ceremony.

“For the first time in decades, there is a real opportunity to transform the structures of worker representation, industrial justice and economic decision-making to make democratic representation, real collective bargaining, decent wages and pro-worker policies available to Mexican workers.

“This transformation would benefit not only workers in Mexico, but also their sisters and brothers in Canada and the United States who have suffered the unfair competition resulting from wage suppression in Mexico,” Gerard said.

Gómez Urrutia had to flee after Mexico’s right-wing government colluded with mine owners to try to strip him of his job when his union insisted on investigating the 2006 fatal explosion in Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos mine. But what the government and the mine owner really wanted was to take over and break Los Mineros, putting in pliant, pro-corporate union leaders. They failed and the Mexican Supreme Court later threw out the fraud charges.

In an interview with El Pais, Mexico’s leading daily, Gómez Urrutia called the mine owners and conservative presidents who persecuted him and tried to break the union “miserable beings who do not reach the category of men, poor in dignity, in solidarity and humanity and are as always, what they have been, empty beings.”

“These arbitrary and unjust attacks did some damage to the organization, but they did not stop their march. At this moment, the National Union of Miners is stronger and more united than ever, ” Gómez Urrutia added. NUM members re-elected him to the union’s top job during his exile in Canada.

Gómez Urrutia also told the paper he will demand reopening the investigation of the mine blast, which killed 65 workers. And while he “is in no mood for revenge” against his personal persecutors, there may be lawsuits by the union.

“There are some issues that the lawyers themselves have raised because obviously injustices have been committed,” he said.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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