The AFL-CIO announced April 17 that it has entered into a formal alliance with Enlace, a coalition of 21 Mexican labor rights groups representing 300,000 low-wage workers in that country.

Federation president John J. Sweeney said that American unions and the Mexican groups share the common goals of fighting for low wage workers and bringing balance to the struggle between the rich and the working poor.

The alliance takes on special significance because the AFL-CIO has no formal relations with Mexico’s official union federation which is essentially controlled by the country’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. That party has ruled Mexico for the 70 year period that began in 1929 and has often repressed workers trying to organize and the unions themselves.

The move by the AFL-CIO is part of a recent trend by U.S. labor unions to strengthen ties with groups that legitimately represent workers overseas.

The AFL-CIO and Enlace say they will concentrate on international campaigns, education and training and on building cooperation among unions and the less formal worker centers. Both say they will also focus on building solidarity between worker advocates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The federation has already established formal relations with labor rights groups in the United States. These include the Taxi Drivers’ Alliance in New York, the Chicago-based Interfaith Worker Justice Center and the National Day Labor Organizing Network. The latter group is a coalition of U.S. day labor centers that advocates for low income Latino workers all over the United States.

The alliance with Mexican workers comes on the heels of numerous moves by U.S. labor unions to strengthen ties with workers in other countries. One of the latest of these moves is already winning tangible benefits for American workers.

The Communication Workers of America and Germany’s biggest union recently established a jointly run trans-Atlantic group, called T-Union, to organize and represent T-Mobile workers in America. Although T-Mobile is aggressively anti-union, its German parent firm, Deutsche Telekom, is unionized and has unionists on its board of directors. Those board members are pressuring the company to stop its anti-union activity and thereby assisting the CWA’s organizing drive.

The Steelworkers, the Machinists and the Auto Workers, among others, have also established working relationships with unions overseas.

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