Mexican steelworkers occupy complex

From published reports

On Dec. 20, over 2,000 iron ore miners occupied the Sicartsa plant and three other neighboring steel plants in the huge steel complex located at Lázaro Cárdenas-Las Trujas, in the Mexican state of Michoacán. ISPAT Mexicana, the largest steel plant in Mexico, was included.

ISPAT, which also owns ISPAT Inland in East Chicago, Ind., acquired the plant after the Mexican government sold the plants in the steel complex that were built by the state in the 1970s.

The occupation by the workers was supported by a historic march on Jan. 12 of over 10,000. The National Mining and Steelworker Union is also planning a national strike of all 250,000 workers on Jan. 31 if the workers’ demands are not met.

The dispute at the complex began when the company and the government refused to recognize the local union leadership that was elected July 31 by the vast majority of workers in the plant. The new leadership defeated what the workers called a company union. Management’s reaction to the new committee was the issuing of 82 disciplinary measures or terminations and the setting up of a company union leadership on Oct. 23.

The dispute came to a head Dec. 19 when a picket line went up at the plant and 300 state guardsmen were brought in to attack the workers. Several workers were shot, one seriously. The next day the workers regrouped and held a huge meeting where they decided to take over the four steel plants. The workers are maintaining the facilities, but nothing is coming into the complex or going out.

On Dec. 21, over 3,000 workers marched to demand a resolution to the conflict. They also have made six demands, including: recognition of the union executive committee; formal dialogue before the Office of the Secretary of Labor; removal of the penalties and rehiring of fired workers; a wage increase that they have not had in a year-and-a-half; and that there be no reprisals taken against any worker.

On Jan. 2, there was another march, including teachers and popular groups. On Jan. 6 the government withdrew recognition of the company union and set up an election on Jan. 8, when over 75 percent of the workers ratified the new leadership of the local. As of press time the workers were still occupying the complex and there was no word on the status of their demands.

Cheryl Llera contributed to this story.