Saturday, June 12, 2010

China and Mexico, Autoworkers Fight Back

By Martha Grevatt
Published Jun 10, 2010 9:22 AM

Two strikes of autoworkers, one in China and one in Mexico, have ended with the workers making gains.

After 400 workers struck a plant of auto parts supplier Johnson Controls in Puebla, Mexico — drawing international support — the company on May 29 agreed to recognize the National Union of Mine and Metal Workers (SNTMMSRM). Ties to the “Protection Contract Union” — a company union that had signed a secret, sweetheart agreement without workers’ knowledge or consent — were severed. Contracts with bona fide, independent unions are the exception rather than the rule, making this a tremendous win.

Some 70 thugs had gone to the factory on May 26 to intimidate the workers, who also had been threatened with discharge if they did not end their affiliation with the SNTMMSRM. In a response, labor organized an international call-in campaign targeting the company. Members of the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO; Maquiladora Solidarity Network and the International Metalworkers Federation demanded the company recognize the union of the workers’ choosing.

A few days later, a contract was signed promising no reprisals for striking, a $100 bonus and direct hiring of contract workers.

In Foshan, China, workers returned to work June 2 after a two-week strike at the Honda transmission plant there. They were angry over the failure of wages to keep up with prices, as well as the widening gap between workers and the business elite.

The strike had crippled Honda’s production throughout China. Honda had offered workers a 24 percent raise. However, the strike won raises of 34 percent and more. Lower-paid college interns won raises of 70 percent. This brought everyone’s pay up to around $300 per month.

“It’s a victory for the workers,” a Honda employee told the New York Times. (June 4)

The strike settlement is a victory for all workers in China. After the strike ended, electronics giant Foxconn raised wages 33 percent. Foxconn, which has 800,000 Chinese employees and supplies Apple and other major computer firms, has had a number of worker suicides recently tied to low wages and bad working conditions. Apparently, this was less of a concern to that company than a possible strike.

Members of the United Auto Workers, holding their convention in Detroit in early June, should celebrate the victories of their counterparts in Asia and Latin America — and think about reviving their own militant traditions.

The writer has been an autoworker for 22 years.
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