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United Steelworkers Congratulate Mexican Union Leader On Human Rights Award

Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 5:00 pm
by USW National News

(PITTSBURGH) - The United Steelworkers (USW) are congratulating Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the leader of the Mexican Mineworkers’ Union, on being chosen to receive the prestigious Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award.

The award, approved by the National AFL-CIO Executive Council, recognizes Gomez’s “courageous commitment to defend the aspirations of Mexican Workers to higher living standards, Democratic Labor Unions, rule of law and a better future for their country.”  The annual Meany-Kirkland award, created in 1980 and named for the first two presidents of the AFL-CIO, recognizes outstanding examples of the international struggle for Human Rights through Trade Unions.

“This is an important public recognition that the fight of Napoleón Gómez, his Union and the Democratic Labor Movement in Mexico is just and will be vindicated,” said USW International President Leo Gerard. “The Mexican Government’s flouting of International Labor and Human Rights norms has been exposed by the Global Trade Union Movement and should be condemned by all nations.”

Gomez, who was elected in 2002, incurred the wrath of the Mexican Government by demanding higher wages and resisting government efforts to control the Union.  In 2006, the government removed him from the leadership and, following a mine explosion that killed 65 workers, filed criminal charges against Gómez and other Union Leaders.  The government has frozen the Union’s bank accounts, assisted employers to set up company Unions, declared the Union’s strikes illegal and sent in troops to suppress them.

Despite massive repression, the Mineworkers’ Union has continued to bargain contracts and organize new workplaces with the help of Trade Union Allies around the world.  Gómez has won major legal victories, as Mexican courts have since thrown out all of the criminal charges against him and rejected the government’s appeals.

The USW has been a key supporter of the Mineworkers’ Union, providing assistance to striking workers in Mexico, support for organizing campaigns, and office space in Vancouver, Canada where Gómez lives after being forced to leave Mexico. 

In June 2010, the two Unions set up a joint task force to “propose immediate measures to increase strategic cooperation between our organizations as well as the steps required to form a unified organization.

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