Workers at a General Motors plant in Silao, Mexico have voted to be represented by SINTTIA, or the National Independent Union for Workers in the Auto Industry, as the result of an election held from February 1st to 2nd. It is a landmark victory for organizers and activists who have long worked to weaken the vice grip of the employer-friendly unions that have dominated the Mexican labor movement.
SINTTIA grew out of the successful campaign to invalidate a contract negotiated by a company-friendly union last August. The previous union was associated with the country’s largest union federation, the Congress of Mexican Labor, or CTM for short. SINTTIA, which ran on a platform promising to raise wages and fight for workers on the shop floor, competed with 3 other organizations to win representation of GM employees, including another CTM affiliated union.
Approximately 6300 workers were eligible to vote in last week’s election. In all, turnout was 88 percent among those eligible participants. SINTTIA received over 4100 votes, an overwhelming 78% of the participating electorate. The remainder of the vote was split among the three other competing unions, one of which only received 18 votes.
Workers at the Silao plant make the lucrative Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, but earn less than $25 for a 12-hour shift. Foremost on their minds is a wage increase. “What workers would like most is to have a decent salary that is enough for their day-to-day [needs],” said Alejandra Morales, SINTTIA’s principal officer, who has worked at the plant for 11 years in the paint department.
Among the other demands that SINTTIA highlighted in its election campaign were bathroom breaks, improved benefits, food and transportation paid for by the company, and better ability to take vacation time.
Once the results are certified by Mexican labor authorities, SINTTIA will enter negotiations with GM. Earlier this week, the automaker reported it had pulled in a record $10 billion in profits last year. Under current Mexican labor law, SINTTIA has six months to negotiate a contract with the company and have it approved by a majority of workers.
Reporting Courtesy of Sean Hagerup on Labor Radio