July 9, 2012—Attorneys are challenging the results of a July 5 union election at a Canadian-owned silver mine in Durango, Mexico, that a team of international observers says was marred by “serious irregularities.” The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos, Siderúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSSRM, known as Los Mineros) lost by a single vote amid a climate of intimidation and ballot discrepancies.
||Ben Davis (right), USW director of international affairs, talks to a reporter under the watchful eyes of a SNMMDNGS member in red and a truck full of police. Photo by Lorraine Clewer, Solidarity Center
According to a preliminary report, 129 workers at the La Platosa mine, owned by Excellon Resources of Canada, were eligible to vote for one of three unions: “Presidente Adolfo López Mateos” Union of Workers and Employees in Commerce and General, the National Mining and Metallurgic Union “Don Napoleón Gómez Sada” (SNMMDNGS), and Los Mineros.
The official vote count was 45 for Los Mineros, 46 for SNMMDNGS, and 32 for the Adolfo López Mateos union, which currently controls the labor contract at the mine. The latter two unions are widely regarded as company-dominated "protection unions." There were six challenged ballots.
The team noted that although many election procedures appeared proper, a number of irregularities severely marred the results. Despite a request by Los Mineros to hold the election in a neutral location, it took place on company grounds. On the day of the vote, some 100 men, many armed with sticks, arrived in a convoy of buses, trucks, and cars. Identifying themselves as members of SNMMDNGS, they attempted to block entrance to the mine. “These individuals were quite aggressive in their behavior,” said the report, “surrounding and photographing observer team members when they attempted to talk to workers.” In addition, a large contingent of municipal, state, and federal police with automatic rifles patrolled the mine entrance.
"There must be about two dozen heavily armed state police at the mine site right now," reported Ben Davis of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union (USW), a member of the observer team. USW has long supported Los Mineros.
Other members were Lorraine Clewer, Solidarity Center country program director in Mexico, and representatives of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), IndustriALL Global Union, Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER), Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), and Labor Justice Center, El Paso.
Workers told the observer team that they had been pressured to vote for one of the two protection unions over the independent Los Mineros. “These practices occurred over a long period of time, as the request to hold an election was filed on October 7, 2011, and the election did not occur until nine months later,” said the report. The workers have been struggling for nearly two years to gain democratic union representation.
“Unfortunately, this flawed electoral process demonstrates once again how Mexican workers are locked into a system that excludes them from having a voice on the job,” said the Solidarity Center’s Clewer. “In a job as dangerous as mining, we see time and again the consequences of this exclusion on the lives and livelihoods of miners and their families.”