The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Mexican rubber workers on strike for two years against a plant closing

Jan 5, 2004

Almost a thousand tire workers near Guadalajara, Mexico, have been on strike for two years now. On December 16, 2001, the German company Continental AG had announced it would close its tire factory there and move the machinery to its other tire factory in the city of San Luis Potosi.

Mexican law prevents machinery from being moved during a strike and it also provides severance pay in the event a factory is closed. Since the strikers have 15 years seniority on average, workers ought to receive 13 months of severance pay, plus two years back pay. This is obviously a lot for workers in a poor country.

The Mexican government acted as governments usually do in such a situation. It said the law didn’t apply since the strike wasn’t legal. In response, the strikers mounted numerous actions in protest of the government’s ruling.

When the strike began, some four thousand workers, their families and others demonstrated at the gates of the factory. The strikers then began a caravan with eleven large buses and a dozen cars that brought them to the major industrial centers of the country. The most important was to the other rubber factory of Continental in San Luis Potosi, where the company hopes to transfer the machinery. Other major factories where the strikers held rallies were General Motors, Nissan, National Diesel and Volkswagen. The caravan ended with a demonstration in the main square in Mexico City with 10,000 people in attendance.

In May, 2002, strike leaders went to Germany where they met with Continental’s unions and confronted the head of the company at its stockholders’ meeting. They also attended the European Parliament, with the deputies of the revolutionary groups there helping them to get a hearing. The workers have since been able to keep the machinery inside the factory due to their persistent activity. All this served to put pressure on the company, which decided to start negotiating again with the striking union after six months of refusal.

Finally in July 2003, under the pressure of the workers’ continuing mobilization, the Mexican courts finally ruled that the strike was legal.

Naturally the company still wants to give less than is called for by law and much less than the workers want. But the workers have already changed a lot through their continuing mobilization. And it’s the only thing that offers them the possibility of forcing the company to meet all their demands.

The Continental workers of El Salto decided it’s better to fight and resist the company’s plans. Workers elsewhere can only salute their determination.