Zapatista Leader Supports Duro Workers

The Duro workers shared the experience of their struggle with Marcos, and he autographed for them copies of the CJM press release that had been sent out about this historic meeting."

March 21, 2001

"We don't want you to listen to our laments because we know that your  grievances are heavy too. Nor do we want you to see our poverty because  yours is as bad or worse. We want you to be watching and listening to  all the workers and when you see and hear of our rebelliousness,  dignity and resistance, you will know that you are looking at a reflection of  yourselves."

These words were part of the message of Subcomandante Marcos in an historic dialogue between the indigenous Zapatista movement and the movement for democratic Mexican unions. Present in the dialogue on March 15th at the Anthropology and History Auditorium in Mexico City were several workers from Duro Bag in Rio Bravo.

The armed Zapatista movement announced itself to the world on January 1st 1994 in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement which the Zapatistas called a slow death for indigenous people. They demanded autonomy and an end to the exploitation of Mexico's indigenous population. This year the Zapatistas began a march from the mountains of Chiapas to Mexico City to demand that Congress act to protect the rights and cultures of indigenous people.

Various sectors of civil society showed their support for indigenous rights at the meeting including more than 30 democratic labor organizations from Mexico City. The Duro workers from Rio Bravo attended representing the aspirations of maquiladora workers having just waged a long struggle for labor rights.

In his message, Subcomandante Marcos said, "Both men and women workers have given us many lessons throughout our history, and more are yet to come which will be even more profound. I am not talking about a time already past; rather one which is yet to come. The streets will fill with workers and the newspapers will be full of our demands the same ones we have been demanding all along."

"I hope you will accept our commitment that we are your friends. This is a very emotional moment for us and we hope that there will be more. We have been following your struggle even when it has been quiet. You and we know how to manage the silences, and when the powerful think that they have won and that the rebellion has subsided, is just when it rears up stronger. What may happen, happens and who may win, wins, but we are sure now that it is not certain that we have lost, and when I say 'we' I am including you."

The workers and unionists at the meeting read a document which stated: "We share with you the yearning for liberty, social justice, democracy and peace with dignity. We are men and women who, like you, want to rebuild this country so that there is a place for all. We are part of a movement for union renewal which is growing daily and which seeks to put an end to corporatism, to the lack of democracy, to labor injustice, and to neoliberalism. With you we cry, "Enough, enough of being ignored. This situation must end! We know that to defend those at the bottom is the best way to defend all of us!"

For nine months the Duro workers have struggled to improve conditions for the workers at this Rio Bravo maquiladora and to form an independent union. After intense repression during their strike, mass unjust firings, beatings, and arrests for simply exercising their right to a union of their own choosing, the Duro workers finally got a date for a union representation election at the beginning of this month. During the elections, over 100 professional thugs, hired by Duro, formed a gauntlet through which the workers had to pass in order to vote. A day before the elections, the workers saw them preparing with high caliber weapons which they carried into the plant.

The gangsters accompanied the workers from the production area to the election table to guarantee that when they voted in a loud voice with no secret ballot it would be a vote for them. It's obvious that with such intimidation the independent union would lose. The National Administrative Offices of the US and Mexican Departments of Labor published a joint declaration which pledged to implement secret ballot union elections. However, the Fox administration has not fulfilled this agreement, and it's a clear sign of its labor policy that maquiladora workers will now have to confront professional gangsters as they try to defend their rights.

The thugs belong to the CROC, "white" union which sells protection contracts to companies to insure a favorable climate for investors. Now it will claim victory having perpetuated this cynical fraud against labor rights.

The Duro Bag Company produces gift bags for Hallmark and Neiman Marcus. It has a reputation as one of the maquiladoras with the worst working conditions. The Duro workers shared the experience of their struggle with Marcos, and he autographed for them copies of the CJM press release that had been sent out about this historic meeting.