Labor Notes #480

Three workers discussing workplace issues.

The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure.

Mexican maquiladora workers in 70 factories have won big wage increases and bonuses in a strike wave that began in January.

The strikes in the industrial city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on the border with Brownsville, Texas, have primarily hit auto parts factories, where tens of thousands of workers make goods for General Motors and other car manufacturers.

The first of the strikes began on January 12 at eight factories. Workers were demanding a 20 percent wage increase and an annual bonus of 32,000 pesos ($1,600)—a demand now popularized as “20/32.”

“Don’t start those buses tomorrow,” said Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.

He was announcing the second statewide education strike in West Virginia in a year, alongside the leaders of the state’s two teacher unions.

The next morning, February 19, buses throughout the state sat idle in garages.

And by the middle of the day, strikers declared victory with the defeat of an anti-union, pro-privatization education bill in the state House.

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