Friday, July 8, 2011

La Frontera and CJM Wins Silver Medal Award

La Frontera is a documentary that exposes the violence of organized crime along the border and also represents CJM’s work through the empowered voices of maquila workers, community leaders, and board members. It includes interviews with El Mañana newspaper reporters; Father Francisco Pellisary of the Immigrant House “El Nazareth” in Nuevo Laredo; and Gustavo de la Rosa, Veronica Leyva, and Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa in Cd. Juarez.

CJM Executive Director Martha Ojeda:
On behalf of Colm McNaughton, the ABC national radio broadcasting network in Australia, and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, I would like to thank the New York Radio Festival for the Silver Medal Award, given to “La Frontera” radio documentary under the social issues/current events category.

I would also like to thank the international solidarity which makes our work possible but especially all the supporters in Australia that enabled me to attend this event and the honor of accepting this award for Colm. Of course special thanks are due to Colm who vindicated the freedom of speech in Mexico by taking the risk and having the courage to put in the spotlight the challenges that people on the US/Mexican border face every day.

On Colm’s behalf I want to dedicate this award to the many people whose lives are represented in this documentary. They include the hundreds of women in Juarez and all along the northern border of Mexico who have been murdered, tortured, and disappeared with impunity and injustice. This award is also dedicated to the more than a million maquila workers who face exploitation and discrimination on the assembly lines of the multinational corporations in the free trade zones. Many workers now also face the fear of not knowing whether they will return alive from work. I am thinking here of those maquila workers who were attacked with grenades and bombs and massacred while the bus was driving them home after work in Juarez and recently in Reynosa Mexico.

This award is also dedicated to all those unknown undocumented people including women and children who were sacrificed, massacred and buried in common graves by the organized crime in San Fernando, Tamaulipas and Durango.

I also dedicate this award to all the innocent children who have died in the crossfire between the army and the drug cartels. In Mexico now children in kindergarten and elementary school have to learn to throw themselves on the floor in order to escape the shootouts before learning their ABCs.

This award also is dedicated to the nearly 35,000 innocent victims who have been killed in the last few years because of the federal government’s ineffective and disarticulated strategy fighting organized crime. After countless confrontations between the army and the drugs cartels the only result is an out of control situation and thousands of victims.

But especially, I want to dedicate this award to Roberto Mora, the Director of el Mañana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico who was killed in 2004 and to the other reporters of El Manana who were kidnapped, tortured, disabled and disappeared like many others throughout Mexico for doing their work with dedication and passion.

In order to understand what is happening in Mexico, we need to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and “La Frontera” radio documentary does that. The situation in Mexico now is very complex because there are many factors and actors involved and we can’t address these issues as isolated or blame just one protagonist or factor. We need to put together the good, the bad, and the ugly in order to see the big picture.

We know who are the good are—the innocent victims. And we know the bad ones--the cartels, because we see them in the scenario. Everybody blames the drug cartels and organized crime because they are the actors that we see on the front lines provoking the violence and killing our loved ones. But I also think that they are just a consequence of a social decomposition that has been created by many other ugly actors and factors that are behind the scenes, and we need to expose them: among the actors are governments, politicians, political parties, and multinational corporations. Among the factors are corruption, impunity, lack of jobs, opportunities, and education.

NAFTA and free trade opened the doors for goods, drugs, laundered money and weapons. The corruption that has long prevailed in Mexico now has been extended across the border. Now the US Congress is investigating the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Department (ATF) in the US, which was involved in illegal gun trafficking through the Fast and Furious operation, where more than 2,000 machine guns and weapons were given to the cartels in Mexico. The US and Mexican governments signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership and Plan Merida to militarize the country and then blamed each other because of the increased insecurity and the lack of effective strategies for combating organized crime. Despite billions of dollars invested in this war, and despite building a wall along the border and increasing the number of officers to “watch” the border, “the insecurity crossed the border undocumented.” In Texas, a common grave with 25 bodies, including children, was recently found, and many border patrol officers in el Paso and Arizona have been found to be involved with the drug cartels and aiding them to cross drugs, money, and weapons.

NAFTA, CAFTA, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP,) Plan Merida, Plan Colombia: everything is connected, as well as the US gun and weapons industry, local governments and politicians; extending and multiplying the pattern of corruption and impunity. Unemployment, poverty and immigration have increased, and yet we are waiting for the jobs and economic growth that were promised. Instead we have out of control violence, curfews, and a gagged freedom of speech.

I thank Colm for taking the risk to bring what people are living every day on la frontera into the global spotlight and vindicating freedom of speech in Mexico but especially for doing so in a way that puts together all the pieces of the puzzle, including the good, the bad and the ugly in the big picture.

The media and freedom of speech has been gagged, censured and silenced in Mexico, but not by the government as used to be the case, now it is being done by organized crime and government impunity. This is not just an issue of a violation to civil rights or to freedom of speech. The situation is beyond that. It has aimed to undermine peoples’ power to fight for social change. One way that a society can be transformed is through the media and radio broadcasting. These are powerful tools that circulate knowledge in communities through the news and other programs. Once people get that knowledge they can organize and develop international solidarity for social change. This is what “La Frontera” is doing in spreading the word as are all of you attending this Festival who are on the radio in every corner of the world.

We know there are some communities that do not have access to computers or cell phones to use facebook or twitter but they do have a radio, and through radio broadcasting we are transforming the world into the place that we all dream it can be, a world with justice and dignity.

So thanks, Colm and also Daniela and the ABC national radio broadcasting system in Australia, and all the supporters in Australia that made it possible for me to attend this event on your behalf, and especially those worldwide that make possible CJM’s work supporting workers and communities to defend their rights and to improve their lives. Thank you New York Radio Festival for this Silver Medal Award and thank you to every one for the work you are doing worldwide.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Read or request the Annual Report 2010

Dear CJM members, partners and allies, Below you will find the Annual Report 2010 in a magazine format. Click on the magazine to zoom in.
(Your computer requires to have flash in order to view the photos. Otherwise, download the PDF version. Request a copy via e-mail at

TRW Workers Struggle

At the end of January 2010, TRW workers traveled eight hours to demonstrate in the capital of Tamaulipas in support of their case. 
CJM members sent letters to President Calderón calling his attention to the TRW workers struggle and the failure of NAFTA. On February 3 and 5, TRW workers demonstrated in front of the Labor Department of Reynosa demanding that the Attorney General enforce the labor law. As a result, on February 10, the Labor Department gave the workers a document on government letterhead recognizing the TRW Workers’ Coalition as the workers’ representative instead of the CTM official union. This was a major accomplishment in their struggle, setting an historic precedent in workers’ struggles for labor rights in the maquiladora industry on the northern border of Mexico.

On April 13 and 15, TRW workers demonstrated in front of the company facility and in front of the Reynosa Labor Department, demanding accountability from the TRW Corporation and from the labor board.
On May Day, the TRW Workers Coalition organized an Independent March for Jobs and Justice. The CTM union and police tried to stop them from marching, but despite harassment and blocked streets, the workers were able to get on stage, where they confronted the authorities and ghost unions who were proudly announcing the re-opening of the TRW plant with new workers at the lowest wages and no benefits. The TRW Workers’ Coalition exposed them and demanded jobs with justice, enforcement of labor law, and accountability by the TRW corporation.

In July TRW workers mobilized and called for a final push in support of their legal case. CJM Action Committee members, the San Diego Maquiladora Workers’ Solidarity Network, and TRW workers organized a “phone blast” campaign targeting TRW headquarters and Mexican labor authorities on August 9, 2010. TRW headquarters management responded to CJM members with falsehoods, but as a result of the insistent phone calls, the CAB (labor board) President declared “I want to end this case as soon as possible because of the intensive mobilizations.” CJM and TRW workers organized the first Vigil and Press Conference for Justice on the border on August 28. The Vigil and a mass were held at the Guadalupe Parish in Reynosa, Mexico, preceded by a press conference. The workers made the following declarations to the media… “We, the TRW Workers’ Coalition, have been resisting the TRW Corporation’s abuse for more than a year and a half in a labor dispute.

Despite all the obstacles that we have faced, despite the corruption and impunity of the company, the government and the CTM union, we still believe in justice. Olga, a TRW Worker said, “We have been denied justice through the impunity of the TRW Company and through the corruption of our government that allows multinationals like TRW to exploit workers.” “It is time to get justice back!” TRW worker Ernesto Lizcano declared. “We challenge to to respect workers’ rights.
TRW is a global corporation that is increasing poverty in our country with its unethical practices and impunity. Justice belongs to us and it’s time to claim it--we are looking forward to a resolution with justice from the labor board!” said TRW worker Gumersinda de la Cruz.
While the workers were in the middle of the press conference affirming their claim to the right to work, suddenly bullets and explosions from a battle between cartels broke out in the main plaza. Workers ran through the gunfire into the church where Father Leopoldo González from Reynosa welcomed the workers and celebrated the mass and vigil for justice and against violence.
On September 31 the CAB absolved the TRW Corporation of any responsibility in the case. However, the President of the labor board declared to the media that the workers had the right to appeal the resolution. On October 27, while TRW workers were still preparing their appeal to the Supreme Court, Aristeo Mejía, a young TRW worker, c o mmitted suicide in desperation because of his lack of employment. Aristeo was blacklisted by the company and could not endure the impunity of the corporation and the complicity of the management-friendly union and the government in dragging out the legal case.
His death is an example of the desperation that workers are facing around the world. On October 30 the TRW workers presented the appeal to the Supreme Court.
On November 2 the workers celebrated the Day of the Dead with a march carrying a coffin and protesting against the labor department resolution. In the main plaza, they conducted a symbolic burying of impunity, corruption and complicity of the government, union and TRW Corporation. TRW workers are still waiting for the Supreme Court decision on their case.
TRW Automotive is a multinational corporation based in Livonia, Michigan. The company produces seatbelts for auto industry companies from the US, Canada, Europe
and Asia. The workers of the TRW plant located in Del Norte Industrial Park of Reynosa, Mexico, have been organizing since spring 2009.
The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras has supported these workers’ efforts. In March 2009, TRW management in Reynosa, Mexico transferred 600 workers to another TRW facility located at the other side of the city.
In the TRW plant where they were to be relocated, the collective contract has lower salaries and labor conditions that are poor compared to the previous facility. In addition, the facility does not have enough space to relocate assembly lines for 600 workers. The workers also have to travel two more hours to work, taking three different routes and investing forty percent of their salaries to arrive on time at the factory. Furthermore, the workers would have to wait for transportation after the night shift ends, from 1:45 a.m. until 5:00 a.m., because the last public transportation leaves at 1:00 a.m. and the workers’ shift ends at 1: 45 am. It is unacceptable that TRW, a plant that produces safety equipment, should expose its workers, most of them young women, to unsafe condition including forcing them to wait more than 3 hours in the early morning for transportation home.
The CTM union that holds the contract with TRW agreed to the relocation without taking into account the conditions mentioned above and without informing the workers. Due to the complicity of the CTM union and the company, the workers formed a Workers Coalition, in keeping with Mexican Labor law, to negotiate the relocation. TRW unjustifiably fired the members of the Coalition and circulated a blacklist of the workers, violating their right to jobs, to freedom of association and to collective bargaining, as established in the Labor Law and in the Mexican Constitution. TRW argued that they are justified because of the economic crisis, and that they have the support of the CTM union and the local, state, and federal government’s authority to fire the workers without severance payments.
Jaime Ernesto Lizcano, a TRW worker, traveled to Livonia, Michigan, to meet with TRW executives on Mexico Independence Day, September 16th, 2009, but instead of meeting with him, TRW management called the police to arrest Ernesto as well as CJM members and allies.
Ernesto traveled through the US and Canada to gain support for workers, some of whom have 15 to 20 years seniority, while TRW argues that they are troublemakers. What they are doing is simply demanding justice.