LABOUR RACKETEERING USED TO IMPEDE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE AT THE TABASCO, MEXICO COCA-COLA PLANT

courtesy of:

Nizkor Int. Human Rights Team
Derechos Human Rights
Serpaj Europe
Urgent Solidarity ESCR
07oct99

BACKGROUND
The first set of abuses took place on Saturday, September 11, 1999, at
the Tabasco Coca Cola plant and administrative headquarters, located at
the 1.5 kilometer mark on the Luis Gil Perez highway. The date was two
weeks before a highly anticipated vote was to be held in which workers
would decide whether or not to break away from the current union (the
CROC, aligned with -- or rather, incorporated into -- the PRI, Mexico's
ruling political party) or to back an independent union known as the
Benito Juárez National Union. It was widely believed that dissident
unionists were the overwhelming majority.

At 2 p.m. on the afternoon of September 11, seven Coca Cola employees in
favor of union dissent were sitting inside the front entrance of the
plant in order to discuss the upcoming vote with co workers. Sometime
after 2 p.m. fifteen unidentified men,  allegedly hired by Jose Luis
Rodriguez Ballinas -- Organization & Propaganda Secretary for the CROC
Union -- arrived on the scene, carrying metal tubes, clubs and bayonets.
Using the clubs and metal tubes, the men proceeded to attack the union
activists, three of whom suffered serious wounds:  Roman de la Cruz
Garcia, Miguel Angel Perez Baeza and Guadalupe Geronimo Gallegos. The
"hired men" also destroyed a 1964 Volkswagen with license plate
#WTN3086.

Complicit in this aggression was Hector Mendoza Borja, Director of Human
Resources at the Coca-Cola plant, who allegedly ordered locks to be put
on the front entrance following the arrival of the fifteen aggressors so
that workers would be prohibited from leaving the premises during the
attack.

Following the attack, the activists were threatened that if they tried
to report the incident, police would be called upon to detain them from
doing so. The activists decided to report the incident anyway and a
formal affidavit with Record# B-III- 3280/99 was lodged by Coca-Cola
employee
Roman de la Cruz Garcia at the City of Villahermosa Second Police
Precinct.

The affidavit was lodged against the four individuals allegedly
responsible for planning the incident: Alberto Juarez Blancas (national
leader of the CROC), Jose Luis Rodriguez Ballinas (state leader of the
CROC), Hugo Ramos Ramirez, and Victor Contreras Arias. After leaving the
precinct, de la Cruz issued a call on behalf of his Coca-Cola co-workers
to Tabasco's judicial authorities, to the Mayor of Centro Municipality
(the county in which the incident occurred), to the Interim Governor of
Tabasco, and to the Coca-Cola company itself, urging that all parties
intervene in order to prevent an escalation of tensions in the upcoming
weeks.

The immediate consequence of the attack, however, was a series of sudden
changes at the Coca Cola plant and administrative headquarters that
served to drastically increase tensions. These included intimidation by
Coca-Cola management both inside and outside the plant of all dissident
unionists and the installation of new "security measures" including
metal detectors and a private security force of 200 armed guards who
came accompanied with their own attack dogs. During the entire week,
each employee was forced to identify him/herself whenever entering or
exiting the plant. The administrative building, near the plant, was
transformed into a virtual barricade, surrounded by thick metal poles to
prevent unwarranted access, and installed with bullet proof glass on all
the building's windows. And this, apparently, was done only to safeguard
the physical space since all non-union administrative personnel,
computers and other valuable equipment were transferred to Coca-Cola
offices in other states and municipalities.

SEPTEMBER 24
Fully aware of the possibility of increased violence on September 24,
the day of the union vote, the group of dissident unionists had
solicited the assistance from the Federal Chamber of Deputies, and from
several national independent unions and non-governmental organizations,
to supply election observers at the plant. On September 22, four members
of the Federal Chamber of Deputies arrived in Tabasco as election
observers and appeared at the state capitol in order to formally request
the Governor's guarantee of safety for the Coca-Cola workers during the
upcoming vote.

On September 24, reporters and various observers from local human rights
organizations, including one staff member from Serpaj Tabasco, arrived
at the plant at approximately 10:30 a.m., a half-hour before the vote
was to officially commence. They first thing they noticed were
approximately 300 men, all of whom were wearing shirts with an orange
"CROC" insignia emblazoned on the front.  These men were armed with
clubs, guns and bayonets. Many of them were seen smoking marijuana and
the smell of the herb filled the entire plaza in front of the plant
entrance. The reporters and observers also noticed a truck from the
Judicial Police Department with about thirty heavily armed policemen in
it who maintained themselves at a safe distance from the CROC men.
Standing alongside the police truck were the federal representatives as
election observers and a group of about 80 Coca-Cola workers. To the
left of the plant entrance was another even larger group of workers. At
11 a.m. this group attempted to enter the building and were immediately
turned away by the armed security guards. The CROC men quickly moved in
behind the group and started to beat the workers as they attempted to
escape. Eight men were seriously wounded in this initial attack.

In the wake of the attack, the Judicial Police truck attempted to leave
the area, but was impeded from doing so when the federal representatives
and other people nearby formed a human wall in front of the truck. When
the representatives questioned the Police Commander why he had not
directed his men to intervene during the attack, the Commander answered
that he was still awaiting orders from the Governor's Office. The order
finally came at approximately 2:30 p.m. for the police to withdraw from
the area which they started to do in spite of the renewed protests of
the representatives, observers and Coca-Cola workers. In the argument
that ensued between the representatives and the soldiers, federal
representative Jorge Leon Diaz was assaulted.

As could be expected, as soon as the police truck began to retreat, the
CROC men started advancing towards the group, showering them with rocks,
clubs and bottles. The policemen were the first to panic, and quickly
abandoned the truck and starting running towards the plant exit. At that
point, the CROC men started running after the group, eventually reaching
some of the members and assaulting them once again with clubs and
bayonets. Policemen fired shots in the air to try and scare off the CROC
men, but without success. As the majority of the group was able to make
its way safely off the grounds of the plant, the first gun shots of the
CROC men were heard from where the assault was taking place.

In the meantime, two Red Cross ambulances had arrived on the scene. CROC
men, however, encircled the ambulances and prevented the paramedics from
attending to the wounded, which were rumored to be approximately thirty.

As for the vote itself, it did in fact take place between the hours of
11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Unionists in favor of changing affiliation to the
Benito Juárez National Union did participate in the vote, but only those
who had worked the night shift and thus were already in the plant since
well before dawn. It was only those workers outside the plant who were
refused entrance. On September 25, the "official" results were announced
of the vote alleging that 237 workers voted to keep the CROC, while 187
workers voted for the Benito Juarez National Union.

In response to the human and constitutional rights abuses suffered by
both workers and observers, the four federal representatives contacted
the Secretary of the Interior, Diodoro Carrasco, urging him to ask the
Governor for a full explanation of his negligence both in helping to
prevent the incident, as well as in helping to effectively squelch it
once it unfolded. The Secretary was not able to reach the Governor but
did speak to his Personal Secretary whose only response was that the
federal representatives had no business meddling in the internal affairs
of the state of Tabasco. In addition, 100 Coca-Cola workers marched to
the Governor's mansion the following morning (Saturday, Sep.25), but
once again the Governor refused to meet with the group or make any
public statement about the incident.

RECOMMENDED ACTIONS
Please contact the authorities listed below, urging the following:

(1) that state and federal judicial authorities immediately look into
allegations that five or six (maybe more) of the workers beaten in the
protest have been missing since Friday, Sep.24.

(2) that Tabasco's Interim Governor, Victor Manuel Barcelo, publicly
explain his complete negligence in preventing and subsequently
controlling this tragedy;

(3) that the state of law so touted as holding sway in Tabasco (by
ex-Governor and current Presidential Candidate, Roberto Madrazo),
becomes reality and not just a campaign slogan;

(4) that worker's constitutionally protected rights for secret and free
association and voting are upheld and respected and that parties that
violate those rights are convicted to the full extent of the law.

(5) that the affidavit filed against  Alberto Juarez Blancas, Jose Luis
Rodriguez Ballinas, Hugo Ramos Ramirez, and Victor Contreras Arias is
acted upon in a timely manner.

(6) that the transnational corporation known as Coca-Cola refrain from
contracting thugs to beat up its own workers.
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EQUIPO NIZKOR ARGUMENTS:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by which the
Mexican government is bound, reads as follows:

1) Article 21: "The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No
restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than
those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a
democratic society (...) ". Article 22.1: "Everyone shall have the right
to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and
join trade unions for the protection of his interests." Article 26: "All
persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any
discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the
law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal
and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as
race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

2) Paralegal and labour racketeering activities in collusion between
Coca-Cola and the Judicial Police constitute a flagrant violation of the
"Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
Convention", known as Convention No. 87, adopted on 9 July 1948 by the
General Conference of the International Labour Organisation,  entry into
force 4 July 1950.

This legal instrument, in force in both Mexico and the US (which host
the central headquarters of the multinational Coca-Cola), has been
seriously violated in Tabasco, particularly the following articles:

- 3.1: "Workers' and employers' organisations shall have the right to
draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in
full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to
formulate their programmes."
- 3.2: "The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which
would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof."
- 11: "Each Member of the International Labour Organisation for which
this Convention is in force undertakes to take all necessary and
appropriate measures to ensure that workers and employers may exercise
freely the right to organise."

3) The hiring of gunmen with the aim of intimidating and attacking the
workers has taken place in the framework of an interest collusion
between the Coca-Cola Company, the Judicial Police and the Authorities
which have not accomplished with their law enforcement role; this
illegal measure constitues a clear violation of the "Right to Organize
and Collective Bargaining Covention",  Convention No. 98, adopted on 1
July 1949 by the General Conference of the International Labour
Organisation, entry into force 18 July 1951.

Its Article 1.1 reads: "Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against
acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.".
Article 1.2 states: "Such protection shall apply more particularly in
respect of acts calculated to: (a) Make the employment of a worker
subject to the condition that he shall not join a union or shall
relinquish trade union membership; (b) Cause the dismissal of or
otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union membership or because of
participation in union activities outside working hours or, with the
consent of the employer, within working hours."

4) The agressions and dismissals proposed by the Coca-Cola Company, in
collusion with the authorities responsible for the enforcement of the
law and against the worker's representatives, constitute a clear
violation of the "Worker's Representatives Convention", Convention No.
135,
adopted on 23 June by the General Conference of the International Labour
Organisation, entry into force 30 June 1973.

Its Article 1 reads: "Workers' representatives in the undertaking shall
enjoy effective protection against any act prejudicial to them,
including dismissal, based on their status or activities as a workers'
representative or on union membership or participation in union
activities, in so far as they act in conformity with existing laws or
collective agreements or other jointly agreed arrangements."

SEND FAXES AND MESSAGES TO:
(1) Coca-Cola State of Tabasco Headquarters:
- General Manager: Carlos Pano Garcia, Fax: (52) (93) 10.30.09
- Director of Human Resources: Hector Mendoza Borja, Fax: (52) (93)
10.30.09

(2) Coca-Cola Mexican National Headquarters:
- Corporate Manager: Eulalio Cerda Delgadillo, Fax: (52) (5) 209.0950
- Director of Human Resources: Gerardo Lara Tellez, Fax: (52) (5)
705.5008

(3) Presidente de la Republica: Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Léon
Palacio Nacional, Patio de Honor, 1er Piso, Colonia Centro, C.P.06067
Mexico, DF
Fax: (52) (5) 271.1764  and 515.4783
Mailto: webadmon@op.presidencia.gob.mx

(4) Secretario de Gobernación: Lic. Diodoro Carrasco Bucareli 99,1er
Piso, Colonia Juarez, C.P. 06699, México, DF
Tel: (52) (5) 592.4230
Fax: (52) (5) 566.8188 and 566.8163

(5) Procurador General de la Republica: Lic. Jorge Madrazo Avenida
Reforma, esquina Violeta, Colonia Guerrero,  C.P. 06300, Mexico, DF
Tel: (52) (5) 626.4147 and 626.4318
Fax:  (52) (5) 626.4447 and 626.9600

(6) Procurador General de Justicia del Distrito Federal: Lic. Samuel del
Villar Ninhos Heroes 61, 3er Piso, Colonia Doctores,  C.P. 06720 ,
Mexico, DF
Tel: (52) (5) 133.7629 and 133.7627
Fax: (52) (5) 133.7129

 (7) Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Directora: Mireille Roccatti
Periferico Sur 3469, San Jeronimo Lidice, C.P. 10200, Mexico, DF
Tel: (52) (5) 681.8125/ Fax: (52) (5) 681.9239 and 681.2633
Mailto: correo@cndh.org.mx
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This action is based on the detailed information provided for the
SERPAJ-Tabasco, which participated as observer in the electoral process.
The Equipo Nizkor is the only responsible for its draft, legal arguments
and dissemination. For further information: +34.696.517.387 or
Int. Fax # +1.917..677.5259
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