The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and originally published in Spanish on December 11th, 2014 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper, considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.
2014 has been one of the most prolific years in terms of advances and achievements made by the
National Miners Union, which I am honoured to lead. The conditions faced by this great mining
trade union, and I as its leader, over the previous nine years of hard work and effort have
undergone appreciable change over these past twelve months, albeit change that is not yet
definitive and complete. Notably, the sick persecution that we’ve been subjected to has started to
subside since the current Mexican government came to power, and this has been the standout
change of recent months.
Two events in 2014 stood out above others. The good level of communication established with
mining, steel and metalwork companies, the great majority of which maintain positive working
relations with the National Miners Union, has been strengthened, and the notion that the right
path to follow is one of respect for the interests and rights of workers gained further ground. In
return, trade unionists also began to take a more objective view of the problems currently faced
by such companies.
On November 7th of this year the third Annual Meeting between the National Miners Union and
over 40 companies took place in the city of Vancouver, Canada, which reinforced in every sense
what we have jointly come to dub ‘the spirit of Vancouver’. This spirit is based on mutual
respect between companies and the union, enabling us to tackle the challenges of productivity,
create decent jobs and ensure the greatest efficiency for both parties in the production process, in
recognition of the dignity of workers.
This event made it clear to the whole nation and to the government that rather than confrontation,
the Miners Union is looking to promote amicable collaboration between both parties, while
always taking into account the work and freedom of employees. It was yet another call to the
government to move beyond the mining dispute once and for all, a dispute which is based on the
unlawful and perverse political, judicial and industrial persecution that we miners have endured
over recent years, with dignity and a constructive attitude. This very attitude is behind the fact
that the annual increases in revenue from our sector are the highest in the country at 14% overall,
compared to other working sectors, where growth is stunted at between 3.5 and 4%.
This allows current members of the government to see that those who are supporting progress in
this country are also the ones practising what I have called 21st century free trade unionism. The
message is clear: public authorities should act in a reciprocal way by bringing an end to the
mining dispute, which is the reason for my voluntary exile in Canada and which affects working
relations and prevents us from properly coordinating efforts between the organised working
classes, the government and private companies, and by putting in place the conditions required to
bring our life as a trade union back to normal, allowing us to set progressive development
Added to this far from small matter in 2014 was the fact that our legal defence team succeeded in
getting the false and unconstitutional charges against me completely revoked in a court of law.
These charges had been the foundation of an aggressive campaign waged by several companies,
complicit with the PAN (National Action Party) governments of Vicente Fox and Felipe
Calderón, in complete breach of the rule of law and a number of existing laws, including the
Constitution of the United Mexican States, as well as the 87th Convention of the International
Labour Organisation (ILO), since the accusations have now been proven to be fallacious and
Added to these key moments in 2014 were the unlawful obstacles put in place by the Mexican
government, intended to bring about my extradition. Not only did the Canadian authorities have
no truck with the bungled claims behind the extradition, they initially granted me permanent
residency, followed this year by Canadian nationality, which in practice rendered those baseless
attempts at extradition null and void. This was accompanied by the cancelling of the Interpol red
notice, which was finally withdrawn by the international police organisation this year once and
for all, after it was concluded to have been based on an unlawful campaign of political
persecution against me.
The first steps were taken on the road to dismissing these false and fictional charges when
various foreign governments refused to accept or recognise Mexico’s absurd campaign to
criminalise my struggle as the free and democratic trade union leader, elected by national mining
and steel workers. It was this that allowed me to attend the meeting of the worldwide National
Executive Committee of the IndustriALL Global Union in December 2013, which was held in
Geneva, Switzerland. This week, from 8th – 10th December 2014 I was also able to take an active
role in the International Executive Council Conference of the United Steelworkers union, held in
I spent over two years writing my book The Collapse of Dignity, in which I tell the story of my
personal struggle and that of the miners against this unjust political persecution, and I also
present my vision and hope for a better future for the working classes, its organisations, and
society. With the book’s publication in English in 2013, followed by Spanish in 2014 and finally
in French, I’ve been able to give my account of the truth of these events, which has led it being
named a bestseller by both the New York Times and USA Today.
The publication of The Collapse of Dignity in these three languages has undoubtedly had a part
to play in the easing – albeit insufficient – of the savage persecution against me, which was first
unleashed in 2006 after I described the Pasta de Conchos tragedy as industrial homicide,
whereby Grupo México left 65 miners who could have been saved to die. The same company
exhibited similar negligence in 2014 with the spillage of 400 million litres of toxic residues into
the waters of the rivers of Sonora, evidence that Mr. Larrea has learnt precious little from his
own failings and mistakes.
Throughout the year the unconditional global solidarity has been steady and has indeed
intensified, expressed by 200 million workers across the planet through the most powerful
international trade unions. Added to this, in June 2014 I received the prestigious Arthur
Svensson Prize from the most important organisations in Norway for fighting to promote trade
union rights, which complemented the Meany-Kirkland Prize awarded to me by the American
Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) in November 2011, in recognition of the struggle for human
rights and social justice. Then in May 2014, the Independent Publisher Book Awards in New
York gave me a Gold Medal for the profound subject of the true story told in my book.
In Mexico, in September of this year, I was also given the Sentimientos de la Nación prize
(Sentiments of the Nation) by the Popular Assembly of the People of Guerrero (APPG, by its
initials in Spanish), for my struggle to defend the social rights of Mexicans. In November, on
Thursday 27th, I received the great recognition of the Emilio Krieger medal which is awarded to
those fighting for social justice by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD by
its initials in Spanish).
All these events underline the importance that 2014 has had for me personally, and for the
National Miners Union as a whole. A year of advances and successes, accompanied by the fact
that various mining workers groups have openly and publicly stated their intention to join our
trade union, and that others have refused to leave our ranks, despite the attempts of certain
companies, or even obsolete social organisations, to crush the struggle and freedom of
association of genuine workers.
This month, as we do every year, we’ll be holding general assembly meetings with our
colleagues from the various sections of the National Miners Union. The content of this message
will help to strengthen and consolidate the fight for the democracy and freedom that historically
set us miners apart.