The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia and published on October 8th, 2015 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.
Goméz Sada’s exemplary fight for decent work and salaries
Napoleón Gómez Urrutia
Thursday, 8th October 2015
On 10 November we will pay tribute to Don Napoleón Gómez Sada, one day prior to the 14th anniversary of his death, in his home state of Nuevo León. The ceremony will begin at 9am in front of his statue, in the Parque Fundidora de Monterrey, and this will be followed by various events in the nearby El Carmen cemetery, where his remains are buried, alongside his dear wife Doña Eloísa Urrutia de Gómez Sada.
As every year, around a thousand miners from all over Mexico, as well as family and friends, will attend this great homage to his memory. Over the last 14 years they have done so with great respect, recognition and solidarity which transmit an emotion at once special and unique. The members of the national executive committee of the miners’ union pass round an attendance list just as when Don Napoleón oversaw meetings with workers and leaders. After the speeches from different national leaders, there will be a mass in his memory and a multitude of floral offerings will be left at his two with formality and astounding emotion.
Don Napoleón was an extraordinary union leader who dedicated his life and work to defending the rights of workers and union freedom, justice and democracy. Gómez Sada was a natural fighter possessed of unequalled intelligence, sensitivity, passion and valour, which he always put at the service of his colleagues and of Mexico. For the great majority of Mexican miners, metal workers and steelworkers, this sincere and determined man represented their hope to obtain better living and working conditions, in the midst of an ongoing fight not exempt from problems, betrayals and difficulties.
I have an early memory of the president Adolfo López Mateos, previously secretary for Work and Social Provision, who on one occasion mentioned that Napoleón Gómez Sada was one of the best and most solid leaders that Mexico had had and that if there were two or three Napoleóns, the country would be on a different path towards greater wellbeing. The reality and the world today are different because never before, or at least to the same extent, have we seen such irrational and perverse corruption, ambition and greed. Business people, directors, shareholders and their political accomplices find it very difficult to recognise that there are leaders like Don Napoleón who are an example and an inspiration for many people, those who have always been on the side of truth and justice.
These representatives of a business class that is arrogant and irresponsible towards people and their country are the same who use the media which lack any professional ethics when it comes to broadcasting objective truth and the real state of affairs.
These corrupt individuals attack outstanding and honest leaders, the same as a group of traitors and unprincipled, valueless opportunists who are nothing more than the dregs and rubbish of a true working class. It is they who sell out and never defend the interests of workers or fight to open new employment opportunities and even less so for fair and decent salaries for all. Here the question would be who is more corrupt, those who do the corrupting and pay out or those who receive money to put down workers, through repression and threats that favour those despicable business people.
Don Napoleón, with a firm hand, faced up to serious crises such as the 1986 closure of Mexico’s most important steelworks at the time, Fundidora de Fierro y Acero de Monterrey, which caused the dismissal of over 15 thousand people and all to favour other steelworking companies that were going to be privatised by the next government, to benefit certain friends and associates of Salinas de Gortari’s regime, such as Altos Hornos de México and Siderúrgica Lázaro Cárdenas Las Truchas, located in Michoacán, both with accomplices such as Alonso Ancira Elizondo and the brothers Julio, Sergio and Pablo Villareal Guajardo.
Today, wherever Don Napoleón is, he must be watching the current industrial crisis in which dismissals of staff and plant closures are destroying the aspirations of thousands or millions of human beings who depend, in order to survive, on a decent and fair job that promotes social benefit.
Mexico today lacks a healthy and autonomous labour politics because everything is under the control of a few private interests, to the detriment of the majority of the population.
And what can we say of the level of salaries and benefits that workers obtain, as compensation for their hard work and daily commitment to national economic activity?
To emphasise this point, it is worth remembering that Mexico has one of the lowest salaries in Latin America and that this only favours businesses. The recently unified minimum wage of 70.10 pesos for all areas of the country equates to 4 dollars per day.
In the United States and Canada the minimum wage is 10 dollars per hour and there are currently plans to raise this to 15 dollars per hour. What a huge difference.
The desperate position of the Mexican government is to promote employment, with no regard for the levels of remuneration paid by businesses, nor the social cost of the exploitation of the workforce and their families. Transnational companies such as assembly plants for processing, car parts, clothing and other industries, which are on our borders and around the country, pay and average salary of between 90 and 100 pesos per day, equivalent to 5 or six dollars per day.
In those North American countries the equivalent income of a worker in the extractive or manufacturing industry is 35 to 40 dollars per hour. With these absurd and outrageous policies, Mexico will never rise out of backwardness because besides being an immoral and indecent strategy, without decent salaries we will never raise purchasing power, much less market demand or incentives for internal investment.
In his time Don Napoleón Gómez Sada fought this inequality, as the national miners’ union is doing today, and for this reason each year we pay a well-deserved, spontaneous and authentic homage to him as an example of dignity.