ROAD TO DETROIT: International Labor Solidarity

Solidarity Without BordersJoin Robin Alexander, Director of International Affairs for the UE, and Benedicto Martinez, of the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT), one of the most important independent labor organizations in Mexico, for a discussion of the importance of international labor solidarity in the era of corporate globalization, and the role that the Social Forum movement can play in helping to foster that solidarity.

This event is a fundraiser for the UE-FAT Strategic Organizing Alliance, and part of the "Road to Detroit" series of events about building social movements as we prepare for the US Social Forum in Detroit in June.

At the Vermont Workers' Center, 294 N. Winooski Avenue in Burlington.

Robin & Benedicto will also be at a brown bag luncheon hosted by UE Local 255 at Hunger Mountain Coop on Monday, April 19, at noon.

Background on Benedicto:
Benedicto Martinez Orozco is a nationally elected co-president of the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT). Prior to holding office, Mr. Martinez worked for many years as a machine operator at a U.S. based transnational, Sealed Power. While working there, he was elected General Secretary of the Metal Workers Union, STIMAHCS, a national union affiliated with the FAT. He has continued to serve as General Secretary of STIMAHCS, but has been on leave from his plant since 1991 when he became one of the top elected national officers of the FAT. He has also been repeatedly elected Vice-President of the National Union of Workers, the independent Mexican Labor Federation founded in 1997, a recognition of the role the FAT has played in its formation and in defining and developing its program of work and action.

Background on Robin Alexander
Robin Alexander works for the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), where she has been employed for more than 20 years. She was formerly the union's General Counsel, and since 1993 has been UE's Director of International Affairs, where she has helped to create a new, rank and file approach to international solidarity. From 1978 until 1985 and again in the early 1990's she worked on the Texas border representing migrant farm workers and farm worker unions in the areas of employment, occupational health and safety and the environment.

Background about the FAT
One of the only independent labor federations in Mexico, the FAT is composed of labor unions, worker owned cooperatives, and community organizations. In addition, a national women's network which coordinates work on gender and equity is represented as part of the FAT's leadership body and operates within all of its sectors and zones.

The FAT was founded in 1960 and now represents workers in over half the states of Mexico. It represents workers in industries such as textiles, auto-parts, and transportation in national unions, and represents many others on a local level, including service workers in Mexico City. Their largest area of growth in recent years has been in the public sector, and a FAT affiliate in Chihuahua now represents the vast majority of municipal workers in that Northern Mexican state.

Although modest in size, the FAT has great influence due to its principled determination to create independent, democratic unions under extremely adverse conditions. For example, the FAT was a founding member of Mexico's independent labor federation, the National Union of Workers or UNT, which represents a million and a half members. The FAT was also a founder and active participant in RMALC (the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade), the coalition of more than 100 Mexican organizations which opposed NAFTA, and has in recent years worked to analyze the impact of neo-liberal economic policies and create positive proposals for change.

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