(Washington, D.C., Dec. 23, 2020)—The AFL-CIO is outraged by the ongoing harassment and false criminal charges that have been filed against Mexican independent trade union lawyer and attorney Susana Prieto Terrazas by the state governments of Tamaulipas and Chihuahua. Prieto was jailed in Tamaulipas in June, and ordered to attend court hearings in Chihuahua, where it is possible that she will again be detained and incarcerated. The ongoing repression against Prieto is designed to undermine her efforts to support independent labor unions in these states.
“President-elect Biden and I agree: it’s time to end the exploitation and misery in Mexico’s maquiladoras,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Mexican workers should be making decent wages and be able to exercise their rights in the workplace.”
For two years, Prieto has represented workers at Tridonex in Matamoros who have been harassed and fired for trying to organize with SNITIS, an independent Mexican union of their choice, to replace a corrupt “protection” union. Prieto gained international media notice after the Tamaulipas governor, who is opposed to labor reform, imprisoned her for a month in a COVID-ridden state penitentiary on trumped-up charges. Prieto was only released after agreeing to internal exile in another Mexican state and a ban on appearing in labor court.
Workers at Tridonex, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries, make auto parts for the U.S. market. Tridonex has refused their legal demand to transfer their dues to the independent union, while continuing to support a company union. The company has fired more than 600 supporters of the independent union, SNITIS, which was formed after worker protests in 2019 forced the maquiladoras in Matamoros to raise wages.
Corporations’ denial of workers basic rights undermines the livelihoods and lives of workers in Mexico and the United States.
“Tridonex workers are suffering from the abuses of a corrupt and criminal union leader, who is protected by the company so that it can continue providing precarious wages and working conditions,” said Mexican union leader Prieto. “All of this through oppressors who harass, intimidate and beat the workers with the consent and protection of Tamaulipas Governor, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. We are fighting so that no one ever is afraid of freely electing the union they wish to represent them and to make history, ending several generations of modern slavery.”
The Tamaulipas state government has acted on the company’s behalf, blocking the workers’ demand for an election. Shortly after Prieto was released from jail in Tamaulipas and exiled to Chihuahua, the government there also brought bogus criminal charges against her and but for repeated COVID-19 related court delays, seem intent on trying to imprison her again. Her request to have the hearings online was denied despite her ongoing challenges related to COVID-19, as well as other health issues.
“Susana Prieto has been subjected to harassment, threats of bodily harm and imprisonment because of her fight for the rights of the workers,” Trumka said. “If right-wing state governors are allowed to criminalize the defense of workers’ rights, that nullifies the worker protections in USMCA. We don’t intend to let that happen.”
“Susana has fought for the rights of the workers, and we intend to fight for her. We are calling on President López Obrador to protect Susana from further harassment, intimidation and threats. Her fight for the rights of the workers at Tridonex is our fight as well, and we will work with our friends in Congress and the administration to protect them,” concluded President Trumka.
Contact: Carolyn Bobb, 202-637-5018