Kukdong Workers Successfully Return to Work, Previously Fired Leaders Required to Sign Individual Contracts

This February 19 update on the struggle at the Kukdong factory in Atlixco de Puebla, Mexico, is from United Students Against Sweatshops

Thirty-nine Kukdong workers, including two of the leaders of the independent union organizing effort whose illegal firings precipitated the original strike at Kukdong in early January, arrived at the factory early this morning to demand their unconditional reinstatement. Representatives from Nike, Reebok, and the Korean International Solidarity House were present during the negotation of the workers’ reinstatement, and their entrance into the factory received live coverage on local radio.

There was considerable confusion mid-morning about the terms under which the workers would be allowed to return to work, as leaders Josefina Hernandez Ponce and Marcela Muñoz were sent back outside to wait after refusing to sign affiliation papers for the company union, FROC-CROC. The Nike observer reportedly responded to the pressure workers felt to sign affiliation to the FROC-CROC by saying: “The FROC-CROC had every right to tell the workers to sign the collective contract because they had won a collective contract from the company.”

(Actually, workers never had any part in drawing up that contract. It was a sweetheart deal between CROC and the management, signed behind closed doors, without the workers having any knowledge of, or voice in, the process.)

By mid-day, an agreement was reached with all parties present (returning workers, Kukdong management, Reebok observers, Nike observer, FROC-CROC representatives, and observers from the Korean International Solidarity House). Under the agreement all returning workers, with the exception of the five leaders whose firings precipitated the January work stoppage, are to be reinstated unconditionally and with their seniority. The leaders will also be allowed to return to work with their original salaries, according to the agreement, but will not be immediately reinstated to their positions as supervisors (but rather as operators) and will have to sign individual contracts with the company. Ivan de Erick Diaz Xolo, who has been isolated from other workers since returning from the work stoppage, was told today that he will be allowed to return too the floor but will also have to sign an individual contract with the company.

Today’s unconditional reinstatement of more than thirty-five workers, and subsequent compliance with the agreement, is an important step in the struggle of the Kukdong workers.