Monday, September 19, 2005
Fighting fire with fire
As I've mentioned before, the workers of the Mexican Social Security Institute, which is the largest public health care institution in Mexico, have an on-going conflict with the Institute's administration.
This week, the union plans to submit a counter-reform proposal to the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in order to overturn the August 2004 reform. Essentially, since all its legal options via the Mexican courts have not stopped the reform, the union has decided to try fighting the reform in Congress.
As the article points out, the union will need to get support not only from the PRD, but also smaller opposition parties like the PT and Convergencia and a section of the PRI. The Congressional committee that will need to vote to pass the reform initiative to the flow is chaired by a PRDista and leader in the teachers' union. Several of the committee members are PRDistas, who are more likely to support the union's counter-reform proposal since they voted against the August 2004 initiative. On the other hand, most of the PRIistas on the committee voted in favor of the reform in August 2004, even though they are union reps themselves. I'd give the initiative a 50-50 chance of getting out of committee, though the union official cited in the article talks about it as a sure thing. If it does make it out of committee, I'd say pre-election politics have a lot to do with it.
The strike deadline for the new contract expires in mid-October. The union could shut down the public health care system by striking and maybe even rally enough support for a general strike. In the past, the union leadership avoided such measures, in large part because its leadership was closely associated with the PRI. At the same time, the union is technically an "unofficial" union (i.e., not formally allied with the PRI) and is one of the founding members of the UNT, an organization of "independent" unions.
In August 2004, the main leader of the union was roundly criticized by the rank-and-file and other independent union leaders for not standing up to the social security administration and mobilizing the full weight of the union. Since then, delegations and sections of the union have been cozying up to the PRD, and the umbrella organization to which it belongs (the UNT) has formalized its alliance with the PRD in 2006. It's not likely that the union leadership will be able to maintain its close ties with the PRI if it's being pressured from above and below to rethink that alliance. Further, it's not likely that the PRI would consider credible any union promises for future electoral support of the party. (See also: Some say Elba Esther can't promise the PRI the teacher vote either.)
All this leaves me wondering whether the union leadership will indeed strike in October and try to force the administration's hand. The current political context makes it seem more likely than ever.
posted by Michelle @ 10:43 AM,