Friday, October 22, 2010

National day of protest for Mariano Ferreyra, victim of corrupt union organizing

Photos and text by Marie Trigona

A labor activist was shot dead on October 20 in Argentina in a union dispute along Buenos Aires train lines. Outraged residents protested the violence with marches throughout the nation.

The victim was Mariano Ferreyra, a 23-year old activist from Argentina’s Workers Party. He was marching in solidarity with subcontracted employees fired for attempting to blockade the train line.

A witness said that after Mariano was shot he heard a person cheer: “one less lefty.” No one has been arrested in connection with the killing. Mariano Ferreyra began his activist activity at the age of 14 in a neighborhood branch of the Trotskyist organization. The corrupt union involved in the death of Mariano is aligned with the current Peronist government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

“Burocracia sindical” is a common expression used to describe Argentina’s formal union structure. Corrupt union leaders have used violence to pressure workers not to vote for opposition slates.
International Labor Rights Forum listed the Kraft Corporation in Argentina as one of the worst companies for the right to association. The food workers union did not support the Kraft workers’ demands. Last year Kraft Subway workers and casino workers have also had to fight violent attacks from the formal unions in their union organizing efforts to form an independent union organization.
Subcontracting, synonymous with neoliberal capitalism, has become a common practice in public as well as private companies. Workers, are hired temporarily by outsource companies that provide service along the train lines. The company can decide to let the employees go without repercussions, pay them less and have a high turnover in personnel. The Train Workers Union benefits from this system because they get a percentage of ticket sales and have interests in supporting business interests.
Marcelo Adrian, a friend of the victim, says the corrupt union structure favors business interests. “The state is responsible, the bureaucratic unions… And the police that acted as accomplices. A group of 40 thugs from the Train Transport Union, Green list attacked us. It was a planned attack and there have been incidents of attacks against the subcontracted employees.”
The workers party newspaper reads: A crime against the working class.

Another activist, 61-year-old Elsa Rodríguez, is in critical condition after being shot in the head. Rodríguez has participated in the Worker’s Party for more than 7 years. Her daughters shed tears at the march demanding justice for those responsible for the shooting.

Another victim, Nelson Aguirre who was shot in the gluteus and leg, holds a sign that reads justice, punishment and jail for the assassins of Mariano Ferreyra.

At least 600 workers have been fired by the private company that is government subsidized to run the train lines that lead from the capital to the suburbs. The firing of 40 workers sparked the protest on October 20. The “violet list,” as the opposition group in the Train Workers Union is called have organized a campaign for the formal contracting of workers and an end to subcontracting along the train lines.
More than 25,000 protestors came out to repudiate the death of Ferreyra, demand an end to undemocratic union practices and demand justice for the death of the activist. Students wear signs that say: I am Mariano.
Mariano Ferreyra’s history and fate are tied to the fate of two activists Maximiliano Kosteki and Dario Santillan shot in a train station during a road blockade in the suburb of Avelleneda. The adolescent Ferreyra participated in the 2002 blockade, and 8 years later was shot dead along the train tracks leading to Avelleneda just a few blocks away.

The diversity of opposition slates and delegates assembly fighting for democratic union representation reflects the growing grass roots labor movement. This grass roots movement continues to grow despite corrupt and violence practices on the part of official union leadership.

“This custom of killing workers is going to end! Mariano Ferreyra presente!”

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