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DETROIT -- Workers at a Flex-N-Gate auto parts plant in Puebla, Mexico owned by billionaire industrialist and NFL owner Shahid Kahn won the right to free association inside their workplace after a 12-hour job action on June 20.
UAW members at Flex-N-Gate plants in the U.S. took action to support the Mexican auto workers, hand-delivering a copy of worker demands, including the reinstatement of fired union activists, to their plant managers.
"Auto workers in Mexico have the same concerns we do, including safe working conditions, fair treatment, and a voice on the job" said Kathy Morgan, bargaining chair for UAW Local 2270 at Flex-N-Gate's Ventra Evart plant in Evart, Michigan. "If we don't speak up when Flex-N-Gate mistreats workers in Mexico, we're going to pay a price sooner or later. Because whatever they get away with there, they're going to try here."
"Right now I feel proud because we achieved something that we wanted, a victory for our rights and for justice," said Mario Lopez Espinoza, a member of the worker organizing committee at the Flex-N-Gate plant in Puebla. "We fought for something and we won -- and I believe if we stand together with workers in the U.S., we can improve conditions for everybody."
A Flex-N-Gate facility in Urbana, Ill., was fined $57,000 earlier this month by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The citation included nine serious violations, including failure to monitor workers' exposure to nickel, chromium, hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, and other hazardous substances.
A closed chrome bumper facility in Highland Park, Mich., also owned by Flex-N-Gate, is currently under investigation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for possible leaks and spills of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, into the soil and water surrounding the plant. The abandoned plant is located in one of the state's most economically challenged communities.
The company's health and safety issues were the focus of a community protest in New York City during the NFL draft in April.