Buenos Aires North Area

Important workers meeting in Argentina’s industrial heart

April 30, 2010

A secondary school playground, with worker’s banners hanging off the balconies of the 2nd floor, a few blocks from downtown Pacheco, was the place that the Kraft-Terrabusi shop stewards chose to organize a meeting of workers from the Northern Zone of Buenos Aires.

Four hundred workers participated, including delegates, shop stewards, leaders and activists from the main factories in the area. An overwhelming majority of workers along with small delegations of students from UNGS and UNLU (nearby universities), militants from leftist groups and FUBA representatives, who were persecuted by Macri after they blocked the streets in support of the Kraft workers, also present was Elia Espen, from Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

Who was present…

At the table were the special guests, Zanon and Stefani Ceramics leaders and workers from the Ceramic workers union in Neuquén; the delegates and shop stewards from Kraft, Pepsico and Donelley. Also present were delegates and workers from Arcor (Salto and Córdoba), workers form Felfort and other Food Industry factories; delegates and executives of SUTNA San Fernando (FATE), Ford, Volkswagen, Gestamp, and other metal-mechanics factories in the area. Delegates and workers from Pilkington, Bosch, Siderca, Finning-CAT, Rioplatense meat processing plant, Paty, Praxir, the 60 line; from the Larcade, Castex and Mercante hospitals; teachers from General Sarmiento, Tigre, Escobar and San Martin, the plastics and ceramics workers from the area, textile workers, supermarket workers, and railroad workers.

Taking back the examples from the 70s

Javier “Poke†Hermosilla from Kraft, reflected on the preparation for the assembly and marked the main objectives: to advance in forming an organization of Food Industry workers, in coordinating the Northern Area of Buenos Aires; for May 1st, to take up the historic struggles that continue to be relevant today, like the fight for the forty hour work week. The proposal for a national food industry organization is based on developing strong groups that can win over delegates and the shop stewards, with the perspective of winning the union. All of the brothers and sisters see this as an exiting challenge, which is a relatively new perspective that opened up from what is called the “Kraft†effect.

“The coordination in Kraft,†he reflected, “was good, but it was improvised. We need to put forward a shared solidarity and commitment to the struggles lying ahead and create a permanent coordination between workers in the Northern Area of Buenos Aires, one that will hold strong throughout time. Both the Kirchnerists and the opposition agree on maintaining precarious work conditions, contracted workers without benefits, just like the scam of paying the foreign debt.

The working class must have great objectives

After Hermosilla spoke, Alejandro Lopez, Ceramics worker from Zanon, spoke about how “this assembly is of the utmost importance, in the heart of the Argentine workers movement.â€

“The time is now†–he continued-. “Economic growth can generate a stronger offensive struggle. As far as orientation and organization it could be further developed and win over the shop stewards, not just to stop the attacks. Kraft showed that it’s possible to take on the imperialist bosses and the national government. There is a new generational stage and it has opened up to instances where workers are struggling against the union bureaucrats.

Effective and concrete coordination

“Some say that coordination is just for defending a factory when the workers are striking†, he continued, “what do when there are brothers and sisters who can’t strike, but they can sign a solidarity letter, encourage a strike fund? There are millions of workers that don’t have any where to look for support. Effective and concrete coordination is a necessity and we have a responsibility†.

And, clarifying that it wasn’t the objective of this assembly, he made reference to the political program of the Class-Conscious workers: “we need to develop in the political field, we can’t confide in unknown people to govern; who don’t know our class†. We need to “advance in the political field, a tool for the working class†.

Felfort and Arcor, Present

Lorena Gentile, delegate from Kraft, pointed out the need for coordination and development “three points: unity, solidarity and organization: the bosses should know that if they attack even one worker, that worker is not alone†. A worker from Stani thought that one of the keys should be to spread the “assemblies in the factories and to respect worker democracy; be independent from the bureaucratic unions and that there delegates are elected by sector†.

Then a delegate from Arcor (Salto) spoke about the monopolies in Argentina:†since last year there has been conflicts and layoffs. We spoke with the union, but they left us out in the cold. Now they want to take away our union rights and we’re taking action by slowing down production. We began to try to organize some kind of coordination with other workers.â€

The Felfort workers said, “what happened at Kraft gave us strength; the unity gives us strength. The union doesn’t support us. They boycotted two assemblies and today they did the same today.†In closing, one of the workers reported that in the chocolate factory “the women are sexually harassed and attacked: Felfort is the worst. But we’re surprised at the amount of people here and how much they support us.

An assembly that opens up prospects and builds optimism

Night had fallen on Pacheco. It was time to bring the assembly to a close. Javier Hermosilla (“Poke†), one of the Kraft shop stewards, said in closing: “It’s been a long time since there has been a meeting of this kind, with so many anti-bureaucratic workers, delegates and shop stewards from the area. It’s an unprecedented act, a first step that fills us with optimism†.

“We also see†, he concluded, “the need to move forward in uniting workers from the area, we are being attacked, like in Fate and Kraft, where they are trying to take workers’ legal protection. Working together to defend ourselves and supporting each other in the struggles that arise; uniting workers, with other social, student and political organizations. We have concluded that it’s necessary for the anti-bureaucratic shop steward committees in the area to discuss the possibility of forming a permanent coordination.â€

Leo Norniella, a Pepsico shop steward, closed reflecting on how “we want to have new banners for the working class, because we can’t just struggle to keep the inflation from swallowing up our salary while we continue to work with job insecurity and low labor costs, which began in the 90s. There are still “American†shifts, 12 hour workdays, rotating shifts, weekend shifts. This is why we are pushing forward the struggle for a forty hour work week; for the reduction and redistribution of hours, so that everyone has work; and against the payment of the foreign debt, so that there is healthcare and education.â€

And as the announcement states, 120 years since the first commemoration of May 1st: “We want a May 1st where workers take back the struggle against super-exploitation that we are subjected to, for a work week no longer than forty hours, a [real] livable wage, work towards reducing the work week, and attack the foundation of the exploitation that we suffer everyday†.

There was a unanimous decision to accompany Marcelo Gallardo, from Fate, on Monday at the tribunals in the struggle to defend his rights as a worker. The drive to continue to fight against the bosses and the bureaucracy is more than evident. A great day of worker based union organizing had concluded successfully.