LRN Helps Free Mexican Labor Rights Activist
Martin Barrios Hernandez, one of Mexico's leading labor rights activists, won release in January 2006 after a
brief but intense campaign by Labor Rights Now and many human rights groups. Barrios had been held in state prison after a maquiladora factory owner
involved in a workplace dispute claimed blackmail.
Barrios is president of the Mexican Human and Labor Rights Commission in Puebla's Tehuácan Valley. He had assisted workers in a
dispute at the factory of the owner who made the charges.
Lucio Gil Zarate, a maquila owner in Tehuácan, claimed that Barrios blackmailed him with threats to organize protests and strikes in
order to discourage foreign investment.
Barrios and the Mexican Human and Labor Rights Commission have been providing assistance to workers employed at the Calidad de
Confexiones maquila factory, which is owned by Gil.
The Commission helped workers file a complaint before the local Conciliation and Arbitration Board charging Gil's firm with worker
rights violations. Gil signed an agreement on Nov. 10, 2005 to resolve the issues, but the Mexico Human and Labor Rights Commission found he had
failed to do so.
On Nov. 22, 2005, Gil fired all 163 workers who had been part of the original complaint.
"American workers are concerned that the arrest on Dec. 29 (2005) of Martin Barrios Hernandez is part of an ongoing campaign by
maquila owners in the Tehuácan area, such as Mr. Gil, to undermine worker efforts to win better wages and working conditions," Labor Rights Now
President Don Stillman said in a letter to Mario Marin Torres, governor of Puebla.
"Barrios remains imprisoned on these questionable claims by employers with the prospect of a 2-10-year prison term if found guilty,"
Stillman noted at the time.
Labor Rights Now urged the Puebla governor to open an investigation of the misuse of the justice system by maquiladora owners in
Tehuácan who are subverting internationally recognized labor rights.
• ICFTU's Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights in Mexico