Workers at the 6,000-employee call center company Atento Servicios in Mexico face daily challenges on the job. These mostly young workers make low wages, work long shifts, face high stress demands from callers, and are subjected to yelling, sexual harassment, and other abuses. They are treated like an expendable workforce and are hired and fired at a nearly 80 percent annual turnover rate.
In addition to the workplace conditions, Atento workers face the obstacles from a fraudulent union that holds a protection contract with the company. The protection contract blocks the workers from entering into collective bargaining based on their own interests, provides the fraudulent union with regular payments, and allows the company to suppress wages and conditions without risk of a union dispute. On Oct. 10, 2014, Jose Woldenberg, the leading Mexican expert on electoral processes and former president of the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute, published an article in the national publication Reforma, which was republished by UNI Global Union, about the impacts of protection contracts on workers’ democratic rights and on the conditions at work.
Today, Atento workers are fighting back. After two failed elections in 2011, both thwarted when thugs hired by the ghost union impeded workers who favored the democratic, worker-led union from reaching the polling stations, the Atento workers have filed for a new election. This comes after months of efforts by Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Republic Mexicana (STRM) to urge the Federal District government to guarantee conditions for a fair election. To date, the Federal District authorities have shown some commitment toward ensuring a clean election, but they are receiving pressure from Atento Servicios and the ghost union to disregard the STRM requests.
To help ensure a fair election, the AFL-CIO has joined the Communications Workers of America and UNI Global Union in highlighting the importance of the election, not just for the Atento Servicios workers but for all Mexican workers who seek to participate in their own organizations, and supporting the demands for a fair election, free from intimidation and violence.