Current relationship between the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico, CTM) and the government; CTM's methods and tactics (2002 - 2006) [MEX101809.E]


According to the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico, CTM), the CTM is the largest labour organization in Mexico, comprising 2,810 business unions and a total of 533,400 members (n.d.). The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) corroborates this information, stating that with roughly six hundred thousand members, or "about one-third of the country's organised workforce," the CTM is the country's main labour federation (24 Mar. 2005). However, an article in La Jornada states that, according to the federal Secretary of Labour and Social Planning (Secretaria del Trabajo y Prevision Social, STPS), the CTM consists of 311 unions with a membership of 429,102 individuals (La Jornada 12 Dec. 2004). Furthermore, the article points out that STPS figures show a decline in CTM membership since the organization's establishment in 1936 (ibid.).

Relationship with government

Although the CTM has long been affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institicional, PRI) and continues to support the PRI, President Vicente Fox and his National Action Party (Partido Accion Nacional, PAN) were able to build a working relationship with the CTM after the 2000 elections (NACLA 1 July 2005; Mexican Labor News & Analysis Jan. 2006). While before the 2000 elections the former CTM leader Leonardo Rodriguez Alcaine called for widespread labour strikes if PAN presidential candidate Fox were elected, once Fox was voted in, Alcaine changed strategies and offered to collaborate with the new government (The Miami Herald 11 Aug. 2005). The introduction of Joaquin Gamboa Pascoe as the new CTM leader in August 2005 did not alter this strategy and the CTM maintained its working relationship with the ruling PAN (Mexican Labor News & Analysis Aug. 2005), while simultaneously pledging full support to the PRI for the 2006 elections (Mexidata 15 Aug. 2005). According to Mexican Labor News & Analysis,

The CTM continues to have a future in Mexico because it has the support of the government and of the two conservative political parties, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with which it is formally allied and the National Action Party (PAN) which with it formed a pragmatic alliance during the Fox presidency (Aug. 2005).

Information regarding the current relationship with incoming President elect Felipe Calderon of the PAN, who is to take power on 1 December 2006 (US 5 Oct. 2006), could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

CTM methods and tactics

With regard to the CTM's methods and tactics, various sources have reported that the CTM is a "corporatist" union led by "corrupt" leaders who generally limit labour disputes and strikes, collude with employers, restrict wage increases and stifle independent labour movements (Mexican Labor News & Analysis Aug. 2005; The Miami Herald 11 Aug. 2005). An International Metalworkers' Federation report on Mexico's unions notes that corporatist unions like the CTM have a "virtual monopoly of representation and an authoritarian control of their members" (2006, 6). In 2005, Dan La Botz, an academic expert of Mexico's labour movement, also noted that large labour unions such as the CTM have been more interested in maintaining their political and economic power instead of defending their own members (Monthly Review June 2005). However, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, large national unions such as the CTM are increasingly using their political influence to "pressure companies to improve working conditions and raise salaries for their members" (24 Mar. 2005).

In its 2006 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) reports that only a very small percentage of strikes that are called ever proceed due to the "complexity of the mechanisms for calling a strike and the workers' lack of confidence that the State will fulfil its obligation to defend the right to strike." The EIU corroborates the fact that very few strikes occur in Mexico (24 Mar. 2005). In Mexico, the Federal Labour Conciliation and Arbitration Board (Junta Federal de Conciliacion y Arbitraje, JFCA) has the final say on whether a strike is legal or illegal (EIU 24 Mar. 2005). If a strike is deemed legal, "management can neither enter the premises nor hire replacements," and business is discontinued until the labour dispute is resolved (ibid.). If a strike is declared illegal, workers have 24 hours to return to work or be dismissed (ibid.).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, however, notes that while few legal strikes transpired, unofficial work stoppages were common (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 6.b). The following is a partial list drawn from Mexican news sources of labour actions organized by CTM-affiliated workers. In November 2005, truck drivers affiliated with the CTM and the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Campesinos (Confederacion Revoluncionaria de Obreros y Campesinos, CROC) reportedly blocked principal roads in Tlaxcala city centre, in the state of Tlaxcala, to protest the allocation of transportation contracts to a construction company (Agencia Mexicana de Noticias 7 Nov. 2005). Also in November 2005, about 150 members of the CTM-affiliated Union of Transport Truck Drivers (Sindicato Unico de Choferes de Camiones Materialistas) used their trucks to block a construction site near the Huacapa River in Chilpancingo, Guerrero (ibid. 16 Nov. 2005). The protestors reportedly objected to the fact that the construction company used labour from elsewhere; in this case, from its acquaintances in Acapulco (ibid.). In July 2006, in the municipality of Ixtapaluca in the state of Mexico, more than 500 CTM members blocked the Mexico-Puebla federal highway for two hours to demand payment for public works employees (El Universal 6 July 2006). According to information provided by El Universal, the CTM finance secretary claimed that the mayor of Ixtapaluca owed CTM employees four months salary for water distribution and garbage collection (ibid.). In September 2006, El Universal reported that about 300 employees affiliated with the CTM and the CROC, armed with sticks and stones, blocked the entrance of a city garden project to protest their exclusion from the development (28 Sept. 2006). CTM and CROC leaders complained that the work project would only benefit the Workers and Farmers Confederation (Confederacion de Trabajadores y Campesinos, CTC) and called for the expulsion of CTC employees from the project (El Universal 28 Sept. 2006).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agencia Mexicana de Noticias (NOTIMEX) [Mexico City, in Spanish]. 16 November 2005. "Impiden en Chilpancingo constructores iniciar obra de encauzamiento." (Factiva)

_____. 7 November 2005. "Acusan a Gobierno de Tlaxcala de traficar contratos de obra publica." (Factiva)

Confederacion de Trabajadores de Mexico (CTM). N.d. "¿Quienes somos?" [Accessed 4 Oct. 2006]

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 24 March 2005. "Mexico Risk: Labour Market Risk." (Factiva)

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). 2006. Mexico: Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights (2006). [Accessed 5 Oct. 2006]

International Metalworkers' Federation. 2006. Problems of Unionisation in Mexico: Current Situation and Approaches from a Trade Union Perspective. [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

La Jornada [Mexico City, in Spanish]. 12 December 2004. Daniela Pastrana. "La CTM: ¿Mas viva que nunca?" [Accessed 4 Oct. 2006]

Mexican Labor News & Analysis [Cincinnati]. January 2006. Vol. 11, No. 1. Dan La Botz. "Mexican Labor Year in Review: 2005." [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

_____. August 2005. Vol. 10, No. 8. "CTM Leader Rodriguez Alcaine Dies, Gamboa Pascoe Elected." [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

Mexidata [San Diego]. 15 August 2005. Enrique Andrade Gonzalez. "Mexico's PRI to Elect its Presidential Candidate." [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

The Miami Herald. 11 August 2005. Jonathan Clark. "Rodriguez Alcaine Served System, Not Workers." (Geocities Web site) [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

Monthly Review [New York]. June 2005. Vol., No.2. Dan La Botz. "Mexico's Labor Movement in Transition." [Accessed 10 Oct. 2006]

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). 1 July 2005. Vol. 39, Issue 1. Dan La Botz and Robin Alexander. "The Escalating Struggles Over Mexico's Labor Law." (Factiva)

United States (US). 5 October 2006. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Mexico." The World Factbook. [Accessed 17 Oct. 2006]

_____. 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Mexico." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005. [Accessed 17 Oct. 2006]

El Universal [Mexico City, in Spanish]. 28 September 2006. Emilio Fernandez. "Tres sindicatos se disputan las obras de Ciudad Jardin." [Accessed 4 Oct. 2006]

_____. 6 July 2006. Emilio Fernandez. "Transportistas de la CTM protestan por falta de pago." [Accessed 4 Oct. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI); Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch (HRW); International Relations Center, Americas Program; Latin American Regional Reports: Mexico & NAFTA; Mexico Solidarity Network; Resource Center for the Americas; United States Department of State; U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project (U.S./LEAP); El Universal [Mexico City]; World News Connection (WNC).

Associated documents