Real estate gifted to the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) by the federal government is only benefiting the union leadership when it rightfully belongs to all unionized workers, claim dissident members.
Since the 2009 dissolution of the state-owned energy company Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC), the government has given the SME at least 17 properties as “gifts” to use as power generation businesses and thus provide employment to former employees of the defunct LyFC.
However, other kinds of businesses, including parking lots, mechanics’ workshops and storage facilities, are located on some of the properties, the newspaper Milenio confirmed. In the Mexico City borough of Azcapotzalco, the SME last year opened a massive neon sign factory that extends across five lots that the government gave to the union.
But dissident SME members say the rank and file have seen no benefits from the arrangement.
They claim that secretary general Martín Esparza and other leaders have made huge profits from the businesses without passing any financial benefit on to the 44,000 workers.
They are calling for the removal of Esparza, who has led the union since 2005, and are also considering filing a criminal complaint against him for corruption. Some union members have declared a hunger strike outside the National Palace in Mexico City to protest against his alleged wrongdoings.
“The electrical union has no end of properties and buildings. They were given to the SME because there were corrupt agreements, obviously with [former president] Felipe Calderón and then with [his successor] Enrique Peña Nieto,” said dissident leader Ramón Ramírez.
“All the union’s land and buildings are property of the current 44,000 workers because they were purchased and built with the union dues of all those who worked in Luz y Fuerza del Centro since 1914. [The properties] belong to everyone, not to Martín Esparza nor to [just] the 16,000 workers he says he represents . . .” he added.
Ramírez claimed that Esparza and other union leaders close to him are also the sole beneficiaries of revenue generated by other properties owned by the SME, such as sports centers inherited from the LyFC in Mexico City, México state, Morelos and Puebla.
The operation for their own personal gain of properties collectively worth an estimated 20 billion pesos has allowed union leaders to pocket some 30 million pesos (US $1.6 million) in profits that belong to all union members, dissidents claim.
“In each [former LyFC] division, there is at least one sports center where [the SME leadership] is renting out swimming pools [and sports] courts,” he said, adding that the centers are also made available for “gastronomy events, cock fights” and a range of other purposes.
“Esparza is making huge profits by renting out and running these properties that belong to all union members,” Ramírez said.
“The biggest sports center is in [the Mexico City neighborhood of] Villa Coapa. The property is enormous. They’re renting part of it to a bus station; they rent out the courts, the swimming pools, the multi-purpose rooms for parties. They rent out everything, they exploit all the properties and sadly no resources reach the union members,” he said.
Ramírez claimed that Esparza knows that his days as union leader are numbered and is therefore not putting any of his ill-gotten gains back into SME-owned businesses and properties.
“Esparza knows that he’s done for, that at any moment he’ll fall so he hasn’t wanted to re-invest the millions that he’s collected . . .”
Source: Milenio (sp)