July 4th Referendum for the Expropriation of the Stefani Ceramic Factory
The Neuquen ceramic workers’ union and those who are pushing for a YES vote on the Cutral Co referendum for the expropriation of Stefani are heading up the final weeks of the campaign.
Rioseco’s Kirchnerist municipal government has refused, until today, to inform the population, through official propaganda, of the referendum that they had convened. They wager on the disinformation of the worker’s cause, while they tend to spend millions of public funds on electoral campaigns for their parties. The head of the Cutral Co deliberating council and Rioseco supporter, Turrado, stated on a local television channel that “voting isn’t obligatory” and that “if half of the register votes don’t turn out then the project won’t pass”. They’re demanding factory workers to double the number of people who voted for them and the major (in the last election). Immediately afterwards he openly confessed that he was against the worker’s proposal. “Those of us who work as government officials are for a NO vote”, arguing that “with nationalization the state will be expected to pay the workers’ salaries”. Apart from lying about the importance of the municipality – given that the fiscal responsibility of nationalization should fall on the province- the Cutral Co Kirchnerist government is trying to make the workers’ proposal look expensive, when, really the state of Neuquen wouldn’t have to pay a dime, because the proposed project is “naitionalization without pay” and without any severance for the leeching bosses. The truth is that the Rioseco Kirchnerist government would rather have the “state spending” go towards subsidizing the owners and bosses, like the proposed increase in payment to the Stefani owners (which, on top of it, have been rejected company owners and were considered insufficient). The Ceramic workers propose nationalization that functions in association with public works, starting with housing that would cover the necessities of thousands of families who live through winters without housing in Neuquen, while the petroleum companies take their earnings for themselves and the state just increased taxes by 25%.
The “Ex-ypfers” (ex- YPF petroleum company workers) are with us
In contrast with the discussion above, the ceramic campaign reaches out into the petroleum population. Last Tuesday 22, the local media attended the press conference along with the Stefani workers and the emblematic “ex-YPFers” commission of Cutral Co.
“Brothers and sisters I’m Miguel Mont. It’s an honor and privilege to be here with you (..) We already have the experience of the privatization of YPF, the layoffs in Cutral Co. and the great puebladas (massive demostrations). This is why we want to say, accompany us in the vote for YES to the expropriation of the Stefani Ceramic factory, so that the workers can maintain their jobs. That is what we came here to support”. His fellow workmate, Humberto Lopez, continued:”Based on the experience that we, the ex-YPFers, had during the struggle in 91, which was and continues to be tragic for everyone, because 18 years ago we were hoping for some kind of agreement so we could get back what was ours. This is why we are calling out to all of the YPFers from Cutral Co to support the Stefani Ceramic workers, so that the same thing doesn’t happen and that on Sunday the 4th we are all at the voting booths.
The solidarity shown for the heroic deeds of the Stefani workers, who have occupied the factory and put it to work, is displayed in the door to door visits, the flyers and painted signs, and in the media activities like a benefit game that was sponsored by the River goalie, “el Chino” Vega native of Cutral Co, which had a local impact and was reflected in the regional media. This Saturday the 26th, there will be a festival in the municipal gymnasium with popular artists, like Ruben Patagonia, who has done numerous solidarity performances with the ceramic workers, and Rally Barrionuevo, who defined himself to the local newspapers as “another one of the workers” in the Stefani struggle.
The teachers will support the YES vote. Will the CTA?
Tens of teachers from Cutral Co, who have been leading strikes for weeks, have signed on as supporters of the YES vote to cover 80 voting booths July 4th. The city municipal union and the Hospital worker delegates also showed their support and disposition with the campaign. The Stefani worker’s struggle has awoken class solidarity from the rank and file; however, the CTA leaders have not provided any answers to meet this level of solidarity and unrest. A ceramic union delegate spoke with the teachers union leaders from ATE and the regional CTA, without getting a public declaration of support, despite the verbal promises, and with only two weeks left until July 4th.
The CTA leaders try to keep their distance from supporting the Stefani workers, who are in a political arm wrestling with the company owners and the government, while they are orientated towards a long electoral campaign as part of a front with Rioseco and Kirchnersim in their support for the Radical, Farizano, for governor. Continuing along this line, to “not feed the confrontation”, the CTA leaders are letting the teachers lose their right to strike, without a struggle, while the provincial public prosecutors already have already charged 20 workers and supporters fpr blocking roads, including the Stefani workers’ lawyer, Natalia Hormazabal. While the state institutions take repressive actions, support for the Stefani workers grows. Furthermore, the declaration for the YES vote on the referendum is part of the preparation to take on even tougher struggles in defense of occupation and worker run factories.