The Instituto de las Mujers, D.F. or Women's Institute was formed in 1998 as a result of pressure by the women's movement and the international commitments of the Mexican government to improve conditions for women, to eradicate violence, and to promote public policies to provide for equal opportunity, the full exercise of rights, conditions which make the absence of discrimination possible, and equitable participation by women in the social, economic, political, cultural and family arenas.  It is the only organization of its type in Latin America, providing direct services to women including legal and psychological assistance in cases of divorce or domestic violence and group services and trainings to assist women in learning about and exercising their rights.

In July, 2002, the 200 predominantly women workers at the Women's Institute initiated an organizing campaign through the services union which is affiliated with the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT).

They encountered a serious legal barrier when the Mexico City labor board held that it did not have jurisdiction over their case.  However, the union appealed, and in May 2003 won a resounding legal victory, clearly giving workers in their situation (a decentralized local entity which receives funding from both the government and other sources) the right to organize under the protections of part A of Article 123 of the federal labor law, under the jurisdiction of the local labor board.

The local then filed a notice that they were prepared to strike on July 2, in the event that they were not able to agree upon a contract, but agreed upon a postponement in order to participate in the Labor Board's conciliation process.

However, after having participated in five conciliation sessions, on July 28th the workers issued the following press release:


"The women and men who work at the Women's Institute of Mexico City have filed a strike notice with respect to this decentralized institute which is part of the public administration of the Mexico City government, asking that it should sign a collective bargaining agreement.   The strike notice was originally for the 2nd of July, but was postponed due to the conciliation hearings (before the labor board), and is now set for the 7th of August at 10:00 a.m."

"The administration of Inmujeres, D.F. received notice from the Local Conciliation and Arbitration Board on the 23rd of June, as a result of which the two sides have engaged ? since June 25th ? in five conciliation hearings, in which the Negotiations Committee (composed of Angeles Hernández, Yina Méndez, Julia Escalante, Mary Carmen Sánchez, Imelda Camargo, and Angélica Sierra) have brought to the table the good will and proposals of the workers of Inmujeres D.F.

"This consists of a proposal for a collective bargaining agreement which guarantees job stability, bilateral relations, and the recognition of our right to unionize; all of this with the conditions which we actually have at present ? that is to say?with present benefits, such as wages, vacations, days off, bonuses, eight hour day including lunch, maternity leave, sick leave.  In that this should not represent an additional budgetary cost with respect to the 220 workers who are considered part of the work force, and without modifying the actual structure of Inmujeres D.F., the General Director Lic. Luz Beatriz Rosales Esteva committed to requesting the necessary funding from the appropriate authorities.

"Despite the fact that the process of negotiations which we have engaged in has demonstrated the commitment to conduct negotiations to improve and institutionalize the Institute for the benefit of the women of this City, the authorities, represented by the Director General and by the Director of Coordination for the 16 offices of the Institute in each political district, Lic. Claudia Dominguez, have warned that this movement which claims our labor rights puts at risk the longevity of the Institute, since for the Government of this City it is not considered a priority and that it could disappear if it should become a political problem for the leaders of the government.

"For this reason we publicly request that the Head of the Government of Mexico City, Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador reaffirm his commitment to the women of this City, including those who collaborate and contribute so that this government should truly be the "Government of Hope."

"Unique in structure and innovator in Latin America, Inmujeres D.F. was born out of PROMUJER during the administration of Cuautémoc Cárdenas, and was reinforced with the arrival of Rosario Robles as head of Government.

"At the same time there exists a legal framework and international treaties adopted by Mexico which mandate that those who govern this country legislate regarding matters of prevention, sanction and eradication of discrimination and violence against women as well as the promotion, and dissemination which guarantees the free exercise of their rights through the creation of public policies and affirmative actions in favor of women for their full development under conditions of equal opportunity. From this, also, came the creation of Inmujeres Nacional as well as those, which have been established in the interior of the Republic.

"This great accomplishment is the fruit of a struggle of more than 30 years by the feminist movement, the broad movement of women and socially conscious and supportive organizations, and from this stems the importance of its permanence.  Because of this and because most of the women and men who work at InMujeres D.F. participated in this struggle, and consistent with the principles and values which generated its creation, we have made the decision today to reclaim our rights, after more than 4 years after the creation of this organism, together will the possibility that the law provided to us after the approval on the 28th of February, 2002, through which InMujer D.F. was converted from a decentralized entity within the Secretary of Social Development to InMujeres D.F., a Decentralized Organism, located in the Secretary of Government, with autonomy of action and administration, budget, and its own facilities and juridical character.

"The movement since last November has gone through a legal process before the Local Labor Board which first declared that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and turned it over to the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunal which also declared that it lacked jurisdiction, and so it arrived at the Sixth Collegial Tribunal on Work Matters of the First Circuit (Federal Judicial Authority) which under the jurisprudential thesis XXV/98 which can be found at page 122 of Volume VII, of the Judicial Weekly of the Federation and its gazette of April 1998, Ninth session which held that: decentralized organisms of a local character, their labor relations are governed by Part "A" of article 123 of the constitution, pursuant to which it was declared that the Local Board was competent to hear our case.

"This meant that we won the appeal and would be recognized by the Local Board as workers who were members of Local VI  of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Casas Comerciales, Oficinas y Expendios,  Similares y Conexos del DF, whose registration had been issued by the same entity.  Thus, on May 8th our legal representative received notice of our right to file a strike notice in support of our demand for a collective bargaining agreement, recognizing with this: its competence to consider our case, the legality of our union's registration, and our relationship as workers of INMUJERES D.F.

"We have now participated in five conciliation hearings without the authorities of the Institute presenting a counterproposal to that which we presented which contains the minimal conditions which the law requires in order to have job security  and recognition of our rights concerning freedom of association.  What they did present before the Board was a proposal for a Process of Integration and Assertive Communication within INMJUERES DF.   There exists a profound difference with respect to the proposed collective bargaining agreement. Although this contains proposals which were made by the union in the month of November, it also contains situations that the institute itself should resolve within its own institutional framework (operations manuals, procedural manuals, internal rules of INMJUERES DF, etc.), and at no time does it include the principal demand of the movement: job security, better working conditions, benefits, absence of discretion, etc.

"The next hearing will be the 28th of July in the Local Conciliation and Arbitration Board, and we hold out hope despite the fact that the Director has said in the hearings and before personnel at the Institute that she does not have the duty to sign an agreement, nor has she put forward a counter proposal in order to resolve the conflict prior to our strike date.   In the framework of the last hearing we were able to get representatives from the central government, from the departments of oficilia, contraloria and gobierno, to obtain a meeting for us with Lic. Alejandro Encinas, about which the authorities had spread the word that they would also attend, although this had not been negotiated at the conciliation table.

"Certain that our process is totally valid and legal, we denounce the lack of political will with which the authorities have acted.  We know that they intend to push us to the edge of a strike.  We also know that the Local Conciliation and Arbitration Board can "receive the line.

"Similarly, we know of the mechanisms of coercion that the authorities can exert on certain organizations that are in the Program of Financing and Coinvestment of the Instituto de las Mujeres del DF and other parts of the Secretaría de Social Development.

"Nevertheless, we understand the context in which all non-governmental organizations live, both political and financial, and request your solidarity to the extent which is possible, and if you are in the before-mentioned situation, that you do so by staying to the side.   Today we are the women workers whose rights they intend to violate, tomorrow it may be other sisters, irrespective of where they are.

"We appreciate in advance your sisterhood, your attention, and that you follow our process.



TAKE ACTION!  Send a letter to the Mexican government in support of the Sindicato Inmujeres-DF

Letters should be sent to:

Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador

With a copy to: Lic. Luz Rosales Esteva Directora General del Inmujeres-DF and

And a blind copy to: Sindicato Inmujeres-DF

A sample letter is below (English translation follows)

Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Jefe de Gobierno del Distrito Federal

Estimado Lic. López Obrador:

Le escribo acerca de la situación que existe con respeto a Inmujeres-DF. Sabemos que las trabajadoras del Instituto de las Mujeres del Distrito Federal, congruentes con el objetivo del Instituto y dada la importancia de la labor que realizan a favor de las mujeres de la ciudad, se han organizado para mejorar las condiciones de trabajo actuales, formando su asociación sindical para proteger la estabilidad en el trabajo.

Reconocemos la importancia de la creación del Inmujeres-DF en Marzo de 1998, como resultado de los tratados y convenios internacionales firmados por México y de la lucha del movimiento de mujeres. Siendo el único en América Latina que tiene un modelo de atención directa a las mujeres: realizando acciones que mejoren la condición de vida de las mujeres, posibiliten la no discriminación, erradiquen la violencia, y fomenten el ejercicio pleno de todos los derechos de las mujeres y su participación equitativa en los ámbitos social, económico, político, cultural y familiar.

Reconocemos tambien el compromiso con el proyecto del Inmujeres-DF de parte del Gobierno democrático que ha ofrecido mayores expectativas para las mujeres de la Ciudad.

Por esto, pedimos la sensibilidad, congruencia y compromiso, con el Instituto y con las mujeres que trabajan allá para negociar un contrato colectivo con base de respeto y reconocimiento del ejercicio pleno de los derechos laborales.


(put your name and organization, if any, here)


Translation, in case you can't read Spanish:

Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Jefe de Gobierno del Distrito Federal

Dear Lic. López Obrador:

I am writing to you regarding the situation at Inmujeres-DF.We are aware that the women at the Instituto de las Mujeres del Distrito Federal, in accordance with the objectives of the Institute and given the importance of the work that they perform on behalf of women in the city, have organized in order to improve their conditions of work, forming a union in order to protect their job security.

We recognize the importance of the creation of Inmujeres-DF in March of 1998, as a result of the treaties and international conventions signed by Mexico and of the struggle waged by the women?s movement.  It is the only entity in Latin America which has as a model the direct attention to women:  providing services which improve the lives of women, and creating the possibility of an absence of discrimination, eradication of violence and promotion of the full rights of women and their equal participation in the social, economic, political, cultural and family arenas.

We also recognize the commitment to Inmujeres-DF on the part of the democratic Government, which has offered greater hope to women in Mexico City.

Therefore, we ask for the sensitivity, consistency and commitment with the Institute and with the women who work there to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement based on respect and recognition of the full exercise of labor rights. Sincerely,