In Mexico City, more than half of the 9.4 million people in the labour force work informally, according to 2019 official statistics. WIEGO's Focal City team works with organizations of street and market vendors, recyclers, domestic workers, mariachi musicians, artisans, shoe shiners and more to help them build capacity to advocate for their economic and human rights.
- Data on informal workers: Informal Workers in Mexico: A Statistical Snapshot by José de Jesús Luján Salazar & Joann Vanek. WIEGO Statistical Brief No. 22
In May 2020, the Mexico City government launched a cash transfer program for non-salaried workers (a legal category in Mexico which covers most of the groups WIEGO works with, including shoe shiners, mariachi musicians and others). This government action followed advocacy from WIEGO and non-salaried workers, who also staged a protest out front of city hall.
Although this was a welcome development, there have been several issues with delivery. First, the digital system set up by the city was not adequate for workers to register, so they had to adjust to an in-person system. Next, questions arose about whether the transfer covered those who work in Mexico City but lived outside the city (it didn't). Many activists (including WIEGO) raised doubts about whether or not the amount of the transfer is enough for subsistence.
Tania Espinosa, who coordinates WIEGO's Focal City work in Mexico City, explores these questions and nuances in this article (in Spanish), published in Mejores Empleos. Her insights show that securing commitment to a cash transfer is just a first (and uncertain) step to ensuring workers get the support they need during the immediate crisis.
In Mexico City we are engaging in discussions with allies not only about how to improve the current cash transfer system, but how to develop an advocacy roadmap around a guaranteed minimum income that would outlast the crisis.
In Mexico City, thousands of waste pickers work daily keeping the city clean, collecting waste from residents and recycling reusable materials. This work is essential to maintaining a healthy city, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Los Rifados de la Basura Campaign calls on the public and the authorities take steps to help these waste workers and recognize their contributions.
COVID-19: Lxs trabajadorxs en la economía informal también necesitan medidas de apoyo (Tania Espinosa)
Mexico City with its new, progressive Constitution (which includes the concept of the right to the city and recognizes non-salaried workers as workers), presents unique opportunities to mobilize informal workers in diverse occupations around their needs.
Focal City Work in Mexico City
Since 2017, Focal Cities CDMX has been working with a variety of groups in the city – including research institutions, activists and membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers. The occupational groups WIEGO works with in CDMX include (but are not limited to): street vendors, market vendors, recyclers, domestic workers, mariachi musicians, artisans and shoe shiners. The current work builds on WIEGO's “Voice Project” (2011-13), which aimed to foster dialogue between workers and government officials.
Goals in Mexico City:
- Building capacity of informal workers and their organizations in areas such as: advocacy for policy change, collective bargaining and negotiation, and legal and regulatory frameworks.
- Supporting informal workers and their organizations in the development and dissemination of platforms of demands and/or recommendations on inclusive planning and regulatory frameworks in Mexico City.
- Supporting MBOs to establish and engage in dialogue and negotiations with city and national public officials to promote mutual understanding and to allow workers to provide input on laws, regulations and social policies that directly affect their livelihoods.
Current and Recent Activities
Progress and new resources for the domestic worker movement
Domestic workers in Mexico have secured multiple, historic victories in the past few years, including a Supreme Court ruling making social security protections obligatory for domestic workers in late 2018, and the ratification of C189 in December 2019. Throughout, FC CDMX consulted with SINACTRAHO on how WIEGO can best support the movement in “bringing home” these victories. This led to new resources to promote the affiliation of domestic workers to the social security pilot.
In December 2019, the team held a press conference together with representatives from the Mexico City Human Rights Commission, SINACTRAHO, Hogar Justo Hogar and the Secretary of Labor (STyFE) to launch the resources (see full video of the press conference on Facebook).
The CDMX team also commissioned a case study on the history of the domestic workers’ movement in Mexico, which is now being finalized, and will become a WIEGO resource document. SINACTRAHO hopes the piece will serve as a touchstone for new members of the movement to learn about the movements’ history of organizing and struggle.
A video advertisement, developed together with CACEH, aired on prime time television. It celebrates the accomplishments of the movement and promotes the work.
In November 2019, FC CDMX partnered with partners ILSB, SINACTRAHO, CACEH and Monte de Piedad to host a regional exchange of Latin American domestic workers. Leaders from the region came together to learn from the Mexican experience on social protection.
Public image campaign
WIEGO's Mexico City team and its partners are working with the Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination in Mexico City (COPRED) to conduct a positive image campaign on informal workers. The campaign uses the hashtag #TrabajoInformalEsTrabajo (Informal Work Is Work).
The campaign is a huge step forward in raising public awareness about the contributions of informal workers in Mexico City. It grew out of the 2018 initiative by a cross-sector group of informal worker leaders to develop a platform of demands. After workers took part in a week-long series of activities and workshops, COPRED compiled an updated, more detailed platform for inclusion in Mexico City and worked with Focal City CDMX to create a positive image campaign.
The campaign kicked off with a press conference on May 6, 2019, where the platform was disseminated. Plans include a series of videos, a social media campaign and a photo exhibition to be displayed at COPRED headquarters and potentially at other locations throughout the city. (Photo credit: Lorena Reyes)
Launch of workers’ proposal for a modified regulation on non-salaried work
The Focal City team has been meeting with the mesa of non-salaried workers on a weekly basis for over a year to discuss and revise, article by article, the existing regulation for non-salaried workers (in place since 1975). The team initiated this work (with support from WIEGO’s Law Programme) with the mesa, anticipating that the adoption of a new Constitution would be followed by the development of secondary legislation at the city level to translate Article 10 into law.
In April 2019, the congress of Mexico City announced that they would be opening public consultations to source citizen input on the impending secondary legislation, with the aim to have a legislative proposal ready for a vote in the Mexico City congress in September of this year. Because of ongoing work over the past year, they are ready to participate in the consultative process, with a fully developed proposal. The proposal maintains many aspects of the existing regulation but expands on and modifies it in two significant areas: eliminating discriminatory elements, and extending social protection.
The mesa representatives, accompanied by the FC Mexico City team, presented the proposal to the public during a press conference on April 30. Workers expressed to the government that they are prepared and expecting to be engaged in the consultations. As they explained: “We received the invitation, we did our homework and we are ready to participate."
"Dialogues on Public Space: Informal Work and Mobility"
Held in June 2018, this event created a space for dialogue and discussion between informal workers who perform their activities in the public space and activists of groups of pedestrians and cyclists whose mobility agendas sometimes clash with the right to work in public space. Workers from various occupational groups, such as street-vendors, shoeshiners, organ-grinders, waste pickers and tianguistas (market vendor) met with different groups representing pedestrians and cyclists.
Highlighted Resources & Blogs
- Watch Threat of A New Waste Incinerator in Mexico City Puts Informal Waste Pickers’ Livelihoods at Risk.Tania Espinoza, March 2018.
- Mexico City's Shoe Shiners are not “Visual Contamination:” Design Solutions for a Traditional Occupation in a Changing City. Tania Espinosa and Jenna Harvey, March 2018.
- Domestic Workers are Not "Like Family." Tania Espinosa Sanchez, June 2016.
- Mexico City’s Waste Pickers Gain Support of City’s Human Rights Commission.Tania Espinosa Sanchez, December 2016.
- Pope Francis, the Environment and Waste Pickers. Tania Espinosa Sanchez, December 2015.
- Proposals and demands of workers in informal employment for the new government of Mexico City. WIEGO, May 2018. Also available in Spanish.
WIEGO Publication Series:
- Relating Quality of Employment to Informal Employment, WIEGO Statistical Brief No 15. Carré, Françoise, Rodrigo Negrete and Joann Vanek, Nov. 2016.
- Panorama de la situación de trabajadores y trabajadoras en empleo informal en la Ciudad de México: Recomendaciones para una ciudad más inclusiva. Carmona, Yuleina, Feb. 2019.
Articles on waste pickers in Mexico City written by Focal Cities Coordinator Tania Espinosa (all in Spanish):
- "La Justicia en la Basura," Animal Político. Tania Espinosa, 2016.
- El papa Francisco, el medio ambiente y los pepenadores," WIEGO Blog, 2015.
Videos (Spanish only):
Primer Congreso de Tesistas en Trabajo no Clásico: In March 2019, Tania Espinoza Sánchez, WIEGO's Focal City Co-ordinator for Mexico City, participated in a Seminar on Work and Equality at El Colegio de México (Colmex). Tania's presentation highlighted challenges faced by informal workers in Mexico.
Exposición Trabajadores Invisibles en la CDMX (Invisible Workers Exhibition at the CDMX, video in Spanish): In September 2018, the exhibition "Invisible Workers" opened at el Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia (the Museum of Memory and Tolerance) in Mexico City. This photographic exhibition reveals the precarious working conditions in which the informal waste pickers who clean Mexico City work.
- Injustas condiciones para un trabajo tan importante Barrenderos CDMX