Comité Fronterizo
de Obrer@s

CFO

For the labor rights and all human rights of the maquiladora workers

 
   
   
   
Home> CFO in the media 2008-09
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Quaker Witness - an AFSC New Hampshire newsletter
Summer 2008

Labor Rights are Human Rights!
AFSC Delegation Visits US– Mexico Border

By Emina Zlotrg

Eleazar Vázquez, who works for Alcoa in Ciudad Acuña, speaks
with David Lamarre-Vincent.

Grassroots activism for labor rights was the theme of a trip for ten people to Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña in northern Mexico from May 22 to 25. There we were hosted by the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO), the Border Committee of Workers, an organization with which the AFSC has had a long association. The point of the delegation was to learn about working conditions in the maquiladoras, as the
export-oriented factories are known, and to build solidarity with maquiladora workers.

During our three day visit, we toured industrial parks, and met with workers for informal gatherings at their homes to listen to their stories. Many of the workers mentioned hazardous conditions at work. Mateo, who works at Lear welding tracks for car seats, has injured his back, but still continues to work. He also emphasized the lack of ventilation where he works. Another worker described severe stomach problems as a result of unsafe drinking water at work. His employer ignored his health problem and no investigation has been done on the water issue.

Maria Elena Robles explains the cost of living for a typical family.

Also, workers are underpaid. Maria Elena Robles, a CFO organizer, broke down for us household expenses and workers income.

On average, workers spend up to 100% of their income just on household expenses for the most basic items of their “food basket.” Other household expenses, such as school supplies for children, are hard to
afford on the $50 to $60 a week income that is typical for maquiladora workers. We also met with CFO
organizers, who told us about their projects, and we visited the Maguiladora Justicia y Dignidad (see article at right). As an organizer myself, I was impressed with the work they do educating and empowering workers on their rights under the Mexican Labor Law. Mexico’s labor laws are good, but too often they are not enforced.

Ordering T-shirts this year?
Justicia! The Ethical Clothing Label

The Maquiladora Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity & Justice Maquiladora Co.) is a worker-owned ethical clothing manufacturer and wholesaler created and sponsoredby the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO), a Mexican workers’ center.

Dignidad y Justicia, and its Justicia! label, are located in the border city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila,
Mexico. The company was established by and for garment workers forced out of their jobs after
standing up for their rights in maquiladoras owned by large U.S. apparel corporations.

Dignidad y Justicia produces T-shirts, tote bags, and sweatshirts in organic and conventional cotton. The
women, working in two workshops, have been able to pay themselves double the standard wages of the large maquiladoras and determine the terms of their employment.

There are only a few producers of sweat-free, fair trade and green apparel in the world. Dignidad y Justicia is one of them!

For information, visit www.cfomaquiladoras.org.

Roman Vázquez

Likewise, I was impressed with the srength and courage workers showed. Despite a harsh living environment, they are involved with the CFO and act collectively to improve their working conditions. This was evident with the establishment of a workers committee to dialogue with Alcoa, which meets with management on an ongoing basis to discuss issues workers face.

In addition, our delegation spent an extra day in Taylor, Texas visiting the site of Don Hutto Residential Center. Hutto is an “immigrant detention center,” i.e. a prison. Previously, it was a medium-security state prison. The center opened in the summer of 2006 and is specifically designed to hold undocumented non-Mexican immigrant families and children on noncriminal charges while they await asylum or deportation.

Jose Orta, Taylor Texas

Approximately 300 people are held in Hutto. We also had the chance to meet with Jose Orta, a local
activist who gave us background on Hutto and the local community. Detaining undocumented immigrants is only a recent invention and growing. We need immigration reforms and not prison type detention facilities.

Upon returning from Mexico, our delegates have committed ourselves to raise awareness about the labor struggles of the maquiladora workers by organizing events in our communities.

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The AFSC-NH delegation with CFO hosts in Ciudad Acuña.

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Emina Zlotrg is the AFSC-NH Youth Organizer. Other members of the delegation were Maggie Fogarty, Arnie Alpert, David Lamarre-Vincent, Judy Elliott, Riva Pearson,Courtney Westbrook, Jenny Cook , Marissa Denis, and Elizabeth Bain. The delegation was coordinated by Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, a project of the AFSC office in Austin.

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www.cfomaquiladoras.org is produced in cooperation with the
Mexico-U.S Border Program
of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO)
Monterrey #1103, Col. Las Fuentes
Piedras Negras, Coahuila
C.P. 26010, México