More about the CFO and NAFTA
"David: If that's the case, do you think that there is any form of labor protection that can be incorporated into agreements like NAFTA that would guarantee workers rights, or do you think that workers have to guarantee their labor rights in some other way?
Julia: I think both possibilities are true. It can be if there is a renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement. The possibility of actual effective obligatory means of enforcing workers' rights and holding transnational corporations accountable to complying with the law would be a helpful possibility for workers. That's what is necessary for trade agreements. At the same time, even if you have such trade agreements, the organizing of workers at the grassroots level, informing workers' organizations is vital. Otherwise, we can't enforce these rights that are recognized by the trade agreements." Read the complete interview.
Francis in Miami: “Free trade was supposed to benefit everybody.”
Francisca Acuña Hernández (Francis) represented the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (Border Workers’ Committee)* and the working women of Delphi Corp. at the Miami forum that accompanied the Nov.2003 ministerial meeting regarding the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). America@work, the magazine of the AFL-CIO, as well as the issue page on Trade in the Americas of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), both reported Francis’s comments at the Global Workers Forum.Below, read what Francis had to say when she came home from Miami.
“In Miami they asked us why we were demonstrating against the FTAA. I said that free trade was supposed to benefit everybody. It’s been quite a while now, and the reality is that we are poorer than we were before. We working people used to earn good wages, but now they’re falling. Working conditions are not like they were before. You used to become permanent after working for a month. Now, they’re giving us month-to-month contracts, so that we can never earn seniority or health benefits.* Our other benefits are also disappearing.
With FTAA we’ll be even worse off. The factories are already leaving. We’ll be left without any employers – Mexican or American. In the cities our jobs are disappearing, and there’s no work in the countryside, either. Nobody cares about working people – it’s only about what’s advantageous for the owners. None of the benefits of free trade have materialized for us – in jobs, in wages, or anywhere else."
"At the border, we’ve had 38 years of experience with the maquiladoras
“NAFTA Is Taking Us Backward”
Ten years after the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) went into effect, fifty CFO members came together to discuss how this agreement has affected working people over the past ten years. They shared their thoughts at a session of the CFO’s annual meeting, which took place in November 2003 in Reynosa in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The session began with an exercise that asked each participant to reflect individually for five minutes and then write on a sheet of paper where they were ten years ago and how much they earned at that time. Participants were also asked to assess whether they were better off then or now.
Some of the comments shared during this activity are noted below:
CFO in the News:
In early 2004, the newspapers Zócalo and Vanguardia, both published in the state of Coahuila, ran stories entitled “No Gains for Working People” and “Free Trade Harms Workers,” with similar versions of an interview with Julia about NAFTA’s tenth anniversary. We also helped two U.S. newspapers talk with women working in the maquiladoras. In November 2003, the Miami Herald ran NAFTA Revisited. In December, The New York Times published Free Trade Accord at 10: Growing Pains Are Clear.
The CFO Responds to NAFTA
In October 1998, we held a workshop for maquiladora workers on NAFTA. In the first part of this two-day workshop, we heard presentations by activists with the Free Trade Action Network in Mexico City and the Mexico-US Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Next, the 25 participants formed small groups to think through their views on NAFTA.
Their main conclusions were:
The CFO believes it is necessary to fight to stop free trade agreements and economic globalization when they affect workers negatively. As a grassroots workers organization on the Mexico-U.S. border, we intend:
Another result of this workshop was the publication in October of 1999 of a CFO report Six Years of NAFTA: A View from Inside the Maquiladoras, made in collaboration with AFSC.
Women of the CFO Speak on Free Trade
We’ve been invited to speak at many public forums, including several focusing on how free trade has affected maquiladora workers, as well as their families and communities.
In addition to Francis’s participation in the Miami forum, Tere Polo was part of a speaking tour on FTAA in Oregon in February 2003; Ana Maria Hernández traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago in October 2002; and Julia debated several men involved in the negotiations for the FTAA at a form in the Law School at the University of Denver in March 2001. See also:
www.cfomaquiladoras.org is produced in cooperation with the
Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO)