Comité Fronterizo
de Obrer@s

CFO

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

 
   
   
   
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The Mexico-U.S. Border: Two Nations Meet

Community Relations Report - AFSC
Fall 1988

The countries meet along a 2,000 mile border - the United States and Mexico. They are neighbors ar peace, but long-term tensions are part of their life together.

The U.S. enjoys land which was once part of Mexico, some of it taken during war, the rest purchased. The U.S. is the preeminent economic power in the world. Mexico is facing a deep economic crisis due in large part to its huge foreign debt, the lack of projected oil revenues and the devaluation of the peso. The U.S. and Mexico are a first-world and third-world country, side by side.

AFSC, through the Mexico-U.S. Border Program, works on several major issues which have resulted from the proximity of these very different countries.

Maquiladoras

They work for $2.50 a day, making less than comparable workers in Korea, Hong Kong and Philippines. In order to buy one of their children a pair of shoes, they must spend half a month's wages. The production quotas in their plants are often higher than in the U.S. plants, and there is often no cooling system, no adequate seating, and an alarming array of health hazards.

Who are they? They are workers in the maquiladoras, assembly plants located in Mexico near the U.S. border. Raw materials for U.S. products such as shoes, clothes, auto and electronic parts are shipped across the U.S. border to Mexico where workers, predominately young women, do the labor-intensive assembly work. The assembled pieces are then returned to the U.S. where they are packaged, shipped and stamped "Made in the U.S.A." The companies involved pay only the small wages of the women and are taxed only on those wages; there are no other import taxes.

The AFSC has supported women in the maquiladoras along the border in their efforts to push for better wages and working conditions. In a longterm dispute which was recently settled in court, AFSC helped women in Matamoros, Mexico hold a U.S. company accountable for part of the severance benefits they were owed under Mexican labor law. This victory may serve as a model to other women who are denied benefits owed to them.

In the United States

AFSC is also engaged in helping interpret the situation of the maquiladoras workers and building support for them in the United States. Staff are currently working on a major organizing guide targeted especially to religious, women's and labor communities. The guide reviews the patterns of export of manufacturing jobs from the U.S. and other industrialized countries to the third world, where the new factories rely on the cheap labor of young women. The guide also suggests educational programs and organizing strategies.

Over the past year, momentum has built in the educational efforts of the program, much of it stimulated by two significant newspaper series on maquiladoras - the first in the Des Moins Register and the more recent in the Buffalo News. Both U.S. cities have lost jobs on the maquila plants. The reporters for each paper travelled to the border, met with AFSC staff and workers, and returned to write in-depth series about issues such as U.S. industry flight, labor perspectives, pay and working conditions in the Mexican plants.

Initially, many workers in each U.S. city were angry at Mexican workers for "stealing" their jobs. However, after reading these newspapers accounts, the U.S. workers learned how little the Mexicans had gained from the plant moves. AFSC has distributed both newspaper accounts widely.

As a result, of the Buffalo News series, world medical experts have visited Matamoros in Mexico to study a group of children with severe birth defects. The common link among the children is that their mothers all worked in the same maquila while pregnant, and in each case they were exposed to high levels of PCBs.

AFSC continues to work with newspapers, television, and educational groups to get out critical information about the situation of the maquila workers.

 

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www.cfomaquiladoras.org es producido en colaboración con el
Programa de la Frontera México-Estados Unidos
del Comité de Servicio de los Amigos (AFSC)

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