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by Paul Hays
Monday, Sep. 03, 2001 at 5:16 AM
1 (800) 708-1392
"Child care is a real issue...in order to earn a subsistence income, says Lilia Reyes, a labor lawyer who works with the Workers Center (Centero Obrero) in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
She notes that single mothers "may have to wait months before they can get a place. There just are'nt enough child care centers."
The MAQUILADORAS are also a leading factor leading to the proliferation of child labor, with children from desperately poor families often using forged birth certificates to begin working in the MAQUILADORAS at 14 or 15 years of age.
Employers, social workers, women's groups and academics all agree that there are significant numbers of children working in the maquiladoras, although there are no concrete figures on the actual number.
One employer speculates that 5 % of maquiladora workers are underage.
Mexican workers who have attempted to organize to address some of these maquiladora-created problems have met with harsh represion. A strong upsurge of labor activity ocurred during the late 1970's among a youthful, militant workforce which joined labor unions, organized strikes and attempted to negotiate contracts for improved wages and benefits.
According to the Mexican Secretary of Commerce, almost 40% of the maquiladora plants produce electronic equipment. Over 80 chemical plants operate on the border including Stephan Chemical of Chicago.
A 191 study of the Matamoros-Reynosa area by Work Environment Program of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell concluded that "the working conditions identified in this study are reminiscent of the 19th century sweatshops of the U.S. industrial town."
The study found 'clear evidence that maquiladora workers are suffering from muscoskeletal disorders related to working conditions, including rapid pace of work, poor workplace design and other ergonomic hazards."
Employers fire and blacklist union activists and other outspoken workers. These practices have gone on for years and continue today. Consequently most maquiladoras are unorganized, and state-controlled unions represent workers in those that are organized. (Exceptions to this are 16 de Octubre, SITEKIM and others).
These unions are of little use in improving conditions for the workers. Some are 'ghost unions', that is unions unknown to the workers. These phantom unions negotiate 'protection contracts' that protect the employers by giving workers contractual wages and conditions inferior to those guarenteed by labor law. Others are what Professor Jorge Carrillo Viveros of the College of the Northern Border in Tijuana calls 'low profile unions' or unions with no presence on the shop floor.
IN April 1993, workers at the BESA plant in Juarez petitioned for the right to form a 'coalition' which under Mexican labor law would give them the right to bargain with their employers. ALL 113 workers who signed the petition were immediately fired, the employer preferring to pay them their severance rather than have a union in the plant.
*One worker, who must remain anonymous, explains that because the labor authorities give the activists' names to the employers, those who sign such coalition petitions are always fired.*
Article written by Dan La Botz. Except for info on 16 de Octubre y el sindicato SITEKIM (Sindicato Textilera Kukdong en Mexico) I think this is the correct translation. I do not have easy access to that answer.
Dedicated to my High School Spanish Teachers.
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