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Forum to organize an independent union in the maquiladora industry in Mexicali, Mexico

Please join us Thursday, April 15 at a public forum in San Francisco on the fight to organize an independent union in the maquiladora
(sweatshop, pass-through) industry in Mexicali, Mexico (just across the border from Calexico, Calif.) and to build greater opposition in
the Bay Area to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.

Dear supporters of labor rights:

Please join us Thursday, April 15 at a public forum in San Francisco on the fight to organize an independent union in the maquiladora
(sweatshop, pass-through) industry in Mexicali, Mexico (just across the border from Calexico, Calif.) and to build greater opposition in
the Bay Area to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

The forum will feature a presentation by Prof. Gema Lopez Limon of the University of Baja California in Mexicali. Prof. Lopez Limon is
the main organizer of the Daewoo Workers Support Committee and a leading authority on the maquiladora industry along the Mexico-U.S.
border. Also speaking will be Carleen Pickard, an organizer with the Mexico Program at Global Exchange, who will focus on the fight to
stop the FTAA. (Other speaker on the fight against CAFTA to be announced.)

The forum will be held at 7 p.m. on April 15th the Center for Political Education, 522 Valencia St. (between 16th and 17th Sts.) The forum has been endorsed by the OWC Continuations Committee at the San Francisco Labor Council, the San Francisco chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), GCIU Local 4-N, and
Global Exchange.

For more background information on the struggle of the Daewoo workers in Mexicali, see the two articles below. For more information about
the forum, please call (415) 641-8616.

We look forward to seeing you at the forum on April 15th.

In solidarity,

Alan Benjamin and Ed Rosario
OWC, S.F. Labor Council

Carleen Pickard
Mexico Program
Global Exchange


*********************


ACTION ALERT BY CAMPAIGN FOR LABOR RIGHTS

This information comes to us from the Open World Conference at the
S.F. Labor Council

**Defend Daewoo Maquiladora Workers in Mexicali, Mexico!
**Date: 3/12/2004
contact: ilcinfo (at) earthlink.net

Campaign in Defense of the Daewoo Maquiladora Workers in Mexicali, Mexico

Five workers at the Daewoo Orion de Mexico (DOMEX) maquiladora plant were fired from their jobs last September after they tried to form an
independent union to improve their wages and working conditions.

The five fired workers who took the lead in organizing a genuine union at Daewoo are Juan Carlos Espinoza Bravo (interim general
secretary), Victor Ortega (interim organizing director), Rita Soltero (interim recording secretary), and Rogelio Torres and Alan Lechuga
Moreno of the interim executive board.

The Daewoo maquiladora factory produces TV screens for the U.S. market. It is owned by a Korean multinational corporation. It employs
more than 800 workers. For the past four years, workers have received no wage increases, even though management got numerous raises. The
rate of job injuries has increased dramatically during this period due to speed-up.

Last October, about 40 of these workers formed a union. They submitted their union registration application to the National Reconciliation Board. Soon after, Daewoo management began to harass
the workers who had signed onto the union, taking away bonus points for punctuality, productivity, attendance and loyalty -- which was tantamount to a wage cut of 200 pesos per month, a considerable sum considering their incredibly low wages. When some of the workers protested this abuse, they were fired.

Meanwhile the Reconciliation Board has ignored the Daewoo workers' petition to form a union, even though formally they must announce their decision to certify a new union 60 days after the application is filed.

The Daewoo workers, together with workers in other maquiladora plants in the Mexicali region, have launched a new organization -- the Movement for Freedom and Labor Rights for Workers in the Maquiladora Industry (MOLDELTIM) -- and are calling on the trade union movement in the United States and across the Americas to support their
struggle for independent unions and labor rights. They insist that workers in the maquiladoras must be granted at least the same labor rights as all workers throughout Mexico.

On Thursday, March 11, the Reconciliation Board heard Juan Carlos Espinoza Bravo's claim that he was unjustly fired. Due to the tremendous support and presence of other workers, and the messages of solidarity from around the world, the Board declared the firing a misunderstanding. They said Espinoza could return to work the next
day, which he did, amidst applause of support.

Each of the other fired workers is to be received by the Reconciliation Board over the next month. Write the CEO of Daewoo to insist that the remaining workers, Victor Ortega, Rita Soltero,
Rogelio Torres, and Alan Lechuga Moreno, also be allowed to return to work. The five unjustly fired workers also seek back pay, as they
have now been out of work for seven months, and were blacklisted, preventing them from finding work in other maquiladoras. Though their reinstatement at the factory signals a significant victory, the workers are still struggling to form a union. Write to the Governor of Baja California to urge him to support their efforts and require the company to recognize their union.

Send your letters to:

C. Eugenio Elorduy
Governor, State of Baja California
Mexico
@www.com.mx>

Myung Soo Choi,
Chief Executive Officer
Daewoo Orion de Mexico
<mschoi (at) domex.com.mx>

Please send copies to Humberto Brizuela at <brizuela (at) hotmail.com> and to the OWC Continuations Committee at <ilcinfo (at) earthlink.net>.

The next step in this struggle is an exciting conference to be held in Mexicali, bringing together maquila workers from the region, and
demonstrating support for the Daewoo workers' organizing.

The Open World Conference Continuations Committee, in coordination with the MOLDETIM organizers, is calling on labor officials,
unionists and activists in the United States, Mexico and Canada to participate in a one-day conference in Mexicali on Saturday, April
24, to listen to the testimonies of the fired Daewoo workers and other workers in the maquiladora industry, and to promote a wider solidarity campaign on their behalf.

If you are interested in participating in this conference, contact the Open World Conference at ilcinfo (at) earthlink.net

Thanks, in advance, for your support,

Eddie Rosario and Alan Benjamin,
Co-coordinators,
OWC Continuations Committee


********************


SOVEREIGNTY AND MAQUILADORAS

by Mercedes Gema López Limón
(translation by Dan La Botz)

Where Is the Maquiladora Project Taking Us?

The maquiladora export industry is the cutting edge of "free trade," of the commerce of the globalized world, of the new division of labor, of flexibility in the productive process and deregulation of labor. It is a clear example of de-localization, or the movement of firms of the industrialized countries to the backward countries in order to reduce labor costs.

According to the definition of the Mexican Institute of Statistics (INEGI), "the maquiladora export industry is the ensemble of firms and establishments that are engaged in carrying out some or various of the stages of the productive process, generally of assembly or administration. The maquila's activity involves the transformation, elaboration, and repair of merchandise originating in a foreign country, temporarily imported to be exported later." So, the provider of the maquilas is also the purchaser of the product. (Dabat, 1996)

This is the policy most favored by the government to generate employment, even though the recession in the United States led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. The Baja California Secretary of Economic Development pointed out at the end of 2003, that there were 218,871 workers, or 50,000 less than in previous years; in
Mexicali there are 49,900 (La Crónica 07/03/04) and he confirms that in the last four months employment as increased. Most of the investment capital comes from the United States and Mexico, but there are also investments from Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and others creating about 40 percent of the jobs.

The maquiladora "boom" resulted principally from the low cost of labor, tax exemptions, the creation of infrastructure and services with industrial parks provided by the government. The peak of the maquiladoras took place at the same time as the dismantling of national industry aggravated by the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) which has brought the country to the verge of destruction. With the negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) the entire continent will be a great maqiladora at
the service of the multinational corporations, principally those of
the United States.

The Maquiladora: Beyond National Sovereignty?

Here in Mexico, these corporations enjoy credit, tax exemptions, and government stimulation of production, as well as the possibility of
having policies modified with changes in the market. They have been able to hire "apprentices" paying them less than the minimum wage, and firing workers, without compensation, who are no longer considered "able." They have been able to increase or reduce their personnel, and their hours and weeks of work and wages if the company
requires it. They have in practice modified the Federal Labor Law regarding such policies as absenteeism and firings, and they have reduced their payments to the national Social Security (health system) if they establish a "short week," create "permanent" positions, or give permanent employment after 90 days of work, etc. (Levy and Alcocer, 1983). So, throughout the length and breadth of the country, the maquiladoras are managed as spaces completely foreign to and outside of national sovereignty. One of the defining characteristics of national sovereignty, of course, is the observance and the operation of national laws throughout a country's territory,
in that way to regulate the economic development of the country.

To be more precise, the most common violations of labor legislation are the following:

- The failure to observe the legal work day of eight hours, and the increasingly common practice of 10, 12, or 14 hours of continuous work, and even the obligation to stay and work two shifts when production requires it, at times that the company decides; together with that, the violation of the payment of correct overtime, with the argument that in this way the workers don't have to work on Saturdays.

- Work in the worst conditions of super-exploitation with exhausting speed on the production lines.

- The lowest possible salaries that have no relationship whatsoever to the fabulous profits that the companies make.

- Complete lack of health and safety on the job, and denial of information about dangerous substances being worked with, lack of engineering to protect workers, and not giving workers protective equipment. Frequently there are not health and safety committees, or the committees have been stacked in favor of the employer..

- The practice of sending injured workers to private physicians rather than to Social Security (IMSS-the Mexican Institute of Social Security, the public health system) to avoid having accidents reported and being fined, a practice that militates against the interest of the workers.

- The practice of taking rest breaks or lunch breaks based on the necessities of production.

- In not a few cases, the complete failure of the company to meet its obligations to the Social Security system (IMSS).

- Firings without just cause and without the compensation required by law.

- The complacency of the authorities in the face of the "labor cultures" that are imposed by the employers (above all the Korean employers) which include mistreatment of the employees.

- The hiring of minors of both sexes on conditions similar to those of adults, a practice prohibited by the Federal Labor Law (under the
age of 13) unless with the special exceptions and protections for those 14 and 15 years of age.

- Run-away companies that expose workers to abuse and unemployment since they arrive one day and pick up and leave the next, leaving their workers completely vulnerable.

- The hiring of elderly women and men and people with disabilities into poorer jobs and at wages worse than those of other workers.

- An absenteeism policy based on the rule that if a person misses one day she or he is not allowed to come to work the next day, and sometimes for two or three days.

- The labor authorities' complete bias in favor of the employers.

- The requirement that women workers produce a certificate to prove that they are not pregnant when they apply for work, and to reproduce such proof in order to keep their jobs, together with the firing of
pregnant women.

- The existence of "company unions" at the service of the employer that create "protection contracts" (to protect the employer) which are often signed even before the plant opens and begins to run.

- The prohibition of the right of workers to form unions of their own choosing, and therefore the lack of independent unions that defend the interests of the workers.

All of this which takes place on a daily basis, but completely illegally, is what employers hope to legalize with the "reform" of the Federal Labor Law, part of the reforms that Fox proposes before entering into the FTAA in 2005.

The Case of Daewoo and Those Fired For Attempting to Organize a Union

In the maquiladoars there are no unions, or, if there are, the workers don't know anything about them and they do not serve them. They are hostages of "official" leaders who used to serve the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) government, and who, since 1989, have adapted to the government of the National Action Party
(PAN). [The PAN came to power in Baja California in 1989.]

Article 357 of the Federal Labor Law establishes that: "[W]orkers and employers shall have the right to create unions without previous
authorization" [the sense of the law is that workers can create unions for themselves and employers can create their own chambers of
commerce]. Article 358 notes, "No one can be obliged to organize or join a union." In addition Mexico has since 1950 been a signatory to
Convention 87 of the International Labor Organization which guarantees the right to labor union freedom and protects the right to unionize.

The businessmen who own the maquiladoras have no obstacle to their right to organize. The press announced with great fanfare the names of those involved in the employer organizations and publicizes their activities. But the situation of the workers is altogether different.
There is a long history of the workers' struggle for the right to organize, and of the obstacles that the employers, the authorities and the pro-company union leaders place in their path. The
explanation for this is that the great business of the maquiladoras is based on the deplorable working conditions and the wages (which are between 10 and 20 times less than those paid in the country of origin of these firms), and which multiply the profits by that much.

In September 2003, a group of workers at the Daewoo Orion of Mexico (DOMEX) company organized to establish a union and went to the Labor
Board (JLCA) in order to comply with the law. As soon as the company learned of this, it fired five of the leaders unjustly and without any compensation and created an environment of severe hostility to labor in the factory, threatening the workers and obliging some of them who were on the union list to sign a document repudiating any
association with the union. This policy of terror meant that within a few days the workers no longer had the 20 people needed to form a union. But this is only the first chapter in a history that is still being written. ...

----

Mercedes Gema López Limón
Researcher at Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC)
Email: glopez (at) uabc.mx
 
 


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Re: Forum to organize an independent union in the maquiladora industry in Mexicali, Mexico

hey! the same woman is gonna speak on the ucsc campus at the stevenson event center on april 14 at 8! come support mexican labor rights!
 

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