Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Mexico’s National Association of Maquiladora Manufacturers (the employers’ association) has refused to close the maquiladora sweatshops along the U.S. border, in violation of the March 30 decree by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) demanding that all non-essential factories must close — with no firings and full wages paid to home-sheltered workers — to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. The maquiladoras were on the list of non-essential industries.
The maquiladora bosses in Mexico announced that they have to fill orders from U.S. parent corporations and that they have no choice but to fill those orders. Many have opened up a small portion of their production (less than 5% of operations, we are told), to make cloth masks, thus becoming “essential” industries. Workers in some of the plants have exposed this attempt by the bosses to circumvent the federal decree.
The AMLO administration, however, has not clamped down on the maquiladora bosses — any more than it has clamped down on corporations like BerryMex (a subsidiary of Driscoll’s) that refuse to sign collective-bargaining agreements with truly independent unions (as in San Quintin), or who otherwise violate Mexico’s new labor legislation. The workers fired in Matamoros, Tecate (Rockwell) and Silao (GM) for organizing a new union, a right enshrined in Mexico’s new labor law, are the ones left to suffer, as there is no implementation of the new law.
[NAFTA 2.0, just like its predecessor, looks good on paper when it comes to labor rights, but the reality on the ground is altogether different.]
A growing number of workers in the maquiladoras along the entire border have spoken out against the crowded workplace conditions that are the breeding ground for COVID-19, and against the lack of proper protective equipment. Many are being fired just for demanding masks and proper factory cleaning.
On April 9, the local chapter of the Organization of Workers and People (OPT), together with numerous labor and community organizations, announced an April 14 work stoppage in the maquiladoras of Baja California. Workers will be walking out to protest the refusal by management to shut down production, with no firings and workers’ wages paid at 100%. The work stoppage was called in coordination with the Baja California section of the new independent trade union federation, the Nueva Central de Trabajadores, a federation launched by the Mexican Electrical Workers union (SME).
You will find below the press release issued on April 9 — in English.
The struggle of these maquiladora workers is our struggle; after all, U.S. corporations are the ones demanding more production, and more profits, from their affiliates in Mexico, even as hundreds in the border region are dying. We need to demand that Rockwell and all the other maquiladora corporations not fire — or victimize in any other way — workers who walk out on April 14 simply because they don’t want to get infected and possibly die, and they don’t want to spread the virus to their communities.
If any of these workers were to be victimized by the bosses for demanding that their bosses abide by AMLO’s March 30 decree, we will need your help circulating widely a petition to the companies and to the federal and state authorities in Mexico, demanding that the workers be reinstated immediately.
We will keep you posted,
On behalf of the editorial board of The Organizer newspaper