Urgent Letter to Our Readers and Supporters:
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
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April 9, 2020 Press Release
— FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE —
CALL TO DEFEND LABOR RIGHTS, HEALTH AND LIVES OF WORKERS IN BAJA CALIFORNIA (BC)
- To: BC Governor Jaime Bonilla Valdez
- To: BC Secretary of Labor Sergio Moctezuma
- To: Federal Delegate Alejandro Ruiz Uribe
- To: Baja California’s media
- To: maquiladora workers and citizens in general
We are addressing you to demand compliance with the Federal Decree issued on March 30 declaring a State of Health Emergency at the national level, a decree that cannot be evaded or circumvented by any local authority, much less any corporation.
We have seen how, since this decree was issued, corporations in Baja California, mainly maquiladoras, have tried to evade and avoid heeding the decree on the grounds that their company, or their branch of production, is essential, when this is totally false. We assert this fact having seen proof, testimonies, videos and messages from workers all over the state of Baja California.
We issue this cry for help to the pertinent authorities, to demand that they force these companies to comply with the law, and to sanction them — or shut them down — if they continue with this illegal activity. We also call upon the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) to audit employers to see if they are in compliance with NOM-035-STPS-2018.
TO ALL WORKERS WHOSE PRODUCTION IS NOT AN ESSENTIAL ACTIVITY, WE ISSUE THIS MOST ENERGETIC CALL TO STOP WORK COLLECTIVELY UNTIL THE AUTHORITIES COME TO THE CORPORATION AND IMPOSE THE MONITORING AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FEDERAL DECREE REGARDING THE CLOSURE OF NON-ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES.
We will not stand by as the maquiladora companies keep placing the lives of the workers and their families at risk, and through them, the lives of people across all of Baja California. Forcing the workers to go to work in unsafe conditions exposes them — given the unsafe conditions on the job — to the contagion of COVID-19.
We will not stand by while these corporations get away with placing their profits over the lives of their workers.
The atrocities that have been committed these recent days only reveal the true face of the maquiladora corporations, which demonstrate a lack of ethics and commitment to the citizenry, since they are mostly export industries whose owners are based abroad, sheltered in their comfortable and spacious homes. It seems that those who manage the maquiladora industry find themselves in another reality, very different and apart from the reality experienced by Baja Californians who go to work every day.
That is why we, the organizations, unions, collectives and citizens, signatories of this urgent, are issuing this urgent appeal. If the maquiladora corporations are not forced to shut down, these maquiladoras and their parent corporations, along with the state and federal authorities, will be primarily responsible for what happens to the working class and our families in Baja California. If these factories remain open, we hold the Governor and the Secretary of Labor of Baja California responsible for the deaths of workers by omission for the crimes of attempted murder and injury, abuse of authority, bribery and corruption.
- Nueva Central de Trabajadores B.C.
- Nueva Central de Trabajadores – Junta Promotora de Tijuana
- Lic. Alfonso Cortez Ramírez
- Asamblea Popular de TijuanaOPT Mexicali
- — Mexicali, B.C. April 9, 2020
Contact information: Mexicali: 686 323 7519 — firstname.lastname@example.org Tijuana: 664 6167842 — email@example.com — Tecate: 665 393 2677 / 665 129 0296 / firstname.lastname@example.org