Gabriela Gomez: Migration & Culture


The trip to Nogales, Mexico was very interesting. Being a Mexican myself I was born in that country. While growing up we heard stories about how life is much easier and better in the U.S. Well in my opinion I would definitely agree. Life in general is much more pleasant you have the ability to choose where you want to live or which school you might like to attend. You can get a job and you will expect your employer to provide a safe and clean working environment and if that is not provided there are places you may turn to for help. In the city of Nogales, Mexico the maquila employees did not seem to have that safe environment.


While touring the Curtis maquila several of the employees there did not have any type of safety equipment. For example the ones working with loud machinery did not have ear plugs, also others that were working closely with machinery and using their hands they did not have any type of protective gear on their hands. After the tour we had an opportunity to ask several questions to spokesperson Rosario Roldan at the Curtis maquiladora. When one of our group members asked the question of why don’t your employees wear any type of safety gear? Her response was that the employees at that maquiladora Curtis do not like to wear that, even though it is provided to them. I am concerned because this Curtis maquiladora is based in Milwaukee which is in the U.S. as we all know. And I can guarantee that the company in the U.S. makes its employees follow all the safety rules and regulations. And if you compare the maquiladora in Nogales those rules are not being enforced supposedly just because the employees do not like to wear protection. As an employer they ought to be concerned with any safety hazards in any of their manufacturing plants. If any employee in the Milwaukee plant did not follow their rules because he/she did not like to, there is a very good chance that person would be let go because they did not follow the rules. My question to the maquildoras is are Mexicans less of human beings because they work for less? Is this why they do not enforce the safety issues upon workers? Do they not care about their employees in foreign locations? Are they that easily replaced?   I realize that as business the major concern is the companys profit and their bottom line. What about corporate responsibility? Another thing Rosario Roldan said is that employees usually earn approximately $83.00 pesos which is less than $10.00 dollars per nine hour day, It is very hard to believe anyone can sustain a family on that income it just incredible! On the trip we also did a market basket survey were I learned that it takes the maquiladora workers 3 hours of work in order to buy a gallon of milk. It goes to showed you how skewed things are.


 Maria Guadalupe Torres in her article We Are Not Machines she does a great job of describing her woes as maquiladora worker. Maquila workers find themselves in a horrible predicament: they need to provide for their families and they are in this job were they spend their whole day assembling parts for little money and asking permission to go to the bathroom. She also lets the reader know about some of the health risk which some of her fellow maquildora workers are now battling, like carpal tunnel syndrome, and  children being born anencephalic. Torres along with some of her co-workers began organizing to improve their working environment. After much persistence it finally paid off . Their salaries in Matamoros are now higher than in other border cities. They now have a forty hour work week along with security teams. They also have more water treatment equipment so the chemical does not go into the soil. This is a great example of the employees requesting safety issues be looked at, and a wonderful response from the maquiladora to be able to provide them with a solution to the problem.



Laurence Patin in his article, “The sorry Union History Of A Mexican Tech Factor” .It goes into detail about a company in the U.S. named Maxi switch who manufacture keyboards in Mexico for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In Cananea, Mexico  a building of white sheet metal with two small windows is the front and two doors. There were up to a thousand people in this plant for nine hours a day working in sweat-shop like conditions for forty cents a day. This company got rid of their union.  The employees were never notified of this. Wages at Maxi switch were lower than at other maquilas. Workers at Microsistemas, a Cananea maquiladora would get paid “four times more than Maxi Switch”. Former Maxi Switch workers Alicia Perez kept pay slips from the time she began working there which show her daily pay was the minimum  wage at the time 18.30 pesos- or $2.98 at the 1995 exchange rate. One week she worked 48 hours and got &23.00 bonuses and benefits included. The pay is horrible but the working conditions are worse workers complained about a lack of ventilation that caused them to faint, the few cramped buses available to get to the plant, a lunch room with only two tables and one microwave for up to 1000 workers. In August 1995, a group of workers started to form an independent union, with the help of the union of Telephone Workers of Mexico to get better wages and better work environment. When management learned of their intentions they threatened to fire workers who supported the union or even said that Maxi Switch would relocate elsewhere. This statement did not discourage employees, who formed the Union of Maxi Switch workers. and began to look for official recognition before the Sonora Conciliation and Arbitration Board in November of 1995.


On January 23, 1996 The Conciliation and Arbitration Board Denied legal recognition to the union , saying that Maxi Switch already had a signed collective labor contract with a state union , the worker were never informed of this new union and Pere’z pay slips do not show she was paying any union dues. They found out that on September 20, 1995.  A month after their efforts to begin the Maxi Switch Union the company had signed a contract with a union affiliated with the Confederacion de Trabajadores De Mexico, a government union. These ghost unions also know as protection unions are illegal, since Mexican federal labor law clearly states that workers have the right to form their own union to defend their interest. In fact it was also illegal for the Conciliation and Arbitration Board to deny recognition to the workers union on the grounds that the company already had one, since Mexican labor law does not prohibit more than one union in the workplace. It is very hard for Mexican workers to believe in any unions because they are really of no assistance to the members. The employees just see it as another paycheck deduction. And at forty cents a day, can you blame them? A lot of the governmental agencies in Mexico seem a little shady to me. Why wouldn’t an agency like Conciliation and Arbitration help out the workers of Maxi Switch to get a better benefits, wages, and over all work environment. Are people like Conciliation and Arbitration getting kickbacks from companies like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s. I believe if the people of Conciliation and Arbitration are not helping out workers who are looking for some assistance the government should get rid of it a come up a agency that will actually help these employees who are being exploited and mistreated. These unions should be looking out for these maquila workers. These workers work for very little the least a company can do it make sure they have the right work attire and gear, tables to sit during lunch, Proper ventilation, decent benefits, breaks and a safe work place the list can go on and on. My question to the foreign companies operating a maquila in Mexico, Just as you provide a safe environment to the American working in the us U.S. why can you provide  this to our Mexican workers it’s you (the company) only paying them $10.00 a day to work surely you have a some  extra revenues with not paying taxes and all. I know you foreign companies can see it in your profits. Try putting yourself in these peoples’ shoes.





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