Mexican labor rights

Trip Start Nov 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  , Chihuahua,
Monday, January 21, 2008

There's cheap labor aplenty in Juarez, so it was a natural for many assembly plants--or maquilas--to locate here where people will work a 12 hour day for $6. So now 80% of Juarez's population was born somewhere else...migrated here looking for a job. "Employers can take advantage of that," said labor lawyer-activist Victor in a recent visit to his office: Pastoral Obrero. 'Take it or leave it' prevails here--there are no genuine labor unions.

Victor shared lots with us; here are a couple mentionable points:
First, Mexican workers do earn a little pension, but often older people can't keep a job (health, age issues) and when it's time to claim their pension, they haven't worked recently enough to receive it. So Victor's office organized a pinata workshop so that they can finish off their employment history and get that money. We loved the tiny and large pinatas, and bought several for souvenirs.

Secondly, sometimes a maquila will close unexpectedly, often right before payday, leaving the workforce with no job and no final paycheck. This especially happens in December when workers should receive the Christmas bonus that's been deducted from their pay all year [a sort of government-mandated Christmas savings club]. Currently one such set of unlucky workers have surrounded their closed maquila 24/7 in an attempt to claim their legal right to a share of the value of the machinery abandoned there, with Victor's support.

Victor's stories--and his lifework--root for the underdog.
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