Border News: Highlights from the 2010 Annual Report of the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (Border Committee of Working Women) or CFO
Unionization Enters Home Stretch in Ciudad AcuĖa: Employees of the US-owned maquiladora factory Arneses y Accesorios continued a unionization effort begun in June 2009 when worker leaders, with support from CFO organizers, formed Local Union 307, affiliated with the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union. The Miners are doing the legal work to formally ask the company to negotiate a contract. By mid-2010 an affiliation campaign had signed up 1,200 rank and file employees, or 25% of the Arneses workforce. They canvassed door-to-door in 59 neighborhoods, conversing with thousand of workers about labor conditions and rights.
The Miners are well known throughout Mexico as an “independent union,” meaning they represent workers rather than employers or government. They have negotiated the largest wage and benefit increases in Mexico. Unionization is an historic step, since until now the power structure, in deals with “corporate unions” and foreign investors, has banned unions of any kind in Ciudad AcuĖa. At an international level, the Miners began a “strategic cooperation” with the US-based United Steel Workers in June of 2010. On December 10, 2010 the two unions formed a joint committee to work toward a single North American organization. Across the border, the USW has, for many years, supported organizing in Arneses y Accesorio, which assembles electronics for the automobile industry. Thus the CFO and the workers of AcuĖa are part of a powerful new internationalism. (See USW 12/10/10 Press Release.)
Dignity & Justice Maquiladora Company Survives Global Recession: The help and collaboration of friends was essential in 2010. The Mexican women’s group Semillas provided funds that allowed D & J members to learn new administrative skills and navigate customs and government red tape so that the collective could export new products in a timely way. The US family-owned company KeepSack visited the D & J in Piedras Negras and ordered 6,068 bags. To fill the order the D & J purchased 3 new sewing machines. The D & J entered a collaboration and met twice with two other women’s collectives, Fuerza Unida of San Antonio and Jolom Mayaetik (Mayan Women Weavers) of Chiapas. Austin Tan Cerca is mediating the collaboration. Though it is a fair trade, woman worker-owned and -operated sewing collective, the D & J is technically structured as a maquiladora, enabling it to export to US markets.
Democratic Practices Infiltrate Reynosa Union: Sofia Morales defends workers’ rights at Infasa. That is why other workers elected her shop steward. However in December of 2009 undemocratic union leaders pushed her out. In January of 2010, outraged rank and file voted her right back in. The buoyant Sofia is part of a group of 8 shop stewards and leaders that the CFO trains in organizing tools and, based on CFO experience, different types of unions in Mexico and what to expect from them.
CFO in the News: The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Relations will feature the CFO and the D&J in a video documentary that demonstrates the importance of investing in women’s development projects. The yet-to-be-released video will portray the CFO and D&J as one of four success stories from around the world… After visiting twice, British journalist Ed Vulliamy decided to include the CFO and stories about the maquiladoras in his new book about border realities, though labor is not a focus. Ferrar Straus & Giroux published Amexica, War Along the Borderland in October 2010… Without CFO help, NY Times reporter Andy Pollack could never have connected with and interviewed plasma donors, who are also maquiladora workers, for his December 5 (2009) story, “Is Money Tainting the Plasma Supply.” Pollack included the opinion that “plasma donations” are “evidence of inadequate factory wages.”