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Home | Tag Archives: lexmark workers

Tag Archives: lexmark workers

Opinion: Misery in Chains: NAFTA, the TPP, and Juarez

Individualistic societies. Indifferent men and women. Tired faces, absent looks, rare smiles, no smiles. Childhood depression, a bitter present, and nonexistent future, not even considered. Abandoned women, promiscuity, sadness, hunger… misery.

Misery in chains, that’s what the maquiladora industry in Ciudad Juárez generates.

Poverty and lack of opportunities and education result in this apparent indifference. Nothing represents a triumph, unless it involves a game of football (TRI) or the ruling party (PRI). This is the main reason I think that the party in power can never be defeated.

The poor in Mexico, do not win anything, except for a rare football game…and elections.

My people are worn out, desperate, and lost in their misery. They dreamt that they could bring about a change. They voted for others , who promised change…but they did not keep their promises. For years, my wounded people heard that party’s haughty taunts confronting them with their error, asserting that they had no choice.

The only alternative was to opt for the conquerors, returning their power, to at least have the consolation of having played on the winning side.

So that’s what the people did. They returned with their master and to date, have more than paid for their audacity. The master, set aside without control or power for twelve years, returned rested, haughtly arrogant, starving, and desperate. In three years, the (PRI) party stripped people of everything they would have had in fifteen, according to the law.

Now, after NAFTA, which left 83% of the nation’s farmers without work, the Mexican government is poised to sign the TPP, for the convenience of the powerful countries, who are the only ones that will profit from these trade agreements.

Mexico is a country that allows and develops structures to violate the most basic human and labor rights of Mexicans, especially those hired at the operational level within the twin plant industry.

This industry gradually dropped from being an optional source of remunerative employment to being the only source of employment, with poverty wages that are insufficient to provide workers and their families a decent life, in terms expressed by the Constitution of the United States of Mexico.

Twin plant workers begin their activities at 3:00 pm daily.  From the first moment of the day when their alarm sounds to alert them that their bosses wait for them, they do not have the right to remain in bed five minutes after the alarm, because if they did, they would lose their punctuality bonus.

They get too little sleep to recover from the previous day’s work. A missed day of work leads to the loss of both punctuality and attendance bonuses, as well as a considerable reduction in the weekly savings fund based on a worker’s weekly earnings, that can range from 5 to 13% of one’s usual, meager weekly pay.

This payment system, with one’s income conditional upon one’s perfection, is, of course, not humane. It is constantly threatened.

Foreign investors tell the workers that they now face the devastating consequences for one having dared to oppose the ruling party, their employers will react in the same way, if they are to challenge them to fight for their rights.

Foreign investors, in obvious relationships with the Mexican government warn: “Say no to independent unions defending your rights to improve workers living conditions, or l’ll leave with my money and invest elsewhere in the world. Then, without work options, Mexicans will starve.”

I asked: “How long?” No to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)! Stop the abuse of foreign investors! There must be something better for my people, Mexicans are worth it!”

Furthermore , as we saw two weeks ago, the discussion of the working class presented by the Pope, was the result of hard work, work all of us have invested in. The Press in Cd. Juárez has done nothing to further the discussion, but instead has only spent their efforts trying discredit me.

As we witnessed in the words from the Pope, they have failed. The vast majority of our city’s populace know that our struggle is honorable, but even they do not express it.

We have worked 24 hours a day, in a bi-national project (in an effort to establish an independent union to improve the lives of workers).

Like in the U.S., independent unions can engage in collective bargaining to benefit workers; government controlled unions like the CTM that work in collusion with labor officials favor employers and corporations.

Miguel Juárez, on the US side, was a key to the unification of our border problems. Via his efforts, he managed to capture the attention of the International media, as article after article that listed our demands was published. These articles eventually reached the Pope and he included us in his words in his visit to Juárez–all the while the local press continued their campaign of disinterest and/or slander.

Getting the Pope to listen and include our efforts in his messages was an unprecedented achievement that we are proud of. The government, local newspapers and employers were exhibited internationally. Meanwhile, the precarious labor effort in Cd. Juárez is rumbling.

We just want justice for the working class and better conditions, not for lawyers to win, but for workers and their families. It’s a shame that local groups do not join this fight, but it is a higher victory for the workers resistance in Lexmark. My pride and respect is for them.

The Pope stated in his visit to Juárez that he is in support of Lexmark workers, as expressed through the International press. Thanks to them and to those who made it possible to contact them.

Let’s hope for a fairer Juárez. It has achieved a lot. Let us not take steps back! Now a large committee of El Pasoans made up of activists, students, union members, lawyers, professors, and nurses, have come forward to lend their support.

We must all try to neutralize the intrusion of government in the Lexmark case, and against their flagrant corruption, via the CTM! In favor of independent unions in Mexico!

***

Susana Prieto Terrazas is a labor lawyer with over 25 years of practice in Cd. Juárez, México. She is representing the workers who were fired unjustly by Lexmark. She can be reached at susanaprieto@prodigy.net.mx

For further information, visit the Obrer@Power Facebook group page or Like Obrerxs de la maquila en lucha. You can also visit the workers’ website.

Fired Lexmark workers hold news conference in El Paso; Tales of working conditions, alleged abuse shared

The on-going labor dispute between international printer cartridge manufacturer Lexmark and their workers in Juarez was the subject of a Thursday news conference in El Paso, just miles from the worker’s camp.

Former Lexmark employees and Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the employees, continued their call for justice against the treatment and firings of Lexmark employees during a press conference on held at Cafe Mayapan.

Emotions ran high during the conference, as employees gave detailed accounts of their treatment while working at the factory and the challenges they faced then, and now that they are without work.

Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the former employees of Lexmark talks about the recent wave of firings Lexmark employees endured last week after walking off the factory site. Employees had demanded a raise of 6 pesos a day, and later formed a union. Once unionized the firings began
Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the former employees of Lexmark talks about the recent wave of firings Lexmark employees endured last week after walking off the factory site. Employees had demanded a raise of 6 pesos a day, and later formed a union. Once unionized the firings began

“These women, most of them single mothers, worked up to 14 hours a day,” Terrazas said in Spanish during the Press Conference. “Some of them having to travel 2 hours to work and 2 hours back home ­ leaving them no time with their children. They went through terrible conditions and were terrified to ask for more pay because they were under the impression that they did not have rights, and had to endure mistreatment at work because they did not receive an education.”

Miriam Delgado Hernandez, Paulina Rodriguez and San Juana Perez each talked about their experiences, and nodded along when Terrazas spoke of what she said were injustices at the factory.

“We were given three pairs of gloves to handle the materials each day,” Perez said. “If one of the pairs of gloves tore, you had to keep working with them. Also, because of the chemicals you worked with, some employees would get sick, and in some instances you’d get nose bleeds. Lexmark official would have you examined and each time the test results would come out saying you were ‘fine.”

Other instances of injustice, Rodriguez said, was a new company policy that was enacted which promised employees raises from 112, 114 and 120 pesos a day. However, there was a catch, new employees that were hired were more likely to receive these raises faster, than those who had worked at the factory for several years.

Rodriguez explained that any former skills or experience that employees had gained over the years, was completely wiped out.

“Here are our cards,” Rodriguez said. “For each new skill that we learn or master a hole is punched to show that we are certified in that area.

Miriam Delgado a former Lexmark employee shows off the new cards employees were issued. The new cards indicated that experienced workers had to start from scratch to earn raises.
Miriam Delgado a former Lexmark employee shows off the new cards employees were issued. The new cards indicated that experienced workers had to start from scratch to earn raises.

But then they issued these new cards. And they said that now our old cards and experience was no longer valid. So, in order to get a raise, we had to work with these new cards for 3 months without any infractions.”

But any little thing could be an infraction, Delgado added.

In other instances, employees were docked about half their pay if they missed a day of work for being sick, Delgado said.

“I’m a single mother and I would get paid 664.71 pesos a week if I didn’t miss work,” Delgado said showing her pay stub. “But if I missed a day of work because one of my kids was sick, they would take away close to 300 pesos ­ and pay me 399.55 pesos for the week.”

The dispute amongst workers and Lexmark began in November when workers had asked for a raise of 6 pesos, or about 34 cents a day. They are currently paid 70.1 pesos or about $4.03 a day. In addition raises were being requested for workers who had been with the company for five years or more.

When the increase was denied, according to Terrazas, employees walked off last week with the hope that they would receive a just response from Lexmark. Instead, Terrazas said, they were fired and their annual bonus was withheld.

Delgado said she feared for her life now that her face and name have been mentioned in the media. She added that the former employees are still without work and need assistance.

On Sunday, at noon a posada will be held for the family’s of Lexmark employees outside of the factory in Juarez at 3550 Bulevar Independencia (Independence Boulevard.) Terrazas said donations of children’s toys would be gladly welcome so that the children can have Christmas presents.

On Thursday, the media line for Lexmark’s Corporate Office was not available and an automated message answered, with the option for media to leave a voicemail. A message, from the El Paso Herald Post, requesting an interview was left at 2:30 p.m., MST.

Officials from Lexmark did not immediately return calls for comment.

Author/Photos: Alex Hinojosa

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