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Wednesday , November 14 2018
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Multi-city protests for Juarez’s Lexmark Workers set for Wedensday

Nearly a month after being fired for asking for raises, workers at the Lexmark Plant in Juarez are getting more support from protesters in Kentucky, as well as backing from groups in three other cities.

Organizers say multi-national, simultaneous  protests are planned for El Paso, Mexico City, Juarez and Lexmark’s hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. On their Facebook page, supporters of the Lexmark workers said once they found out about the workers in Juarez, they were “appalled.”

The group adds, ” We are now a few dozen Kentuckians (and growing) who are working in direct solidarity with the workers and organizers in Juarez and El Paso in a coordinated international campaign to achieve justice and collective liberation for all those subjected to Lexmark’s abuses.”

Here in El Paso, a group is scheduled to protest in front of the Mexican Consulate in Downtown; while in Mexico City, protesters will head to the Senate Office of their Chihuahuan representatives. The Juarez protest continues just in front of the Lexmark plant.

The protests have also drawn the attention of the US’s AFL/CIO – the group that oversees the 50-plus unions across America, representing more than 11 million workers nationwide.

In their most recent blog, the group points out that the complaints against Lexmark are not unique to the company and lays out their support for the workers at several other maquiladoras accused of the same abuses against their workers.

The blog entry goes on to state, “The AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with the workers at Commscope, Eaton, Foxconn, Lexmark and all of the maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez. To improve conditions, the labor movement calls for:

  • Companies to end their repressive practices, reinstate the workers who have been fired and negotiate contracts that establish living wages and decent working conditions.
  • The Labor Board to order the reinstatement of workers who have been fired and grant legal registration to the unions that have requested it.
  • Mexico’s federal government to intervene to ensure that events in Ciudad Juárez do not make a mockery of its proposed labor reforms before they are even enacted.
  • The U.S. government, as well as state and local ones, to any review any government purchases from these suppliers that may be using U.S. taxpayer dollars to subsidize violations of labor rights.

After a mid-December news conference, the workers shared their plight with the media, leading to several fundraising efforts being started to support the workers and their families.  In addition to the firings, the workers also had their annual, government-mandated bonus checks withheld.

The fired workers have continued their protest throughout the holiday season, even through the post-Christmas storm that dumped 7″ of snow on the region.  Now, workers are not only hopeful, but re-energized by the increasing pressure from other groups supporting their efforts.

Organizers say the protests are slated to get underway at 2 p.m.

Then on Saturday, January 23rd at 10am at the El Paso Public Library’s Auditorium (Downtown 501 N. Oregon) the public is invited to attend a bi-national panel discussion about the maquiladora workers strike in Ciudad Juárez.

Maquiladora workers, whose wages are as low as $30/week, are organizing against low-wages, unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment and discrimination.

Attorney Susana Prieto Terazzas, representing the workers and Miriam Delgado, maquiladora worker & strike organizer, will join Dr. Oscar Martinez in a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Kathleen Staudt, about the low-wages and poor working conditions in Juárez assembly plants

*Editor’s Note: The article has been corrected to reflect the support in Lexington comes from community members, not from Lexmark workers in Kentucky.

Protests, support grow for fired Lexmark workers in Juarez

Hundreds of workers at the Lexmark plant in Juarez have been fired after they walked off the job last week, asking for raises, the right to unionize as well as other demands.

According to the Spanish-language website sinembargo the labor dispute started back in early November, after workers asked for a raise of six pesos, or roughly .34 cents a day.

Lexmark, an international company producing printer cartridges, now pays workers a maximum of 70.10 pesos per day, or $4.03 daily.

Workers were looking for an increase of between 114 to 120 pesos (almost $7 dollars a day) as is the norm for employees with five or more years with the company. When the increase was denied, workers decided to file for formation of a union; a move employees say triggered the firings.

In response, some 700 workers held a work stoppage on December 8th, prompting the wave of firings.  Now those fired workers have camped out in front of the plant until their demands are met. In addition to the firings, the workers say their annual bonus – one mandated by the Mexican Government – is also being withheld.

lxmark
Lexmark plant in Juarez / Photo: Lintel.com.mx

Lexmark employee Miriam Delgado – who worked at the plant for five years and seven months – was let go, along with scores of her fellow employees.  “I was fired Wednesday….HR told me my contract was terminated because I violated the code of conduct of the maquila, and (to) please leave the plant…”

In a news release, Lexmark stated that they take “very seriously the values ​​of mutual respect and employee satisfaction.” The release – credited to Leea Haarz, General Manager of Lexmark’s Juarez plant –  went on to say that,  “We embrace individual differences and listen to all voices. We are committed to engage in open and honest conversations with our employees to ensure Lexmark remains a rewarding place to work.”

Now Delgado and fellow workers continue their protest outside the South Juarez plant, taking up residence in a makeshift camp.  Support

Lexmark workers walking out / Photo: Susana Prieto Terrazas
Lexmark workers walking out / Photo: Susana Prieto Terrazas

for the group has not only spread around Mexico,  but here in the United States as well.  Groups on Facebook such as  Obrer@Power seek to not only bring light to the situation, but help the fired employees get through the holiday season.

One of the main supporters of the group, Susana Prieto Terrazas, is using social media to not only inform the world of the situation, but directly organizing efforts to help the employees and their families. Prieto-Terrazas is asking for financial help to make up for the worker’s withheld bonus.

A recent food drive held for the workers, provided enough food for 120 of the fired workers.

Also, the US-based group El Paso Social Justice Education Project released the following statement in mid-November, supporting maquila workers in Juarez.

In recent months, labor demonstrations have been held by maquiladora workers in Juárez. They are demanding better working conditions, a living wage, recognition of their right to form independent unions, a halt to sexual harassment, and legal protection from handling hazardous chemicals among other things. The maquila scene has not changed that much for workers since the city established manufacturing facilities fifty years ago.

Most of the demonstrators are laborers who are not paid sufficient wages to provide their families with enough food, clothing, and schooling, much less giving the families the opportunity to move out of poverty. Both the government and employers consider low wages as a “competitive advantage” that is used to attract foreign business interests. The laborers are caught in an impossible situation.

The workers at the Lexmark plant are not alone in their demands for higher wages. Earlier this year, similar worker’s protest broke out at other Maquilas around Juarez, including  Eaton, Scientific Atlanta, ADC and Taiwanese company Foxconn, which has several plants in the city.

Editor’s note: Article incorrectly identified Lexmark employee Miriam Delgado as working at the plant for 37 years, the correct term of employment was 5 years, 7 months.

Note: Article comprised of translated passages from sinembargo,  several public Facebook groups, as well as other Mexican publications.