Striking Matamoros, Mexico maquiladora worker speaks out


This 23 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

The Maquila Strike in Matamoros Challenges US Multinationals

More than seventy thousand maquila workers in northern Mexico are striking against poverty wages.

By Alex González and Andrea Lobo in Mexico:

“I want the working class, the class that drives society, to fight for a better life”

Matamoros, Mexico maquiladora worker speaks out

24 January 2019

A worker at the Dura Automotive auto parts “maquiladora” in Matamoros, Mexico, who wished to be called “Miguel”, spoke with the World Socialist Web Site about his working conditions, life in Matamoros, and what he thinks of a united struggle by all workers to fight for a better life. He called for workers around the world to follow the “Matamoran model” by rebelling … and organizing an independent struggle through social media.

Miguel works at one of the 3,000 “maquiladora” sweatshops that employ more than one million workers along the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border. Although the maquiladora workers generate billions of dollars in profits for some of the world’s largest corporations, they teeter on the edge of poverty and are brutally exploited …

For 12 days, more than 70,000 workers in Matamoros have courageously been on strike in defiance of … the corporations, who have intimidated and physically assaulted them in an effort to beat them back into submission. But the workers of Matamoros have had enough. They are demanding a 20 percent wage increase, as well as a $1,700 bonus, … and a shorter work week to have more time to spend with their families.

Miguel works 12-hour days, 6 days a week to provide for himself and his wife, who also works at the maquiladora plants. He earns USD $9 dollars a day—or just 75 cents an hour. Miguel wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning and commutes for over an hour to get to his plant.

He reports that there have been serious accidents at the plants due to precarious working conditions. “Many are missing limbs, there have been injured fingers and hands, and even workers’ scalps. There are some plants where female workers’ hair gets tangled in the machines. When workers are injured, they are no longer hired due to having bad health or serious accidents.”

Miguel reports that their long hours at the plants have taken an immense physical and emotional toll. “Our nutrition and health are very poor,” he said. “They exploit us tremendously. Many workers suffer from nutrition problems, they have stomach issues and are not allowed to go to the bathroom.”

Just like their counterparts at multi-billion-dollar corporations like Amazon or UPS, workers who suffer injuries on the job are told by management … to seek other services rather than go to the doctor on the company’s dime. “Companies send us to government hospitals because they don’t want to pay themselves. They send workers to private clinics and avoid their responsibilities towards the workers.”

He described the average morning:

“Union workers arrive at 6:30 a.m. for the first shift,” he said. “The first breaks of the day are at 8:15 a.m. We have just 15 minutes from the time our break starts to the time we have to get back to the production line.”

But this does not include the time it takes to get to the cafeteria and back, let alone get food and also use the restroom. “In reality our break is much shorter,” he said. “We take two minutes to get to the cafeteria and two minutes to get back. That means only have a 10 minute break. Management writes down the time we leave and the time we return to the line. But we’re not robots, we can’t eat in five minutes and be satisfied!”

These sweatshops are set up, with the government’s blessing, as duty- and tariff-free enterprises. This means that the companies are exempt from most local and national taxes. While starving entire states of revenue sources, the companies leave workers reliant on government subsidized medical care and housing.

“Social services are deplorable. If you are sick and go to a government hospital, you can wait one or two months to see a doctor,” said Miguel. “These are serious conditions and many workers have had major problems because they have not had access to medical services on time. We see this in every section of the working class here in Matamoros.”

When asked about the quality of schools, Miguel said: “Education should not be based on whether or not you are a business man. They educate us only to work at maquiladoras or some other workplace. These are giant corporations, like you say, with huge tax breaks that are very profitable for them.”

On top of dangers at the factories, workers face daily risks on the streets getting off work in the early hours of the morning. “In Matamoros, there is rampant violence due to organized crime. Police extort us, transit workers extort us. And then there is the issue of female workers. Women are more vulnerable in these situations. My wife has to walk home at two or three in the morning.”

The conditions in Matamoros are not unique to the city. “These are situations that are not spoken about, but that happen in our town and around the world. Matamoros is not the only place that suffers from these issues. Here in this city it is about making money for the companies, making money for the companies, making money for the companies. You leave your job and the next day it’s back to the same routine.”

WSWS reporters told Miguel about the interest that the Matamoros strike is generating among the international working class.

When reporters asked what he would like to tell workers around the world, he said: “I would like the international working class to rise up against the companies that keep them repressed, tired, that keep them poor to keep having cheap labor at their disposal … At some point in history people will understand the power that they have to fight for their rights. I am very excited to see our people awakening. There are a lot of jobs that are at risk in this city due to our actions, but I think it will be worth it. Something good has to come out of this. This is the rising up of the working class. I invite workers everywhere to fight for what they deserve.”

Miguel’s story powerfully demonstrates the commonalities between workers all over the world who face the same conditions in their workplaces. Contrary to the nationalist poison peddled by the trade unions, Mexican workers are not the enemies of workers in the US, Canada, China, or any other country, but another link in a global chain of exploitation by the same companies.

… workers everywhere are eager to form links with one another internationally. Actions such as the “Day Without Workers” protest in Matamoros that made appeals to their US allies must be broadened and made more conscious and concrete. Workers must understand that their demands—a good paying job, safe working conditions, fully-funded social services, leisure time for culture and entertainment—can only be achieved through an international struggle to expropriate the wealth of the capitalists that control all of society’s resources

This 22 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Matamoros, Mexico, auto workers continue independent, powerful strike

70,000 automobile workers in Matamoros, Mexico, remain on strike in a powerful labor action completely independent of their corrupt union. Government and union officials feign sympathy, but completely ignore that the employers contractually promised raises and bonuses to the workers, then reneged.

By Andre Damon:

The Matamoros auto strike and internet censorship

24 January 2019

The ongoing strike by over 70,000 workers in Matamoros, Mexico has been met with a media blackout by the major print and broadcast outlets. The strike … was organized and continues to be conducted by means of social media.

For over a week, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC, together with every other large English-language media establishment, have failed to report on one of the most important and newsworthy developments of the new year.

The World Socialist Web Site has been the only English-language publication to systematically cover the strike, publishing extensive reporting and interviews on the struggle every day since January 15.

A search for “Matamoros” on Google news, for example, generates a list whose top six articles are from the WSWS, with no other English-language coverage of the strike.

The World Socialist Web Site’s coverage has been widely read—both in English and Spanish—throughout Mexico, in the United States and all over the world. In total, the articles have been viewed 20,000 times, and have consistently been among the most-read pages on the WSWS.

The wide readership for the WSWS’s coverage makes clear that reporting on the strike is not only newsworthy, but popular. Thus, the failure of the entire US media to report on the strike defies innocent explanation. One can only conclude that, at least among the major newspapers and broadcasters, a concerted decision has been taken not to cover the event.

Over the same period, the media was dominated for days by a sensationalistic story posted by Buzzfeed, later disputed, regarding Donald Trump’s business dealings with Russia. Other stories related to the anti-Russia campaign and the special counsel’s investigation of Trump have proliferated, along with the single most widely-covered topic on the evening news: the weather.

The only plausible explanation for the media’s systematic failure to cover the strike is fear that informing the American public about the struggles of Mexican workers will prompt sympathy and solidarity, cutting across the efforts of both factions of the American political establishment to promote national, ethnic and racial divisions.

The unique role of the World Socialist Web Site in covering the strike illuminates the real aims of ongoing efforts to censor the internet, in which the WSWS has been a principal target.

In April 2017, Google announced changes to its search algorithm aimed at promoting “trustworthy” news sources, while demoting “alternative viewpoints” in search results. In subsequent statements, the company made clear that the “trustworthy” news outlets with which it had “partnered” included the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Since that announcement, Google search traffic for the World Socialist Web Site has fallen by over 75 percent. By contrast, search traffic for the New York Times is up by 10 percent, while the Washington Post is up by a staggering 80 percent.

Google made the changes to its algorithms under the fraudulent pretext of fighting what it called “fake news”.

This term is a media construct: a crude attempt to draw an equal sign between news and opinions critical of the government and major media outlets, on the one hand, and false statements, lies and scams, on the other.

Hundreds of articles in the Post, the Times and other news outlets spun a narrative that “Russians” used the internet to promote untrue statements in order to stoke up political opposition and divisions within the United States, with the aim of “undermining our democracy”.

But when the media and political commentators denouncing the phenomenon sought to give examples of “fake news,” they often cited factually accurate, true information. A case in point is WikiLeaks, which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, attempting to explain away her electoral loss in 2016, declared “helped accelerate the phenomenon that eventually came to be known as fake news.”

But despite a torrent of invective against WikiLeaks and its persecuted former editor, Julian Assange, no one has ever lodged a credible accusation that the organization published false documents. WikiLeaks helped expose Clinton’s own corrupt ties to Wall Street banks, the Democratic Party’s attempt to undermine the primary challenge to Clinton from Bernie Sanders, and numerous criminal actions by the US government.

What is called “fake news,” in other words, is true news that powerful forces within the ruling elite do not want the broader population to see.

The campaign to legitimize censorship has targeted oppositional news websites precisely because they allow masses of people to bypass the effective censorship regime perpetuated by the major newspaper and broadcast networks.

In demanding censorship, figures within the ruling elite have demanded a return to the media climate that existed during the Cold War, when a handful of newspapers and broadcasters determined what the population could and could not see.

As Samantha Power, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, put it in a column for the New York Times, “During the Cold War, most Americans received their news and information via mediated platforms. Reporters and editors serving in the role of professional gatekeepers had almost full control over what appeared in the media. A foreign adversary seeking to reach American audiences did not have great options for bypassing these umpires, and Russian dezinformatsia [disinformation] rarely penetrated.”

It is precisely to re-establish such a “mediated” political climate that powerful sections of the state intelligence apparatus, together with the media outlets and technology monopolies, are working to censor the internet.

The internet, and in particular social media, has been a powerful organizing tool for the Matamoros workers, who have organized strikes, rallies, and meetings via Facebook.

It is precisely because of the internet’s vast power for mobilizing popular opposition that it has been targeted for censorship by a despised political establishment fearful of the growth of working class opposition. Social media, as one commentator put it in the New York Times, “may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

As workers enter into struggle in the United States and around the world, they must take up the fight against internet censorship.

6 thoughts on “Striking Matamoros, Mexico maquiladora worker speaks out

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