Support Exploited Workers

This Christmas, let's think about those who make our gifts

Largely set-up following free-trade agreements in Mexico and Central America as a whole, multinational assembly plants benefit from cheap labor for textile, electronics and automobile production. Creating jobs in addition to pollution, these factories also consume huge amounts of water and energy. But these maquiladoras are primarily known for their exploitation of (predominantly female) workers.

Upon crossing the doorstep of the factory, one enters a parallel universe where intense exploitation, sexual harassment as a disciplinary measure and the impossibility of forming unions are liberally applied in order to produce high heels, jeans, DVD players or watches, all of which are then shipped back to the United States. "It seems like fiction, but it's not; this is reality, and it's hell," reproaches Ramona Ojeda, maquiladora worker and activist.

Union Hunts

In Honduras and Nicaragua, anti-union laws are becoming more and more draconian, making it difficult for people to freely join unions or even for unions to exist. The annual report on union rights in Central American countries published by the CSI (Centrale syndicale internationale) report dismissals on both a mass and individual scale in order to prevent unions, death threats and harassment of pro-union individuals, work center closings and the circulation of blacklists containing names of pro-union employees.

Outsourcing Environmental Costs

To produce fabric that is both soft and strong, industrial producers make recourse of treatments using formaldehyde, lye, sulfuric acid, bromide and sulfides, compounds that are especially dangerous for worker health and which are cheaper to use in the Global South.

Free-trade agreements have also removed foreign corporations' obligation to return toxic wastes to their home countries for processing, so well that in some factories, these wastes accumulate for years without any repercussions for their owners.

Women experience dangerous and unequal conditions at work

Today the maquiladoras, predominantly in the textile sector, are the principle source of jobs in the region. Seventy-five percent of maquiladora workers are at least 25 years old and 80% are women. Women are subjected to very difficult working conditions and persistent violence, including sexual violence. This flouting of equal rights for Honduran and Nicaraguan women has provoked the worry of experts in the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women of the UN (Comité pour l'élimination de la discrimination à l'égard des femmes des Nations Unies)

 

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Alternatives, in collaboration with the CSN (Confédération des syndicats nationaux), the CSA (la Confédération syndicales de travailleurs des Amériques), the Basque union ELA and the CUT (Centrale Unique des travailleurs du Brésil) have developed since 2010 a support program for two unions in Honduras and Nicaragua with the support of the Québec Ministry of International Relations.

In 2013-14, we seek to improve these organizations' capacity to lodge defense pleas and communicate. Social media and radio emissions will be crucial for defending workers' rights in the maquiladoras of Nicaragua and Honduras.

You too can defend these rights.

Projet(s), campagne(s), stage(s) associés: