Presentation on theme: "Beatriz Sánchez Díaz, CJM (Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras)"— Presentation transcript:
Beatriz Sánchez Díaz, CJM (Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras)
First of all I would like to thank the Committee of Asian Women for their kind invitation to participate in this event. which is the “crown of the female worker”. My name is Beatriz Sánchez Díaz, I am from Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Reynosa is considered the third city for productivity. One produces and exports to the United States and Canada and to the rest of the world. Reynosa has a strategic position, bordering the East of the US, where the economic development is concentrated.
The industrialization programme called Plantas Gemelas, was established in the border zone in the North of Mexico in 1965 (free trade zone). The workforce consisted 100% of women, who were considered to be weak and docile. Therefore they thought that it would be more easy to break us and violate our rights, as workers and as women. In the 80s all kinds of multinational companies arrived; Ford, GM, Chrysler, Johnson & Johnson, Sony, Zenith, Levis, Nike, Panasonic, taking advantage of the devaluation of our currency. In the 90’s with the free trade agreement between US, Canada and Mexico (NAFTA), the maquilas were used by the transnationals to cover their image.
I started to work in the 90s en the maquiladora, when I was 16 years old; today I already work there for 17 years. Currently 80% of the workforce in the maquilas are women, the majority heads of the family or single mothers. Workdays last 12 hours and the salaries are not enough to cover the basic costs of living. They demand a very high production standard from us and they do not allow us to leave until the production is finished. Because they make us work until late we miss the transport buses and we are victims of violations, disappearances. Various colleagues have been killed.
In my company we make jeans trousers for the brands of among others GAP, Tommy, Aeropstal Levi’s. We do not have a fixed starting time, neither a fixed time to finish and they do not pay when we need to stay. The water available during work is not drinking water. It comes from a tank, the company puts some drops of iodine in it to purify it. The crisis starts to have effect in an overload of work. If someone is fired and not present at the production line we still have to produce the same amount of trousers. In that way the company pays less salary but earns more. Therefore we decided to organize ourselves and we requested the secretariat of labour to make an inspection in the company. They send us away for one week. We started to do the production mapping and to identify what exactly are the brands we are producing for.
A trouser of Levis costs 45 dollars in the shop and I have to produce 400 trousers on daily basis. With the price of one pantalon the company pays me a salary of one week. We realized that either Lajat (the name of the company where I work), and Levis (to which it is subcontracted) both fill their pockets with our sweat and the work that damages our health. Therefore we decided to struggle for what belongs to us.
With the pretext of the crisis and the failing of the market they started to take away the small benefits that we had like bonuses for productivity, punctuality, transport etcetera. But from us they still demanded the same standard of production. We discovered that Lajat had plans to move part of the production and some colleagues to work in another factory of Lajat in a nearby village. They transported them like animals in a trailer with cages. They took them but they had no other way to arrive by themselves. The next day they had to be at the company at 6.00 so that they could take them again. Because we did not have a union that supported us (besides the CTM that is on the side of the company) we decided to form our own autonomous union, democratic and independent. But as the government always oppresses the workers who are organizing themselves, we decided to present a document of our own independent union and at the same time register the coalition of workers of Lajat.
The union of Lajat was the first union with women leaders. The labour authorities neglected us the registration and we applied for a revision. In the meanwhile with the coalition of workers we urged the company to negotiate a convention of 19 points for a commission of the labour authorities. As a reaction the company fired us. We demanded the executives of Levis in the US that they had to respect their codes of good conduct. They came to inspect the company and concluded that we were right and that all our colleagues needed to be installed with compensation of the lost salaries. This was the first result we achieved.
We demanded new trade union elections at the CTM, following the collective contract, but the labour authorities were at the service of the company. A colleague went to the headquarters of Levis in San Francisco to denounce the violations of the company. When he was in the meeting the Lajat company called the police. They entered into the company and they were beating us brutally. Some colleagues had to run and hide in the dining room. They followed us and were spraying tear gas with chilli peppers. Some of my colleagues were pregnant. But we were very united and it was a big error that the company committed because now we could show the corruption of Lajat and the government. By decision of the supreme court of justice they recognized the independent trade union. Still the company of Lajat did not want to accept that and we referred to Levis and their codes of conduct.
All the way from Florida (US) the president of Levis and the Regional Director of Latin America came to negotiate with us; the workers and our people. We demanded them that they would respect our independent union and that they would compensate to all of us, conforming the law of our country. In Mexico, the companies behave like they have impunity and they never pay the workers what they deserve. Lajat told us that they would pay compensations when we would renounce the independent union but we did not accept it. Therefore there was just the alternative left of paying 1 million of dollars for the compensation of the workers and our independent union stayed active. When Lajat wants to open the gates again they have to recongnize and negotiate with our union.
Many companies are closing using the excuse of the crisis and do not comply with the law; firing many people, contaminating the environment and damaging our health. The women always have a double role at the work and at the household. We understand that for these women who are not organized emigration or entering the informal economy could be an option. But you have to be aware of your rights and be conscious of the million dollars that the company is earning because of our work, and that without our work they would have nothing left. We are the ones producing the wealth of the companies and the country, we are the ones in the forefront of the assemblage lines and in the struggle. Therefore we will continue breaking the schemes and organizing ourselves, achieving results, opening new roads and make them respect our rights! THANK YOU!