The latest issue of the OCAW Reporter, publication of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), reports that the union's executive board has voted unanimously to join the Committee for Justice in the Maquiladoras (CJM).
The coalition's work revolves around its major goals: "to pressure U.S. transnational corporations to adopt socially responsible practices within the maquiladora industry, to ensure a safe environment along the U.S./Mexico border, safe work conditions inside the maquila plants and a fair standard of living for the industry's workers.
CJM, founded in 1989, is a broad and diverse tri-national (U.S., Mexico and Canada) coalition of organizations and individuals committed to improving life and conditions in the maquiladora (border factory) free trade zones, established about 25 years ago on the Mexican side of the 2,000- mile-long U.S.-Mexican border.
Enormous problems exist in these areas, caused by wholesale environmental contamination (one observer called it "a 2,000 mile-long Love Canal"); poor health and safety practices; non-existent worker rights; extreme working conditions and abject poverty.
The AFL-CIO warns that with passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) these conditions will now spread to all of Mexico. "A danger of NAFTA is that Mexico will be transformed even more than now into a country of haves and have-nots -- in effect, one giant maquiladora," a recent AFL-CIO report says.
NAFTA will undoubtedly broaden the areas of concern for CJM. As Susan Mika, president of the CJM board of directors, has said, "Our concerns have to go beyond the border regions because the transnationals are going beyond them."
Central to the strategy and activity of CJM is the documentation of abuses and corporate campaigns to pressure U.S. companies operating in Mexico who abuse workers and the environment.
One such campaign involved a maquiladora plant in Matamoros across the border from Brownsville, Texas owned by Stepan Chemicals, a Chicago-based company. CJM helped produce a video, "Stepan Chemical: the Poisoning of a Mexican Community," to document conditions in and around the plant and to tell of the struggle by the community, assisted by CJM, to force the company to correct them.
CJM also publishes resource materials. Among the more recent are: "The Issue is Health," documenting grave health problems along the U.S.-Mexico border; "The Human Face of Work: Human Rights, Democracy and Working Conditions in Mexico;" and "Market Basket Survey," a comparison of the buying power of maquiladora workers in Mexico and UAW assembly workers in GM plants in the United States.
Labor organizations in all three countries form a major component of the coalition. CJM members in the U.S. include the AFL-CIO, Clothing and Textile Workers, Communications Workers, Electrical Workers, Teamsters, Garment Workers, Electronic Workers, Auto Workers, Sheet Metal Workers and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. The Canadian Auto Workers also belong.
U.S. labor representatives on CJM's board of directors are Ed Feigen and Victor Munoz of the AFL-CIO; Jeff Hermanson, ILGWU; Nilda Quintanilla, ACTWU; and John Riojas, Teamsters.
The video can be obtained for $20 from CJM, 3120 W. Ashby, San Antonio, TX 78228 Publications can be ordered through the same address.
We are a tri-national coalition of religious, environmental, labor, Latino and women's organizations that seek to pressure U.S. transnational corporations to adopt socially responsible practices within the maquiladora industry, to ensure a safe environment along the U.S./Mexican border, safe work conditions inside the maquila plants and a fair standard of living for the industry's workers.
A central vehicle for achieving these goals is the establishment of the Maquiladora Standards of Conduct. This document provides a code through which we demand that corporations alleviate critical problems created by the industry.
Our efforts are grounded in supporting worker and community struggles for social, economic and environmental justice in the maquiladora industry. Moreover, by supporting these struggles, we believe our efforts will serve the interests of workers and communities along the U.S./Mexican border.
We dedicate ourselves to democratic process and unity of action, maintaining sensitivity to the diverse representation within our coalition.
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