The Maquiladora Workers of Juarez Create Independent Unions

By David Bacon              The Nation, web edition, 11/20/15

Rosario Acosta and other mothers march behind the banner of the group they organized:  “Nuestras Hija de Regreso a Casa” – “May Our Daughters Come Home”

Torreon, Coahuila  11/15/02 Rosario Acosta (l) and other mothers of women murdered and disappeared in Juarez, march in Torreon to call on Mexican authorities to investigate the cases.

Torreon, Coahuila 11/15/02
Rosario Acosta (l) and other mothers of women murdered and disappeared in Juarez, march in Torreon to call on Mexican authorities to investigate the cases.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, CHIHUAHUA — After more than a decade of silence, maquiladora workers in Ciudad Juarez have found their voice.  The city, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, is now the center of a growing rebellion of laborers in the border factories.  At the gates to four plants, including a huge 5000-worker Foxconn complex, they have set up encampments, or “plantons,” demanding recognition of independent unions, and protesting firings and reprisals.

“We just got so tired of the insults, the bad treatment and low wages, that we woke up,” explains Carlos Serrano, a leader of the revolt at Foxconn’s Scientific Atlanta facility.  “We don’t really know what’s going to happen now, and we’re facing companies that are very powerful and have a lot of money.  But what’s clear is that we are going to continue.  We’re not going to stop.”

The Juarez protests come just as Congress gets ready to debate a new trade treaty, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which opponents charge will reproduce the same devastation Mexican workers experienced as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Critics charge NAFTA cemented into place a regime of low wages, labor violations and violence on the border after it took effect in 1994.  Today, economic pressure has become so extreme that Juarez’ workers feel they have no choice but to risk their jobs in hope of change.

Ali Lopez, a single mother at the planton outside the ADC CommScope factory, describes grinding poverty. “The only way a single mother can survive here is with help from family or friends,” she says.  Lopez has two daughters, one 13 and one 6 years old.  “I can’t spend any time with them because I’m always working.  When I leave in the morning, I leave food for the older one to warm up for lunch.  Childcare would cost 200 pesos a week or more, so I can’t afford it.” Continue reading

Chat with AFL-CIO Leadership and Reps. Linda Sánchez and Donna Edwards About Lifting Up Women’s Voices

Chat with AFL-CIO Leadership and Reps. Linda Sanchez and Donna Edwards about Lifting Up Women's Voices

Leaders of the labor movement are looking at how to create a re-energized movement that’s even more relevant to working people’s lives—and we need your advice. When it comes to making a difference for women today, what’s working and what do we need to change? What are the most important issues for working women? How can we make the biggest impact on those issues? How can we swell the ranks of women leaders—and why does it matter?

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker and Reps. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) are leading an online discussion on how we can make our movement all it can be for working women, as the AFL-CIO continues its crucial conversation about the future of working people and of unions.

They will be moderating the online discussion on Wednesday, July 31, from 1–2 p.m. EDT. Please join the conversation at and encourage others to participate. We need broad and diverse voices to help shape the future of working people.

Thank you for helping us convene a robust discussion on this important topic, and please add your voice:

Jackie Tortora is web editor for the AFL-CIO Now blog where this post first appeared.

Union Jane

By Jake Blumgart

The best thing women could do to counteract pay inequality might be to join a union.

Union members marched to the White House and encouraged Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to secure workers’ rights. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act justly received a lot of media attention in January, briefly refocusing our national attention on the gender discrepancies that still haunt our workplaces. But now that the issue has faded from the national conciseness, women are still paid less than their male counterparts (just 78 cents to the dollar). Women are disproportionately represented in low-paying jobs. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers and approximately 90 percent jobholders that earn $15,000 a year are women, according to labor studies professor Dorothy Cobble.

Unions are essential to redressing these disparities, particularly for those working low-paid jobs and supporting families. Unionization assuages one of the most flagrant inequalities between the sexes, unequal pay. According to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), unionized women earn $2 more per hour than their non-affiliated counterparts. And in low-wage occupations, the benefits are even greater: “In the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members earned 14 percent more than those workers who were not in unions,” the study said. For these women, unionization and the benefits it brings can make a big difference.

Continue reading