20 Years of Cross Border Solidarity

A History in Photographs
By David Bacon
NACLA Report on the Americas, May 2016
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10714839.2016.1170301

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1993 - Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal.  Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they're voting for the company union or their own independent union.  Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he's voting for.  Company  and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union.  The election was called off halfway through.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1993 – Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal. Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they’re voting for the company union or their own independent union. Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he’s voting for. Company and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union. The election was called off halfway through.

Unions and social movements face a basic question on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border – can they win the battles they face today, especially political ones, without joining their efforts together? Fortunately, this is not an abstract question. Struggles have taken place in maquiladoras for two decades all along the border. Many centers and collectives of workers have come together over those years. Walkouts over unpaid wages, or indemnización, as well as terrible working conditions are still common.

What’s more, local activists still find ways to support these actions through groups like the Collective Ollin Calli in Tijuana and its network of allies across the border in Tijuana, the San Diego Maquiladora Workers Solidarity Network. Other forms of solidarity have been developed through groups the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. And long-term relations have been created between unions like the United Electrical Workers and the Authentic Labor Front, and the United Steel Workers and the Mexican Mineros. More recently, binational support networks have formed for farm workers in Baja California, and workers are actively forming new networks of resistance and solidarity in the plantons outside factories in Ciudad Juárez.

Over the years, support from many U.S. unions and churches, and from unions and labor institutions in Mexico City, has often been critical in helping these collectives survive, especially during the pitched battles to win legal status for independent unions. At other moments, however, the worker groups in the maquiladoras and the cities of the border have had to survive on their own, or with extremely limited resources.

These photographs show both the conditions people on the border are trying to change, and some of the efforts they’ve made to change them, in cooperation with groups in the U.S. There have been many such efforts – this is just a look at some.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1995 - Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women's rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana.  Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women were laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer. The plant manager had organized a “beauty contest” at a company picnic, and ordered women workers to parade in bikinis. Supported by the San Diego Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers, women filed suit in a U.S. Federal court, which surprisingly accepted jurisdiction. The company then gave women severance pay for the loss of their jobs.
See the entire essay and the impressive photos. http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2016/05/twenty-years-of-cross-border-solidarity.html

China Worker Roundtable: A Reminder

by Paul Garver

china in revolt flyer_no text

Chinese workers are continuing a wave of strikes for higher wages and, in some cases, for the right to elect their own local union officers.

At the same time, Hewlett-Packard and Apple have claimed that they are requiring their manufacturing suppliers in China, the largest of which is Foxconn, to correct numerous abuses, including excessive forced overtime, the abuse of student interns, and to promise to allow elections for local union committees.

China labor expert Eli Friedman has forcefully argued in The Jacobin that ultimately the liberation of workers in China can only arise from their self activity. He predicts that as manufacturers build new factories deeper in China’s interior, closer to the villages from which most of the new industrial workers are recruited, those workers are likely to demand greater political rights and social benefits. This would advance their industrial action to a new level of working class consciousness.

Three of the most prominent scholars of Chinese labor from around the world will join Eli Friedman in a roundtable discussion at 4:00 PM on Sunday March 17 at the CUNY Murphy Institute, 25 W 43rd St, 18th floor, Manhattan. The roundtable is moderated by Seth Ackerman of  Jacobin Magazine and is co-sponsored by Talking Union and by Labor Notes.

For more details, please click here. The event is free to the public, and all are welcome.

CHINA IN REVOLT: A Labor-Community Roundtable

by Paul Garver

 

DATE:   Sun. March 17th, 2013

TIME:     4:00 PM – 6: 00 PM

PLACE: Joseph S. Murphy Institute

25 West 43rd Street, 18th floor

New York City

Sponsored by Jacobin Magazine, Labor Notes and Talking Union

With:

·         Eli Friedman, Cornell University

·         Anita Chan, University of Technology-Sydney

·         Chris King-Chi Chan, City University of Hong Kong

·         Elaine Sio-ieng Hui, University of Kassel, and others

Moderated by:

·         Seth Ackerman, Jacobin magazine

 Over the past few years, millions of Chinese workers have been striking for better pay and working conditions – and many have been winning their demands. This activity – especially against a background of labor defeat in the developed world – is both stunning and largely unexplored.  Talking Union has been covering these developments for several years.

This Roundtable will provide an opportunity to learn more about what is happening in China. Professor Eli Friedman will give depth and detail to the strike wave, with particular attention to the question of contemporary trends that will influence the future of Chinese labor politics. (See “China in Revolt” – Jacobin Magazine, Summer 2012 for background.)

Commentary will be provided by several leading China labor scholars, all drawing from extensive research. The discussion is intended for activists, academics and practitioners.