Mexico: Employers or exploiters?

What does the future look like to one million workers in Mexico, where life and labour are cheap, jobs are temporary and salaries low? ?Bleak? is the only answer coming from the maquiladoras — foreign owned industrial plants that assemble parts manufactured abroad. The removal by NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) of trade and investment barriers between the USA, Canada and Mexico has let money flow into the treasuries of multinational corporations; very little of that money goes into the pockets of those who labour. Mexican workers in these units, 70 percent of them women, are hired and fired at will. In the State of Jalisco, more than 100 maquiladoras in the electronics sector employ almost 100,000 such workers at the mercy of their employers. To defend their human rights, Jesuits in Mexico City and Guadalajara have created the Centre for Reflection and Workers? Action (CEREAL, Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral). A team offering legal advice on unions, education, and organisational work helps the Centre to denounce human rights violations, and the workers themselves suggest strategies to help the Centre advance their cause. ?This social work made other young Jesuits enthusiastic,? writes co-ordinator Carlos Rodriguez SJ. ?Now they share with us this mission and the quest for a worker?s spirituality.? In 1994 in Guadalajara, it was young Jesuits in formation who started to work among the labourers through pastoral care and literacy programmes. Today, through the CEREAL, workers organise themselves to help others. [HL30402]