The Struggle of Women in Maquiladoras
Over the years, women have been key participants in the work force, labor unions, and strikes. Recently, women have taken part in organizing the labor in the maquiladoras in Mexico. The duty-free assembly plants located on the U.S./Mexican border, known as maquiladoras, have threatened and abused their workers and repeatedly ignored the labor laws. Women have begun to take a stand and fight for their rights as well as for their fellow workers.
First, it is best to explore the origin and function of the maquiladora in the economy. Mexico's Border Industrialization Program of 1966 first established the maquiladoras. The plants must operate within the framework of Mexican laws, and the Mexican government is free to place restrictions on them. For a U.S. company to be incorporated into Mexico, it must submit detailed information about its products, manufacturing process, expenses, jobs created, and a list of all the necessary equipment. Then the company will receive approval to operate under a maquiladora program and will be issued a permit. Once the maquiladora is operating, the company will transport goods for repair or assembly to Mexico duty-free. Once assembled, the products are exported back to the U.S. with a tax added to the value (Martinez). Some of the companies with maquiladora status include Hyindai, Sony, General Electric, Ford, Zenith, Sara Lee and Wal-Mart (Kourous).
There are many advantages of the maquiladoras, which creates incentive for more companies to join. For the U.S., the foremost advantage is a plethora of low wage employees with high quality skills. Many companies have reported a saving of up to $30,000 per direct labor employee per year (Manufacturing). Also, the border plants offer quick delivery, reduced costs and special tariff treatment. The primary advantage to the Mexican border towns is the vast opening of jobs and opportunity for employment. In addition, the maquiladoras provide a thriving export economy for Mexico.
With all this economic power, it is easy to see why the maquiladoras have continued to grow. Removal of restrictions on non-Mexican ownership of plants in 1972 was important to the expansion of the maquiladora program. We have seen an incline in establishments and employees, especially in recent years. In 1997, there were 1,800 U.S. owned plants that employed half a million workers (Martinez). In one year, the amount of plants grew to almost 4,000 and employed more than one million workers in 1998 (Kourous). The rapid growth of the maquiladoras is astonishing and will most likely continue to rise.
While the U.S. seems to prosper from the addition of maquiladora plants, Mexico has suffered many blows to its economy. As maquiladoras set up in Nogalas, Tijuana, Matamoros, and other small border towns, people flock to these areas seeking jobs. Nogales's Mayor Wencelsao Cota Montoya states that, "Our growth...