Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network Newsletter
September 23, 2000
Volume IV, Number 2
Editor & Coordinator: Garrett Brown ("firstname.lastname@example.org")
Webmaster: Heather Block ("email@example.com")
P.O. Box 124, Berkeley, CA 94701-0124
WHO WE ARE
The "Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network" is a volunteer network of 400 occupational health and safety professionals who have placed their names on a resource list to provide information, technical assistance and on-site instruction regarding workplace hazards in the over 4,000 "maquiladora" (foreign-owned assembly) plants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Network members, including industrial hygienists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, occupational physicians and nurses, and health educators among others, are donating their time and expertise to create safer and healthier working conditions for the over one million maquiladora workers employed by primarily U.S.-owned transnational corporations along Mexico's northern border from Matamoros to Tijuana. The Support Network is not designed to generate, nor is it intended to create, business opportunities for private consultants or other for-profit enterprises. On the contrary, Network participants will be donating their time and knowledge pro bono to border area workers and professional associations.
The Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network was launched in October 1993 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). It includes occupational health specialists from Canada, Mexico and the United States who are active in the APHA, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), National Safety Council (NSC) and the 25 local grassroots Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) groups in the U.S. and Canada. The Support Network is continuously seeking more health and safety professionals and activists to join the network, as well as looking for more border community organizations who can make use of the information and technical assistance offered. Please join us!
LETTER FROM THE COORDINATOR - Garrett Brown
The rule of law is in crisis in the maquiladora zones northern Mexico today. Legal efforts of maquila workers to select their own unions and to seek Mexican government enforcement of its own health and safety regulations are being obstructed by local governments and US-based employers in the same fashion that George Wallace once stood in the schoolhouse door to keep out Black students in the segregated American South.
The long-suffering strikers at the Han Young truck chassis plant in Tijuana won the legal registration for their October 16th independent union and have had their efforts to win a new contract upheld by three separate rulings of Mexico's 15th District Federal Court. No matter -- the local authorities (members of President-elect Vincente Fox's PAN party in power in Baja California for a decade) have refused to obey the court orders. The employer, backed by the Tijuana Maquiladora Association, has refused to negotiate. Instead the police have been sent to illegally break the strike at the plant.
The Han Young workers' complaint under the NAFTA labor side agreement about this denial of freedom of association and dangerous workplace safety conditions have been "resolved" by an agreement between the US and Mexican governments to talk about the issues. But at the first forum where these issues were to be talked about -- as a result of the Han Young workers' NAO complaints -- the Han Young workers who attended the gathering were literally beaten, driven from the room and through the hotel lobby and into the parking lot, while Mexican and US Labor Department officials looked on. The meeting continued as if nothing had occurred.
Workers at Breed Technologies' two auto parts plants in Valle Hermoso and Matamoros, Auto Trim and Custom Trim, have been trying for over two years to get the Mexican equivalent of OSHA -- the STPS -- to conduct an inspection of the plant and enforce Mexican regulations against the chemical and ergonomic hazards the workers report have caused widespread health problems. The workers have written detailed letters, citing the appropriate Mexican regulations, and have sent delegations to the distant state capital asking the STPS to do its job. No matter -- if the STPS has conducted any inspections of the plants in response, it will not confirm it and it will not provide the workers with any inspection reports (in violation of Mexican regulations) about identified hazards and corrective actions required by the agency.
The Auto Trim and Custom Trim workers also tried two other Mexican government agencies with jurisdiction in occupational health and safety -- the Social Security Institute (IMSS) and the Department of Health (SSA). No go there either.
So the workers, joined by 25 organizations in Canada, Mexico and the US, and aided by law clinics of two US law schools, filed a health and safety complaint with the US National Administrative Office (NAO) in June. In July workers in the two Mexican plants (Breed's headquarters in is Lakeland, FL) began having a series of intimidating, mandatory plant-wide meetings and police inspections of workers lockers. Families of the workers began receiving threatening visits by carloads of men who would not identify themselves.
Workers at the Duro Bag Manufacturing plant in Rio Bravo, across the river from Pharr, TX, began a strike for recognition of their independent union and improvements in their contract (including health and safety issues) in June. In August, due to pressure within Mexico and from abroad, the state government issued the union its legal registration. The US-based employer has refused to negotiate with the union. The local Maquiladora Association and the government-controlled union have launched a huge media campaign against the NAO complaint, the Duro workers and their supporters in Canada and the US. "Outside agitators" and "destabilizers," as in the case of the civil rights movement in segregated South, are being blamed for "causing all this trouble."
The simple fact of the matter is that workers at Han Young, Auto Trim, Custom Trim, and Duro Bag have a right under Mexican and international laws to select their own union representation, have a right to negotiate improvements in plant conditions (including health and safety), have a right to request Mexican agencies fulfill their legal mandates by enforcing Mexico's health and safety regulations, and they have the right to file complaints under NAFTA if their government fails to meet its responsibilities.
The fact that Mexican governments (local, state and federal) and US-based employers are refusing to comply with court orders, national laws and international agreements shows the true state of the "rule of law" in the maquila zones. It is not a pretty picture.
Network members have, and can continue to make an important contribution to the efforts of maquila workers to improve their lives and the conditions in which they live and work. We can and must continue providing information, training and technical assistance to workers and communities on the border. We can and must respond to request for letters, faxes and emails to government and corporate officials urging them to obey the law and meet their obligations. We can and must work as citizens of our respective countries to push for an "upward harmonization" of workplace health and safety regulations and enforcement. We can and must oppose the efforts of transnational corporations to take advantage of desperate workers willing to work under almost any conditions, and their efforts to play desperate countries and government off of one another in a "race to the bottom."
In addition to the US-Mexico border, there are two other important opportunities for Network members to use their expertise and knowledge.
The Campaign for Labor Rights is looking for professional help to launch a campaign about toxic chemical exposures in Nicaragua's "Free Trade Zone" maquiladoras in Managua. CLR, with other US and Nicaraguan organizations, needs assistance in understanding the workplace exposures and the impact of these on workers and the surrounding communities. See "Networking Notes" below for the details and contact information.
The Sierra Club is looking to reach out to occupational health and safety professionals for its "Work Environment" Committee. The environmental group is seeking to strengthen ties with those concerned about workplace issues and how they are related to community exposures. See "Networking Notes" below for the details and contact information.
JUNE 26-29th JAKARTA TRAINING WITH NGOs AND UNIONS
Thirty-two Indonesian labor and community activists from 14 leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and trade unions participated in a 4-day training on workplace health and safety issues in Jakarta on June 26-29th. The goal of the training was to build the capacity of local groups to identify, evaluate and characterize occupational health and safety hazards and controls in Indonesian workplaces operated by both national and transnational corporations.
The training consisted of three days of classroom activities and a day-long field day evaluating hazards and controls at the 7,800-worker Pratama sports shoe factory in Tangerang, which is operated by a Korean corporation and produces 600,000 pairs of shoes each month for Nike Inc.
The eight NGOs represented at the training included LIPS, SISBIKUM, PMBB, ISJ, YBP, LBH Jakarta, Labor Education Center and APIK, which include labor rights, women's rights, human rights and legal service organizations. The six trade unions represented were PKU, SBJ, ABGTeks, SBSI, SPSI Reformasi and GSBI. The Asian Monitor Resource Center (AMRC) in Hong Kong also sent a staff member to attend the session.
The training was coordinated locally by the LIPS labor information center led by veteran labor activist Fauzi Abdullah. The international training team included Network members Garrett Brown, Diane Bush and Betty Szudy as well as MIT professor Dara O'Rourke and Australian occupational hygienist Melody Kemp (who has lived and worked in Indonesia for many years).
Funding for the health and safety training came from a grant from the MacArthur Foundation with in-kind support from the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley (where Bush and Szudy work), and earlier assistance from the International Labor Rights Fund in Washington, DC.
Interactive, participatory techniques were used to cover topics such as risk mapping, industrial hygiene controls, basic toxicology, chemical safety, reproductive hazards, ergonomics, workplace stress, noise, safety issues like machine guarding, electrical hazards and fire evacuation, workers' legal rights, inspection techniques, as well as popular education techniques to pass along the information.
Training exercises over the first two days included a "hazard hunt" to practice using industrial hygiene equipment, learning about specific chemical hazards by deciphering "Material Safety Data Sheets" and by marking T-shirts with drawings of target organs (liver, lungs, kidneys, etc.) to show the short-term and long-term effects of chemical exposures.
During the plant walk-around on the this day, training participants interviewed workers and supervisors, monitored noise levels, evaluated ergonomic problems, checked electrical wiring, and used smoke tubes to evaluate ventilation systems. On the final day, small groups of participants created hazard or risk maps of the plant and developed written summaries of chemical, physical and social (sexual harassment, production pressures) of the plant.
All training materials were translated into Indonesian and English-speaking instructors had simultaneous translation for their presentation and activities. A written needs assessment and focus-group discussion with future participants preceded the design of the materials and the training.
The participating organizations themselves will decide how they wish to use this and future trainings. Among the options available are applying to become "independent monitors" in one or more of the various monitoring systems evaluating the labor practices of multinational corporations; becoming more informed and skilled "monitors of the monitors;" and/or better integrating health and safety issues into their ongoing national organizing and international solidarity campaigns.
This training was the first time a group of labor activists had been given access to a production plant operating for a US-based multinational for a training exercise. In their evaluations of the training, participants indicated that the hands-on practice in the plant site visit was the "best activity."
Fifteen managers from Pratama (the Korean contractor) and four other Jakarta-area plants producing for Nike took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the field-day exercises. They formed their own inspection group, in addition to three groups of NGO/union participants, which rotated through four departments of the huge shoe factory during the day.
Plans are already in motion for a follow-up training in Jakarta next spring. The schedule may involve a two-day refresher for the June participants followed by another four-day training with a new group of NGO and union representatives, including more participants from outside Jakarta. Some of the first training's participants will become peer trainers and instructors in the follow-up training.
JULY 3rd HONG KONG TRAINING WITH NGOs ACTIVE IN CHINA
Following the Jakarta training, Network Coordinator Garrett Brown and MIT Professor Dara O'Rourke conducted a three-hour health and safety seminar in Hong Kong for 17 staff members and volunteers of organizations doing work in China. Represented at the seminar were the Asian Monitor Resource Center, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, and the Association of the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims. The training, held in the offices of the Christian Industrial Committee, covered basic occupational health and safety issues as well as key aspects of conducting workplace inspections.
A second meeting was held in the offices of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions with the groups making up the LARIC (Labor Rights in China) coalition to discuss possible health and safety projects inside China. Brown and O'Rourke also met with Board members of the Chinese Working Women's Network, which has an office in Shenzhen city in China and a travelling bus that conducts health and safety trainings with working women in eight towns in the heavily industrialized Guangdong province.
Brown and O'Rourke also met with the labor practices managers of Reebok and Adidas shoewear companies in Hong Kong. They visited Adidas' 13,000-worker section of the 60,000-worker shoe complex in Dong Guan City, which is operated by a Taiwanese corporation known as Yue Yuen inside China and Pou Chen outside of China.
Discussions with both the Hong Kong-based NGOs and the multinational shoe producers are continuing, and it appears likely a ground-breaking health and safety training inside China may be possible. This training would involve participants from the LARIC groups, the Chinese Working Women's Network and production-worker members of plant health and safety committees from the plants of three international sports shoe companies.
CJM MEETING AND THE BREED TECHNOLOGIES NAO COMPLAINT
The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, of which our Network is a member, held its annual meeting in Tijuana in late May. A new Board of Directors and officers for the tri-national organization were elected at the gathering. Linda Yanz, coordinator of Canada's outstanding Maquila Solidarity Network, was elected President and Lida Orta-Anes, ergonomics coordinator for the United Auto Workers union's Health and Safety Department, and a member of our Network, was elected to the CJM Board's Executive Committee. Lida also remains the coordinator of CJM's Health and Safety Committee.
The annual meeting identified support for the health and safety complaint filed by workers at Breed Technologies' auto parts plants in Valle Hermoso and Matamoros, Mexico, as the key task for CJM's Health and Safety Committee.
On June 30th, current and former Breed workers, backed by CJM, our Network, 25 other organizations in Canada, Mexico and the US, as well as two US law school clinics, filed a complaint under the NAFTA labor side agreement with the US National Administrative Office at the Department of Labor in Washington. The complaint charges that three Mexican government agencies -- the Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), Social Security Institute (IMSS), and Department of Health (SSA) -- failed to enforce Mexican workplace health and safety laws at Breed's Auto Trim plant in Valle Hermoso and Custom Trim plant in Matamoros. Breed, based in Lakeland, FL, manufactures leather-covered steering wheels and gear shift knobs for GM, Chrysler, BMW and Mazda automobiles.
The complaint is the first exclusively health and safety complaint filed under NAFTA, although two prior NAO complaints raised health and safety issues, and the first to charge Mexico's IMSS and SSA with a "persistent failure" to implement existing Mexican laws and meet their required duties under the law. STPS, the equivalent of OSHA, has been charged with failing to inspect the two factories despite repeated written and oral requests by the workers.
Breed workers have charged that uncontrolled exposures to chemicals and to ergonomic risk factors have led to widespread adverse respiratory, skin, neurological and reproductive system health effects as well as cumulative trauma disorders of the upper extremities. Lack of hazard communication training, an ineffective joint worker-management health and safety committee (required by Mexican law), and lack of appropriate personal protective equipment have also been reported.
Since the filing of the complaint, workers at Auto Trim and Custom Trim have been subjected to a campaign of intimidation by plant management and threatening visits to workers' homes by carloads of unidentified men. The Matamoros Maquiladora Association and the government-controlled CTM union have both denounced the NAO complaint and claim that the charges of unsafe and unhealthy conditions at the two plants are false.
On September 8th, the US National Administrative Office accepted the Breed workers complaint and initiated the investigative process which will lead to an official US Labor Department report of findings and recommendations. Health and safety complaints are one of three types of complaints that can, after a very lengthy series of steps, lead to trade sanctions and monetary penalties.
A public hearing on the Breed complaint to be held by the US NAO has been tentatively scheduled for December 12th in San Antonio, TX. Network members Lida Orta-Anes and Garrett Brown are slated to testify on behalf of the complaint.
UPDATES ON THE SITUATION AT HAN YOUNG AND DURO BAG
On May 18th the Mexican and US Departments of Labor signed an agreement to close the NAO complaints filed on behalf of workers at the Han Young truck body plant in Tijuana and the ITAPSA plant outside Mexico City. Network Coordinator Garrett Brown was one of the principal authors of the Han Young health and safety complaint, and also testified at the NAO hearing in San Diego in February 1998. The Network was a co-sponsor of the ITAPSA complaint which involved uncontrolled exposure of workers to high levels of airborne asbestos.
The government-to-government agreement states that the Han Young health and safety complaint has been resolved in the following manner:
"In order to promote the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, a government-to-government session will be held for experts from the two countries to exchange information on techniques and policies to promote compliance with safety and health laws and regulations; the processes by which work place inspections are conducted and financial penalties for violations are imposed, escalated, and collected; the use, handling, and marking of hazardous materials; the use of personal protective equipment; and the role of employee/employer safety and health committees.
"The U.S. Department of Labor the Mexican Department of Labor and Social Welfare will collaborate on the contents of a program to disseminate information on procedures and general information on safety and health inspections, including through the use of the Internet."
According to staff members of the US NAO office in Washington, exactly what activities will take place and their impact on the Han Young plant has not yet been decided. The May 18th agreement calls for a specific work plan to be developed within 90 days and completion of all activities within 15 months.
The prospects for dealing in any meaningful way with the serious systemic deficiencies of STPS compliance enforcement seen at the Han Young plant were not improved by the example of how the Han Young freedom of association NAO complaint was resolved.
On June 23rd a joint US-Mexican government "Seminar on Union Freedom" was held at the Camino Real hotel in Tijuana as the means to resolve the Han Young NAO complaint. However, when a group of two dozen Han Young workers (now on strike) entered the meeting room during the address of STPS assistant secretary Javier Moctezuma Barragan, union leader Enrique Hernandez and others were physically assaulted, and literally driven from the room, through the hotel lobby, and into the parking lot.
The attack was led by Raniel Falcon, a leader of the government-controlled CROC union. The meeting continued after the beatings as if nothing had occurred, and the four official representatives of the US Labor Department witnessed the attack but remained in the meeting until its conclusion. No further action on behalf of the Han Young workers' freedom of association is contemplated.
On July 28th, George Becker, president of the United Steelworkers Union (USWA) wrote US Secretary of Labor: "It is hard to fully express the shock and anger I feel at what transpired at this seminar. It is the height of irony, shame and tragedy that workers were permitted to be physically beaten at a seminar which purported to educate them about their rights. The fact that this occurred underscores the very concern which the Union (USWA) has been raising even before the passage of NAFTA, i.e., that NAFTA constitutes an agreement which leaves workers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico without any meaningful means to enforce their rights to freely organize. In short it leaves them at the mercy of business interests which value profits over people."
The Han Young workers have been fighting for a right to an independent union, a collective bargaining agreement and safe working conditions since June 1997. Under international pressure the Mexican government has recognized the independent October 16trh union as the legal union on site, and the Mexican 15th District Federal Court has issued three decisions (the latest in April 2000) upholding the union's legality. However, the employer, state government in Baja California and local authorities have refused to implement the federal court orders. The workers remain on strike seeking a contract and have been beaten by Tijuana police and blacklisted by local employers.
Another case involving freedom of association and workplace health and safety issues is the effort of 700 workers at the Duro Bag Manufacturing Co. in Rio Bravo (across the Rio Grande from Pharr, TX) to win a new contract under their independent union. Duro Bag, based in Ludlow, KY, produces paper bags for Hallmark and other US card companies.
In June the workers struck the plant for recognition of their independent union and to replace the contract established by the previous government-controlled CTM union. On August 11th the state government in Tamaulipas issued the independent union an official registration. With this registration, the union can legally negotiate a new contract and improvements in plant health and safety are high on the list of workers' concerns. This is the first independent union ever issued legal registration in Tamaulipas.
However, the company is refusing to negotiate a contract with the independent union and has fired several union supporters in the plant. The Duro workers, through the CJM, are asking for letters to be sent to Duro Bag CEO Charles Shor (Duro Bag Manufacturing Co. P.O. Box 16250, Ludlow, KY 41016-0250, fax: 859-581-8327, and email firstname.lastname@example.org) asking the company to reinstate the fired workers and sit down with the independent union's bargaining committee.
HESPERIAN BOOK'S FIRST CHAPTER UNDERWAY; BOOK COORDINATOR SOUGHT
Writing has begun on the Network-initiated health and safety manual for workers in the world's "export processing zones" (EPZs), known as "maquiladoras" in Mexico and Latin America. With a grant facilitated by Network member David Harrington, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley is writing the first chapter on hazards in the garment industry for the Hesperian Foundation, the manual's publisher.
This first chapter, once completed and field-tested with worker and community groups around the world, will become the "template" for chapters on other industries found in EPZs, such as electronics, toys, shoes and textiles. The chapter will also be used in fundraising proposals, and to involve new organizations of EPZ workers in Hesperian's extensive field-testing and grassroots review process. The book will be simply written and heavily illustrated to be accessible to people with varying levels of formal education.
Hesperian is always open to Network members who would like to become volunteer reviewers and writers for the manual. Interested members should contact Network Coordinator Garrett Brown <email@example.com> or Todd Jailer at Hesperian <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Hesperian is now actively seeking a project coordinator for the manual's writing, publication and promotion. The position, anticipated to run three years, is located in Berkeley, CA, has a salary of $33,000 to $36,500, with benefits. Any Network member who knows someone with strong writing skills and experience in workplace or community organizing, should contact Erica Weinstein at Hesperian <email@example.com> for details and the job description.
NETWORK REPRESENTED AT CONFERENCES IN MORELIA, BEIJING AND ORLANDO
Health educator and Network founder Emily Merideth represented the Network at the August 13-16th conference in Morelia, Mexico entitled "First Conference on Occupational and Environmental Health Under the Framework of Integration of the Americas." The conference drew over 100 participants from the U.S. and throughout Latin America, including many academics involved in research on conditions in the maquilas on the US-Mexico border. The conference was organized by seven Mexican, U.S. and international universities and organizations. Emily made a well-received slide presentation covering the Network's seven years of trainings and technical assistance on the border.
Industrial hygienist Luis Ramon Mireles represented the Network at the September 2nd-6th meeting of the World Federation of Public Health Associations in Beijing, China. Luis Ramon spoke on a panel on occupational health and safety issues with representatives of Liberty Mutual insurance, NIOSH, the ILO and a local Brazilian government official at the huge gathering. The panel was organized by Network member Greg Loos of NIOSH in Cincinnati and Luis Ramon's travel costs were covered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) field office in El Paso, TX. Luis Ramon will be writing an article for post-conference publication on the key issues affecting occupational health and safety on the US-Mexico border.
Industrial hygienist Leonor Noruna Dionne will represent the Network at the "Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment; Promoting Safer and Healthier Homes, Workplaces and Communities in the United States and Latin America" in Orlando, FL, on October 18-19th. The gathering, organized by OSHA, US EPA, the National Safety Council, PAHO and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health is one of the first to deal with occupational and environmental health issues for Latino workers throughout the Americas in such an integrated and comprehensive manner. Leonor will be participating in a Spanish-language workshop on workplace health and safety issues, particularly as seen in the maquiladoras.
AIHCE ACTIVITIES AND AIHA'S NATIONAL "SWEATSHOP TASK FORCE"
A major panel on global sweatshops was held at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, FL, on May 22nd. Speakers included Trim Bissell, national coordinator of the Campaign for Labor Rights; Gregg Clark, worldwide health and safety manager for Mattel Corporation; Colleen Crawford, global health and safety manager for Nike, Inc.; and Yannick Etienne, coordinator of the Batay Ouvriye labor center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Network Coordinator Garrett Brown facilitated the well attended, two-hour panel. Not surprisingly two very different perspectives emerged from the discussion. Full reports on the event can be found in the June/July 2000 issue of AIHA's "The Synergist" magazine and issue #30 (May 31, 2000) of the Campaign for Labor Rights newsletter.
The national "Sweatshop Task Force" of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), chaired by Network Coordinator Garrett Brown, also met at the Orlando conference. A Task Force meeting establishing a work plan to produce a "White Paper" on global sweatshops and recommendations for the AIHA's Board of Directors in December was followed by a "public hearing" attended by 25 conference participants to discuss how occupational health professionals can help eliminate and prevent sweatshop conditions in both developed and developing economies.
ACTIVITIES PLANNED FOR APHA CONFERENCE IN NOVEMBER
A slide presentation by trainers involved in the Jakarta health and safety training in June is scheduled for the opening day of the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in Boston on November 13th. The event will occur at 9:30 am, immediately following the meeting of the APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section, and will be held in the same or an adjacent room. The 45-minute presentation will be made by Diane Bush and Betty Szudy of the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown. Please contact Diane Bush <firstname.lastname@example.org> for details.
The Campaign for Labor Rights, one the leading anti-sweatshop organizations in the U.S., is seeking volunteer occupational health professionals to assist in researching toxic exposures to workers and surrounding communities of the "Free Trade Zone" (FTZ) in Managua, Nicaragua. There is currently a huge battle occurring in the Central American country's FTZ over the rights of workers to unionize and to safe and healthful working conditions (see major articles in the September 4/11th "The Nation" magazine and the September 16th "New York Times"). Network members would be involved with toxics research, hazard evaluations and Spanish-language trainings as part of the growing campaign led by the CLR, the Nicaragua Network, and other U.S. and Nicaraguan organizations. For details, please contact Trim Bissell at CLR at <email@example.com>.
Network member Libby Samaras is chairwoman of the Sierra Club's national Work Environment Committee and is seeking interested occupational health professionals to help focus and further develop the Sierra Club's activities in the intersection of occupational and environmental health. Interested Network members should contact Libby at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Network members Linda Delp and Garrett Brown will be facilitating a workshop at the September 23rd health and safety conference of the California Federation of Labor on the efforts of workers at Breed Technologies "Custom-Trim" and "Auto-Trim" plants near Matamoros to achieve safe working conditions. A member of the Pastoral Juvenil Obrera organization will journey to Los Angeles to present the case and seek support for the workers' three-year-old campaign for eliminate chemical and ergonomic hazards in the plants. For more information on the campaign, contact the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras at <email@example.com>.
Fred Toca of the American Industrial Hygiene Association's "Minority Special Interest Group" is seeking new members for the "SIG" as well as any industrial hygienist interested in being a mentor for people of color entering the profession. For details on a panel discussion to be held at the AIHA's June 2001 conference and more information about the Minority SIG, please contact Fred Toca at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-366-4660.
The Border Information and Outreach Service (BIOS) of the New Mexico Inter-Hemispheric Resource Center (IRC) is seeking a full time staffer for its outstanding research and information service. Any Network member who knows someone with strong writing skills, Spanish fluency and knowledge of occupational and environmental issues on the US-Mexico border should direct them to George Kourous at <email@example.com>.
This spring and summer Network Coordinator Garrett Brown was asked to contribute several columns on the issue of occupational health and safety in the globalized economy. The articles ran in the March 2000 issue of the American Industrial Hygiene Association's "The Synergist" magazine, and the September 2000 issue of "Industrial Safety and Health News." "Safety + Health," the magazine of the National Safety Council, also ran a major article on occupational health and safety on the US-Mexico border in its September 2000 issue with input from our Network.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Now I work at TRW [in Nuevo Laredo] where I have been for a month and a half. There is really no difference in the conditions in any of these plants -- if anything, my situation now is even worse. You could say it's forced labor, considering how the foremen talk to the workers, and how much psychological pressure they put on people.
"We work an average of 14-15 hours a day. There's no transport service to and from work, and we get off shift at 4 o'clock in the morning. Usually we have to wait until 7 am before we can catch a public bus. And when a bus does come, getting home costs 20 pesos. That makes a very big dent in your take-home pay -- 380 to 400 pesos a week ($40-$43).
"My job is bending steel cables for seatbelts for GM, Ford and some European car models. The cable is about a centimeter thick, and I have to bend about 3,500 a day. Because of what's passing through my hands every day, I can hardly sleep at night -- the pain is so bad. Then I have to get up in the morning to do it again. In the future I know that I can get carpal tunnel problems, which is a very scary idea. I've asked to change to another position, but no one wants to change because whoever works in this job gets a lot of pain in their wrists...
"I've been in these factories since I was 19 years old, and now I'm 26. I've gotten more and more worried, because I don't have time for any kind of personal life. I leave work so tired that on the weekends I don't want to even leave the house to go anywhere. I just want to rest. All my personal development has been put on hold so that I can just rest, just so I'll be able to work. I feel like my youth has passed me by."
--From "The Story of a Maquiladora Worker: An Interview with Omar Gil," by David Bacon (9/5/2000). For the full text, contact David Bacon at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
* "Six Years of NAFTA: A View from Inside the Maquiladoras," by the Comite Fronterizo de Obreras (Border Committee of Working Women), available in both English and Spanish, contact the American Friends Service Committee at <email@example.com>
* "Global Business Regulation" by John Braithwaite and Peter Drahos, Cambridge University Press, contact <www.cambridge.org>
* "Something to Hide," 25-minute video by the United Students Against Sweatshops and the National Labor Committee of a student delegation to El Salvador, contact the National Labor committee at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
* "The Globalization of Sweatshops," Sweatshop Watch newsletter, Summer 2000 (Vol. 6, No. 2), contact <www.sweatshopwatch.org>
* "Field Guide to the Global Economy," by Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh with Thea Lee, New Press, NY
* "Behind the Label: Inequality in the Los Angeles Apparel Industry," by Edna Bonacich and Richard Applebaum, University of California Press, Berkeley, contact <www.ucpress.edu>
* "Sweatshops Behind the Swoosh," report on conditions in Nike factories in Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and China by the United Students Against Sweatshops, Press for Change, National Labor Committee, People of Faith Network, Global Exchange and UNITE. Available on line at <www.uniteunion.org/pressbox/nike-report.html>
* "Made in China -- The Role of U.S. Companies in Denying Human and Worker Rights," the National Labor Committee, New York, May 2000, contact <www.nlcnet.org>
* "UK Companies Operating in Indonesia: Response to ethical trade issues," by Maggis Burns and Celia Mather, Catholic Institute for International Relations, 1999, contact <email@example.com>
* "False Profits: Who Wins/Who Loses When the IMF, World Bank and WTO Come to Town," by the Campaign of Labor Rights, 24-page booklet, contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>
* "Panic Rules: Everything You Need to Know About the Global Economy," by Robin Hahnel, 136-page book, South End Press, contact <email@example.com>
* "Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy," by Grace Chang, 250-page book, South End Press, contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>
* "Disposable People, New Slavery in the Global Economy," by Kevin Bales, University of California Press, contact <www.ucpress.edu>
* "Taming Global Finance, A better architecture for growth and equity" by Robert A. Blecker, EPI books, April 1999, contact <www.epinet.org>
* "Look for That Prison Label," by Julie Light, "The Progressive" magazine, June 2000, report on "sweatshops behind bars" including a scheme to replace clothing labels from foreign sweatshops with a "Made in the USA" label.
* "Still Pulling Strings," by the American Friends Service Committee, 25-page booklet on US military policy in Latin America, often in support economic regimes based on sweatshops, contact <www.afsc.org/lac>
END OF NEWSLETTER - VOL. IV, NO. 2 - September 23, 2000