Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network Newsletter


August 8, 2002

Volume VI, Number 2

Editor & Coordinator: Garrett Brown (

Webmaster: Heather Block (

P.O. Box 124, Berkeley, CA 94701-0124

510-558-1014 (voice)

510-525-8951 (fax)



Who We Are

Letter from the Coordinator

Quotes of the Month

Major reports on Mexico and global sweatshops




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 3,000 "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 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 Committees 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!

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I apologize for the delay in between the March 2002 issues of the newsletter and this next "quarterly" issue in August. As you know, our Network is an all-volunteer operation with everyone, including the coordinator, having full-time "day jobs" to keep them busy. Since the March issue, I have been tied up in producing the final report of the China project (see below), participating in a series of meetings in Europe with anti-sweatshop groups there, speaking at conferences in San Diego, Los Angeles and Berkeley, and taking a couple weeks of (hooray!) vacation.

In an effort to get this issue out as soon as possible, not all the new resources coming to our attention in the last five months are reflected in the section below. We hope to send out a supplemental newsletter later in the month with this information. The plan is to issue another newsletter in the fall, and shoot for four issues in 2003.

* * *

I want to take a moment to recognize the life and achievements of Trim Bissel, founder and National Coordinator of the Campaign for Labor Rights, who passed away on June 15, 2002, after a heroic 20-month battle with brain cancer.

Trim was a soft-spoken but fiercely determined campaigner for human rights, starting with those yet to be realized in our own country and into the world at large where the bulldozer of corporate globalization has created lives of misery for millions of working people around the globe. Trim helped build the CLR into an effective campaign organization whose goal was to support the efforts of other worker support organizations in an open, ecumenical way without playing favorites and prioritizing some struggles over others.

It was my pleasure to have shared the speaking platform with Trim on a number of occasions and his presentations were always thoughtful, factual, sincere and compelling. The workers of the world have lost a champion, but his example and spirit remain as inspiration for all of us who are privileged to follow in his footsteps.

* * *

The bleeding on the US-Mexico border has continued as plants and jobs pull up stakes on the border and head for the "final frontier" in China. Typical of the articles describing this process was a June 20th Washington Post article by Mary Jordan headlined "Mexican Workers Pay for Success, With labor costs rising, Factories depart for Asia."

While the Post article grossly exaggerated the "high pay" received by maquila workers, there is no denying the flight of capital from Mexico to other areas – Asian and Central America – where workers are even more desperate for work and even less protected by their governments, and where the governments offer even more subsidies and "exemptions" from regulatory enforcement to the giant transnational corporations.

Things have gotten to the point where Mexican Trade Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez announced on July 11th that his ministry is contemplating filing a complaint in the World Trade Organization against China for offering "hidden subsidies" to some 5,000 companies that have shifted production there.

The Associated Press reported that the ministry is conducting a study looking at 5,000 companies which have left Mexico for China and to determine "what incentives Mexico needs to offer manufacturers to persuade them to stay." One option, Derbez said, is to encourage companies operating in northern Mexico to move operations to southern Mexico where "costs are lower."

In June 2002 the research arm of Banamex bank reported that while Mexico remains the second leading exporter to the United States behind Canada (with 11.9% and 19.4% of US imports, respectively), China’s share of the US market is increasing substantially – to 9.1% in the first quarter of 2002 compared to 5.8% in 1994 – and the rate of increase is projected to continue.

There continues to be a steady stream of articles coming out of China as to actual working conditions there, including a heart-breaking portrait of a 19-year-old woman migrant worker in a toy factory was literally worked to death (see below).

For all of us concerned about the impact of China’s factories – downward pressure on a world scale on wages, hours and working conditions – reading these articles is a sobering experience. It is also a call to arms to protect workers’ health and safety on all fronts, beginning with whichever one is closest to each of us and working together from there…

Recent articles on working conditions in China include:

1) "Worked Till They Drop, Few protections for China’s new laborers," by Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, May 13, 2002;

2) "For China’s Wealthy, All but the Fruited Plain," by Craig S. Smith, New York Times, May 15, 2002;

3) "Chinese Workers Rights Stop at Courtroom Door," by Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, June 28, 2002;

4) "Migrants to Chinese Boom Town Find Hard Lives," by Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, July 2, 2002;

5) "Frequent Cover-Ups Mask Serious Dangers of Chinese Mines," by Erik Eckholm, New York Times, July 2, 2002;

6) "China’s Economic Engine: Sweatshops demoralize the young," by Julie Chao, Cox Washington Bureau, July 7, 2002;

7) "China’s Economic Engine: Worker frustration rises in China," by Julie Chao, Cox Washington Bureau, July 7, 2002;

8) "For Local Bigwigs, New Money Means Power," by John Pomfret, Washington Post, July 7, 2002;

9) "Industrial Accidents Plague China," by Audra Ang, Associated Press, July 9, 2002.

10) "Poisoned Back Into Poverty, As China embraces capitalism, hazards to workers rise," by Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, August 4, 2002

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Workers at the Autotrim and Customtrin/Breed Mexicana plants in Mexico who filed a workplace health and safety complaint under the NAFTA "labor side agreement" have blasted attempts by the Mexican and U.S. governments to close out their complaint with the appointment of a government-to-government committee to discuss for the next three years why occupational health laws are not enforced in Mexico.

On June 11th, the US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Mexican Labor Secretary Carlos Abascal issued a "Joint Declaration" to "resolve" the Autotrim/Customtrim complaint, as well as two others still pending, by an "exchange of information among labor officials of the United Mexican States and the United States of America regarding the different types of unions in each country," and "the establishment of a bilateral working group of government experts on occupational safety and health issues, who are tasked with discussion and review of issues raised in the public communications, the formulation of technical recommendations for consideration by governments, the development and evaluation of technical cooperation projects on occupational safety and health in the workplace, and the identification of other occupational safety and health issues appropriate for bilateral cooperation."

The Joint Declaration was strongly criticized by the legal representative of the Autotrim/Customtrim workers and by the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, the San Antonio-based tri-national coalition which has been organizing support for the workers.

"This Declaration -- which only proposes the establishment of a governmental ‘Binational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group’ -- is just the latest example of 'all talk and no action' remedies of the NAFTA labor side agreement for workers facing unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the maquilas," stated attorney Monica Schurtman.

"The Declaration ignores the specific list of recommendations the injured workers made to the US and Mexican governments in May and July of 2001. It continues to marginalize the workers and prevent them from participation. It proposes nothing more than 'exchanges of information' and 'discussion and review of issues' without any deadlines or concrete commitment to remedy the violations addressed in the complaint and affirmed by the U.S. NAO in its April 2001 Public Report" Schurtman said.

The CJM demanded that the proposed "Binational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group" incorporate representatives of the workers who submitted the complaint as well as technical experts who enjoy the confidence of the workers. CJM members "vowed to continue to work with the 35 members of Congress who wrote US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on May 7th demanding meaningful action to enforce labor rights in the maquiladoras," stated Sarah Anderson, CJM member from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

The proposed "resolution" of the NAFTA complaint is the latest attempt by the governments involved to marginalize the injured workers at Breed who have been diligently complying with every twist and turn of Mexican regulations and the Byzantine NAFTA side agreement protocols since April 1997 – five years of patient efforts. "The proposed 'final remedy' gives the workers no voice and no way to participate in the process," said Martha Ojeda, Executive Director of the 200-member coalition of community, labor, religious and environment groups in the three NAFTA countries.

"The US-Mexico declaration proposes nothing more than yet another round of in-house ‘discussions’ between the two government bureaucracies, which may go on for years and end without taking any actions whatsoever. This is exactly what happened with a similar NAFTA side agreement health and safety complaint at the Han Young plant in Tijuana," Ojeda noted.

The June 11th declaration, obviously timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the International Labor Organization and to mollify Congressional critics, did not implement the detailed short- and long-term recommendations for three Mexican government agencies contained in the May and July 2001 letters from the submitters of the June 2000 complaint. These recommendations included proposals for re-evaluation of injured workers previously denied workers compensation; re-inspection of the two plants (Autotrim in Matamoros and Customtrim/Breed Mexicana in Valle Hermoso) by Mexican safety inspectors and verification of corrective actions; and improved medical surveillance and treatment.

"Instead of specific, effective action to improve conditions at Autotrim and Customtrim, and throughout the maquilas on the border, the injured workers are promised more 'chats' between government officials whose refusal to listen and to act was the exact basis of the complaint," Ojeda pointed out.

"This Joint Declaration is a charade and a disgrace - and it demonstrates the complete failure of the NAFTA side agreements to protect workers. If NAFTA is the 'success story' and model for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas trade agreement, working people in the Americas are in serious danger," she added.

Nonetheless, the inaugural session of the "Bilateral Occupational Safety and Health Working Group" met in Mexico City on July 8-9th – without even informing the submitters of the complaint being "resolved" that the meeting was occurring, let alone involving the workers or their representatives in the process.

After two days of lengthy protocol speeches, led by Mexican Labor Secretary Carlos Abascal, the gathering of government functionaries agreed to establish government-only "technical expert subcommittees" in four areas: handling of hazardous substances; safety and health management systems and voluntary protection programs; training of technical assistance staff and possibly inspectors; and the development of a tri-national (Canada, Mexico and US) webpage for ongoing exchanges of information and good practices.

The first meeting of the subcommittees is slated to occur at the October 2002 conference of the National Safety Council and Second Hispanic Forum for a Safe and Healthy Environment in San Diego. The government-only subcommittees will reportedly "define the parameters for their area" in October and "begin work thereafter," according to a July 15, 2002, story in the "Inside OSHA" newsletter.

The final target date for these government-to-government committees to produce their recommendations is reported to be September 2005 – five years after the Autotrim/Customtrim complaint was filed – at the XVIIth World Conference on Safety and Health at World, to be held in Orlando, Florida.

As this newsletter was being published, the Autotrim/Customtrim workers and CJM were preparing a letter to the US and Mexican labor secretaries in response to the June 11th declaration and July 8-9th meetings. The letter was to reiterate the points made in the June 19th statement and to formally request of the US and Mexican governments that:

  1. current and former workers at Autotrim and Customtrim/Breed Mexicana be integrated into the Binational Working Group;

  2. non-governmental occupational health and legal experts also be integrated into the Working Group;

  3. a specific timetable be established for the implementation of the July 2001 recommendations solicited by the US NAO but never acted upon, with an explanation for the rejection of any recommendation rejected by the governments; and

  4. Prior notification by the governments to the workers and other submitters of the complaint of any actions undertaken on this case and end to the secrecy in which the Joint Declaration and July Mexico City meetings were conducted.

In addition, the CJM has vowed to continuing working with the 35 members of Congress who wrote US Labor Secretary Chao in May 2002 expressing concern about the handling of the Autotrim/Customtrim case. A second Congressional letter is being circulated on Capitol Hill and is scheduled to be delivered to Chao in September, before the meeting of the Binational Working Group subcommittees in San Diego in October.

In another health and safety-related NAFTA complaint, the President of United Electrical workers union (UE) wrote US Labor Secretary Chao on July 24th strongly protesting the "resolution" of the ITAPSA case and stating that it will refuse to participate in a proposed closing "seminar on workers’ rights" because "we do not choose to lend any further credibility to a process which has so totally failed to protect workers’ rights."

"The case focused on some of the most egregious ways in which Mexican workers are deprived of their rights, and the NAO decision found serious problems in all of the following areas: the absence of secret ballot elections, the lack of public registries of unions and contracts, the use of exclusion clauses, violence against workers who were conducting lawful organizational and informational activity in public places, and the lack of transparency and inherent bias of a system in which the labor representatives on the Mexican labor boards are virtually always from the CTM.

"The case involved a brake plant just outside of Mexico City where predominantly young workers suffered serious exposures to asbestos and solvents in the course of their work. Not surprisingly, testimony revealed chronic deficiencies in worker protection, training, the labeling of chemicals and an inspection system where inspectors were clearly not competent to detect violations related to occupational exposures or disease and where a minor slap on the wrist was the most serious sanction assessed. To put it bluntly, many of the young workers from that plant who courageously stood up for their rights and were fired for their efforts may well be dead twenty years from now as a result of asbestos exposure at work," wrote UE President John Hovis Jr.

"It has now been more than 4 1/2 years since we first filed the case, and almost exactly four years since the decision. In the better than two years since the Mexican government committed itself to ‘promote secret ballot elections’ Mexican workers have had their rights violated and have suffered physical and emotional abuse in connection with elections where they must still vote out loud in front of company officials and oftentimes in front of thugs. It was precisely this continuing failure by the Mexican government to protect the associational rights and the safety of workers in representation cases that led us to file the ITAPSA case," Hovis noted.

The resolution of the ITAPSA case proposed by the US and Mexican governments is to hold a seminar on workers rights under Mexican law in Monterrey, Mexico, some 1,000 kilometers away from the ITAPSA plant. A seminar held in Tijuana in June 2000 to "resolve" a similar freedom of association NAFTA complaint by workers at the Han Young plant featured only lengthy speeches by government officials, and the dozen Han Young workers present were physically attacked by members of the government-controlled CROC union and actually driven out of the room, through the hotel lobby and into the parking lot. With this activity, the Han Young workers’ complaint under the NAFTA labor side agreement was officially "settled" and the case was closed.

To avoid a repeat of the Han Young experience, the UE worked with the US NAO office to establish a meaningful agenda for the seminar, to be held in Mexico City near the ITAPSA plant and accessible to the workers, and had received assurances from the NAO that the UE would be fully informed of any changes. The union waited for months, without further communication from the governments, for confirmation of the meeting.

"However, when we inquired of the US NAO what was going on, we were finally faxed the (June 11th) Joint Declaration and press release which had been reached over a month earlier. We were told that the meeting would be held in Monterrey because the President of the Mexican labor board was from that area, that no part of the agenda we had proposed was being used, and that the only presenters would be government officials.

"Given this history, we believe that the NAO process has deteriorated into a farce, and under these circumstances we see no value in participating further," the UE president concluded.

All documents related to the Autotrim/Customtrim case, and the UE president’s letter, have been posted on the Network’s website at:

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On May 29, 2002, the final report of the "China Capacity Building Project – Occupational Health and Safety" was released by the project’s Coordinating Committee. The year-long project involved workers and supervisors from three giant sports shoe factories in the Pearl River Delta producing for adidas, Nike and Reebok, and four labor rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in Hong Kong. The goal of the project was to increase the knowledge and skills of the participating organizations in the area of workplace safety, and to "jump start" the creation of plant-wide health and safety committees in the three manufacturing facilities.

The centerpiece of the project was a four-day training conducted in Dongguan City in August 2001 inside the Yue Yuen II plant, which has 30,000 workers producing sports shoes for adidas. Fifteen workers and five supervisors from the two other plants joined workers and supervisors from YY and 22 staff members of the NGOs, for a total of 90 participants. A team of six instructors from our Network, the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley, MIT in Cambridge. Massachusetts, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, conducted the training. Funding for the project came from a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Printed below is the Executive Summary of the report, which was issued by the project Coordinating Committee consisting of a representative of each of the participating organizations. The complete report, including appendices, can be downloaded from the Network’s website:

Executive Summary

In March 2001, three international shoe companies, three Taiwan-based contract manufacturers, and four Hong Kong-based labor rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) agreed to a joint project. The project had two primary goals: 1) to train workers, supervisors and managers in three footwear factories in the Pearl River Delta area of China in occupational safety and health principles; and 2) to establish plant-wide health and safety committees with workers as full, active members of the committees. The parties agreed to a set of common goals that governed the project, and also formed a project Coordinating Committee consisting of representatives from each participating organization.

The project lasted over two years in total and included a series of organizational meetings, a formal needs assessment process with stakeholders, curriculum development, a training, capacity building and committee support efforts, individual committee initiatives, and an evaluation process.

In August 2001 the training of 90 people occurred at the 30,000-worker Yue Yuen II shoe factory in Dongguan City involving the international brands adidas-Salomon, Nike, and Reebok; workers and supervisors from three contact factories, Kong Tai Shoes, Pegasus Shoes and Yue Yuen II; and four NGOs, Asia Monitor Resource Center, Chinese Working Women Network, Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

The four-day training workshop was designed to involve participants in an action-based learning process. Topics were presented in the classroom using a range of participatory training methods, including small group exercises, role playing, games, and visual demonstrations. Significant training time was also devoted to hands-on exercises and walk-around inspections in the production areas of the plant. The six-person team of instructors included trainers from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California at Berkeley, the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

In the three-month period following the August 2001 Dongguan training, each of the three factories established plant-wide health and safety committees involving workers as full and active members of the committees. Each of the committees at Kong Tai Shoes, Pegasus and Yue Yuen II are still in the initial phase of organizing themselves and expanding their reach and impact in the very large factories involved. Each of the committees has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, and its own set of priorities. However, the Project Coordinating Committee in March 2002 identified the following overall successes in this initial period:

Plant-wide health and safety committees with significant worker participation were established in the three plants, qualitatively changing the character of previous management safety committees and improving communication between departments;

  1. Members of these committees received professional training and increased their understanding of the basic principles of occupational health and safety;

  2. Identification and correction of a significant number of hazards on the plant floor that were previously unrecognized, or not previously corrected despite their identification by workers on the shop floor;

  3. Up-to-date materials on key workplace safety topics in Chinese are now available;

  4. Collaboration between the three plants’ committees to further enhance their scope and effectiveness is now possible;

  5. Training participants gained knowledge not only of occupational health topics, but also understanding of how committees organize themselves and carry out ongoing activities;

  6. Training participants gained a better understanding of concepts such as "worker participation and empowerment" and the barriers and obstacles to realizing these goals;

  7. An increased level of dialogue between plant management, international brands and NGOs has occurred, laying the basis for additional joint projects on the issue of workplace health and safety;

The project has resulted in the creation of young, but functioning, worker-management committees, including one committee supported by a democratically elected union. These committees are the first step in building systems for worker participation in evaluating and improving health, safety, and environmental conditions inside these factories. The committees, and their members, are learning how to effectively transfer this information to factory managers, brand labor practice staff, and NGOs outside the factories. The committees are working to develop new and safer mechanisms for workers to report problems, new processes for identifying and eliminating hazards, and new systems of corporate accountability.

There have been several keys to the progress of this initiative.

First, there has been the participation and cooperation of different stakeholders who have taken a risk to collaborate with one another. The three international brands sat at the table across from their NGO critics and encouraged their contractors to participate. The contractors risked opening their facilities to the NGOs and to their competitors. The NGOs risked "being used" in a "public relations exercise" and other political problems by working with the brands. In the end, however, all of the participants gained from their cooperation.

Second, there has been the centrality of workers to the process. All of the stakeholders agreed that building worker capacity and participation is beneficial to improving conditions inside these factories. This project’s focus on worker empowerment has moved the process beyond past debates about codes and monitoring to practical, hands-on considerations about how best to achieve this goal.

This project focused squarely on capacity-building and collaborative learning. As participants have come to understand, there are no easy answers to improving conditions in these factories. This project has thus moved forward as an experimental and learning initiative. The longer-term vision is to build on this project and other pilot initiatives to advance larger-scale efforts to develop systems of monitoring and worker participation. The experience of initiating and assisting health and safety committees in these three factories may lay the basis for developing more extensive systems of worker participation and external processes of corporate responsibility in China, as well as other parts of the world.

There is no one perfect model for improving factory conditions in China, nor is there one single model that can be easily scaled up. However, each of these three factories, in its own way, has made changes which point the way towards improved systems of worker participation and worker-management collaboration to reduce hazards in factories producing goods for global consumers.

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The Network had a high profile at the annual American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exhibition (AIHCE) in San Diego, CA, in June, and ongoing activities are planned with committees of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

The Network helped organize two panels at the conference – one on building partnerships between occupational health professionals and community-based worker organizations, and the second on the impact of globalization on workplace health and safety.

The first panel featured Ana Enriquez of the Factor X organization in Tijuana, Mexico, Kimi Lee of the Garment Workers Center in Los Angeles, Diane Takvorian of the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition, Greg Siwinski from the Workers Rights Consortium, David Zalk, president of the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA), and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown.

The second panel involved Marcos Domingos da Silva of the Brazilian Occupational Hygiene Association, David Eherts of Aventis Pharma, Terry Valen of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and Garrett Brown.

Brown also reported to the AIHA’s International Affairs and Social Concerns Committees regarding ongoing activities around the sweatshop issue within the professional organization. The March 2001 AIHA White Paper and Position Statement on global sweatshops has been translated into Portuguese and is in the final stages of translation to Spanish. These documents will be presented to the annual meetings of occupational health associations in Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America over the next year. The goal is to develop common, or very similar, positions and action plans between professional organizations in the US and in Latin America on the issue of sweatshops and occupational health.

Network members who are also members of AIHA and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) discussed in the committee meetings how to raise the sweatshops issue within their Local Sections of AIHA through speakers at meetings and articles in the sections’ newsletters. AIHA Local Sections could also follow the lead of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Section, which has established a "sister organization" relationship with the Romanian professional association, by partnering with local or international community-based organizations working to improve working conditions in sweatshops in the US and internationally.

AIHA members also discussed how to follow up the 2001 sweatshop White Paper and Position Statement with a second formal Position Statement on achieving "upward harmonization" of different levels of occupational and environmental regulations in countries negotiating trade and investment treaties.

Following the AIHCE, the AIHA’s monthly magazine, The Synergist, solicited an article on the Network’s China training project for an issue later this fall.

On July 16th, AIHA headquarters sent comments on protecting occupational health and safety in the "Free Trade Area of the Americas" to the "Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society." The committee is part of the ongoing process of inter-governmental negotiations to establish the proposed 34-nation free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere by 2005.

The AIHA statement said the "Association remains convinced that occupational safety and health should be a major concern in any continuing negotiations on the FTAA." The 12,000-member organization of occupational health professionals in North America called for an "upward harmonization of occupational health and safety and environmental standards."

"We strongly believe that the right of individual parties to the treaty to establish unilateral standards designed to protect the health and safety of their citizens and the environment must be maintained. As a multinational professional association, AIHA will continue to work with professionals and governments alike to ensure that health, safety and environmental standards and subsequent enforcement mechanism are improved and not compromised throughout the FTAA’s negotiation and resulting implementation processes," the AIHA statement declared.

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Network members from northern California will travel to Tijuana on the weekend of September 28-29th to conduct another training with Factor X, a Mexican non-governmental organization providing support and assistance to maquiladora workers.

As with previous trainings with Factor X in Tijuana, the two-day session will focus on hazard recognition skills, basic toxicology, ergonomics, workers’ rights under Mexican law, and "action planning" to share this information with co-workers and neighbors in the poor neighborhoods surrounding the maquila plants.

Many of the expected participants will be volunteer occupational health "promotoras" (promoters) in their communities and workplaces. More than 65% of maquila workers are women, many of them are single-head of households trying to sustain their families with maquiladora wages and work schedules. Supporters and staff members of CITTAC (Centro de Informacion de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores, AC) organization in Tijuana may also join the weekend event.

The instructor team consists of Leonor Noruna Dionne and Dinorah Barton-Antonio of the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California in Berkeley, and Network Coordinator Garrett Brown.

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The Second Hispanic Forum on a Safe & Healthy Environment will be held in San Diego on October 7-9th as part of the 90th annual meeting of the National Safety Council (NSC). The event is being co-sponsored by the NSC, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

The four major topics to be addressed in three days of presentations in English and Spanish are occupational safety and health, environmental health, transportation safety, and international (immigrant) workers’ health. The goal of the event is to build the capacity of community-based and organizations serving Latinos to better address the occupational and environmental health needs of Hispanic communities. Mexican President Vicente Fox has been invited to be the event’s keynote speaker.

The First Hispanic Forum was held in Orlando, FL, in 2000, and established the format of bring together governmental and non-governmental organizations, including labor unions, business groups, academics and organizations from the grassroots to international level to "identify common challenges, forge new partnerships and develop a model plan of action."

PAHO, which generously sponsored a representative of our Network to the 2000 forum, has invited Network Coordinator Garrett Brown to speak on two panels during the event, one on "protection of the maquiladora sector workforce: a joint effort," and the second on "US-Mexico border issues."

For additional information on the Second Hispanic Forum, contact Carolina Seward of PAHO at 202-974-3865 and Information about the NSC conference and exposition is available at:

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  • An award-winning documentary of the disappearance, rapes and murders of over 250 women maquiladora workers in Ciudad Juarez will air on Tuesday, August 20th on Public Broadcasting System channels nationally. The hour-long documentary, "Senorita Extraviada," by director Lourdes Portillo looks at the haunting wave of murders of young women workers since 1993, and the failure of local and national authorities to even investigate, let alone halt, the rapes and murders. Portillo is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who also directed "Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo," about the 30,000 people "disappeared" during Argentina’s military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. Check local listings for the time and PBS channel on Tuesday, August 20th.

  • The journal "Social Justice" will publish an article on occupational safety and health in the global economy, "The Global Threats to Workers’ Health and Safety on the Job," by Network Coordinator Garrett Brown in its September 2002 issue. The text of the article has been posted in the "new postings" section of the Network website:

  • Network Coordinator Garrett Brown has represented the Network or been invited to speak at a variety of conferences in 2002. In April he spoke at a University of California at Berkeley conference on "Methods of monitoring in the global apparel industry;" Brown will speak on the China project to the "Pacific Rim Roundtable Group" of the Organization Resources Counselors organization in San Francisco in September. Also in September Brown will speak in Los Angeles at a public forum on "Improving compliance with international labor standards" being sponsored by the National Academies of Science Committee on Monitoring International Labor Standards. As noted above, Brown will speak at PAHO’s invitation to the October Second Hispanic Forum in San Diego. In November, Brown has been invited by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to speak at a "Global planning workshop on strategies for a sustainable high-tech industry" in San Jose, California.

  • The Network’s work since 1993 was recognized by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) in an award given to Network Coordinator Garrett Brown in June as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Cal/OSHA’s parent agency in California. Brown was recognized as an "exemplary employee" of the Division, where he works as workplace health and safety inspector, in large part due to the work of the Network.

  • The team of instructors from the Network’s China health and safety training in Dongguan City in August 2001 has raised more than $5,400 to support the work of the Chinese Working Women Network (CWN). Betty Szudy, Pam Tau Lee, Diane Bush, Dara O’Rourke and Garrett Brown sent out a joint appeal to friends, family and colleagues which netted $5,400 in contributions from 85 donors for CWN’s work. CWN, which was the Local Coordinator of the China training, operates an office in Nansham, China, and a travelling van, the "Women’s Health Express," both of which provide health and safety information and assistance to hundreds of young women workers in the giant export factories in the Pearl River Delta.

  • Occupational Knowledge International (OK International) is seeking international partners for projects to promote and develop environmental and occupational health in developing countries. The San Francisco, CA-based non-governmental organization is soliciting proposals from organizations in the developing world for several $2,000 grants and ongoing assistance. Only a brief (three page maximum) proposal is required to apply for the grant. More information can be obtained from OK International at

  • Two important conferences have been announced for the fall and next spring.

    • The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is hosting a "Global Planning Workshop on Strategies for a Sustainable High-Tech Industry" In San Jose, CA, on November 14-16, 2002. The goals of the conference are to: create a forum of like-minded international advocates and academics; exchange information on environmental protection, labor rights and globalizations; and to develop strategies to minimize the toxic impact of the high-tech industry. More information can be obtained from SVTC at and 408-287-6707.

    • The Third Symposium of the European Centre for Health, Safety and the Environment (ECOHSE) will be held in Lodz, Poland, on April 10-12, 2003. The overall theme of the conference will be the changes in and status of workplace health and safety in the context of "European Enlargement" as the former Soviet Bloc countries enter the global economy and apply for membership in the European Union. An increasing number of US and Western European corporations have established export factories in Central and Eastern Europe. More information can be obtained from ECOHSE at ,

  • Several anti-sweatshop and governmental agencies have asked the Network to publicize the following job announcements:

    • - The Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles is looking to hire a "Case Manager and Health Educator" for their community-based center for Asian and Latin American garment workers toiling in LA’s 5,000 sweatshops. More information can be obtained from Director Kim Lee at and 213-748-5876.

    • - "Forefront: A Global Network of Human Rights Defenders" in New York City is looking to hire a "Development Director." Founded by past recipients of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the network is designed to assist grassroots human rights activists with technical assistance, training and resources. More information can be obtained from Director Lesley Carson at

    • - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has funding for a fellowship for a Spanish-speaking industrial hygienist for a 1-2 year project based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The job is to help NIOSH reach out to Spanish-speaking workers in the agency’s Health Hazard Evaluation program in the United States. More information can be obtained from Dawn Tharr at and 513-841-4374.

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"If there is pressure from the community they will go forward, but without that, I don’t think companies will take the required steps. There are not a lot companies making progress on social issues that haven’t been forced to. The probability of a company voluntarily taking on a social issue if they haven’t been forced to by activists or legislation is very low…

"The thing is, our economy today functions on delivering market, growth and stock price. The principal driver of companies in this universe is not social performance. You do not get rewarded by the market because you have done a good job on social issues or protected the environment for future generations. Until the universe functions in a different way, there will not be pressure on companies towards advancement on social issues. The only reason for movement in that direction today is (legislated) accountability or if there is activism around the issue."

-- Maria Eitel, Nike Inc. Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility, interview in the Australian Financial Review, June 14, 2002.

"Many in Argentina say they have turned decidedly against the neoliberal economic morel that their leaders pursued so diligently for so many years.

"’The international financing community treats us in a very extortionist sort of way,’ said Henry, a protestor outside a bank who refused to give his last name. ‘They say they’ll lend us money, but so that we can pay them back double. Well, we don’t want that version anymore.’ He wants a country, he said ‘completely independent from the demands of the International Monetary Fund.’

"Even members of another Argentine establishment, former military men, are huffy about the IMF. ‘For nearly 30 years, we’ve been doing what the IMF and the United States have asked – look where it got us,’ said Col. Horacio Ballester, president of Military Officials for Argentine Democracy. ‘It’s a total, unmitigated disaster. What else can I say.’"

-- Raul Vasquez, San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 2002.

"Still the broad prosperity that was promised (by globalization and free trade) remains a dream for many Latin Americans. Today those same reforms are equated with unemployment and layoffs from both public and private companies, as well as recessions that have hamstrung economies.

"’We privatized and we do not have less poverty, less unemployment,’ said Juan Manuel Guillen, the mayor of Arequipa (Peru) and a leader in the antiprivatization movement here. ‘On the contrary. We have more poverty and unemployment. We are not debating theoretically here. We are looking at reality.’

"Indeed, 44 per cent of Latin Americans still live in poverty, and the number of unemployed workers has more than doubled in a decade. Tens of millions of others – in some countries up to 70 per cent of all workers – toil in the region’s vast informal economy, as street vendors, for instance, barely making ends meet. Economic growth has been essentially flat for the last five years."

-- Juan Forero, the New York Times, July 19, 2002.

"Free market, enslaved people"

-- Graffiti on a wall in Warsaw, Poland, reported by Ian Fisher, the New York Times, June 12, 2002

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There continues to be a river of informational and analytical reports on working conditions in the world’s factories released each month. What once was a paucity of "hard information" and a surplus of "anecdotal reports" has become an almost overwhelming torrent of materials. Here is a brief list of some of the latest reports.


  • "Making Fair Trade Work in Mexico," the first of the "Citizen Action in the Americas Series," Interhemispheric Resource Center, July 2002, available at;

  • "Energy Development on the US-Mexico Border," from the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, June 14, 2002, available at:

  • "Mexico: Disappearances, an ongoing crime," report by Amnesty International, May 2002, available at:

  • "Update on Metales y Derivados," by Jonthan Treat, May 2, 2002, available at:

  • "Mexico at the Crossroads," by Laura Carlsen, April 30, 2002, available at:

  • "Piles of Poisons in Mexico," by Jennifer Clapp, March 22, 2002, available at:

  • "Riesgos laborales en la maquiladora, La experiencia tamaulipeca," by Cirila Quintero Ramirez and Maria de Lourdes Romo Aguilar, in "Frontera Norte," numero especial #2, Volume 13, 2001.

Occupational Health

  • Recent reports from the International Labor Organization ( include: "A Future Without Child Labour, Global report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work" (Report I-B); Decent work and the informal economy" (Report VI); and "Recording and notification of occupational accidents and disease and ILO list of occupational diseases" (Report V-1).

  • ILO Labour Education series, Special Issue No. 126 "Health and Safety at work: A trade union priority," includes 17 excellent articles on workplace health issues globally and by region and industry – A MUST READ – available at:

  • "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, A national and state-by-state profile of workers safety and health in the United States," by the AFL-CIO, April 2002, , available at

Reports from the world

  • "Report on the Working Conditions of Soccer and Football Workers in Mainland China," revised edition, May 2002, by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, available at:

  • "China: Labour unrest and the suppression of the rights to freedom of association and expression – ‘workers want to eat – workers want a job," by Amnesty International, April 2002, available at:

  • "Tainted Harvest: Human Rights Watch Report on child labor and workers’ rights abuse in Ecuador’s banana fields," Human Rights Watch, April 2002, available at:

  • "Violence against women in the workplace in Kenya,: International Labor Rights Fund, May 2002, available at:

  • "Hazardous to Health: The World Bank and IMF in Africa," by Ann-Louise Colgan, Africa Action, April 2002, available at:

  • "Our voices will be heard; Report of the regional Workshop on Women Workers in Informal Work, November 2001, Bangkok, Thailand," Committee for Asia Women, available at:

Codes of Conduct

  • "Codes, Monitoring and Worker Organizing: Challenges and Opportunities," report of February 2002 meeting in Puebla, Mexico, prepared by the Maquila Solidarity Network, Canada, July 2002, available at:

  • "Presentations from the International Seminar of the Research Project ‘Codes of Conduct and Monitoring,’" from the October 2001 conference in Hamburg, Germany, prepared by the Clean Clothes Campaign, Amsterdam, available at:

  • "Regulating Business via Multistakeholder Initiatives: A preliminary assessment," by Peter Utting, 2001, available at:

  • "Green Paper: Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility," European Union, July 2001, available at:


  • "Industrial Development Report, 2002/2003," United National Industrial Development Organization, July 2002, available at:

  • "Unmade in America, The true cost of the global assembly line," by Barry Lynn, Harper’s Magazine, June 2002.

  • "Globalisation: Myths and Realities," Trades Union Congress (UK), May 2002, available at:

  • "The Global Divide, Inequality in the world economy," by Marc Lee, Canadian Centre for Police Alternatives, April 2002, available at:

  • "The Long and Short of It: Global liberalization, poverty and inequality," by Christian Weller and Adam Hersh, Economic Policy Institute, available at:

  • "Rigged Rules and Double Standards, Trade, globalization, and the fight against poverty," Oxfam International, March 2002, available at:

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