Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network Newsletter
November 25, 2002
Volume VI, Number 3
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
Letter from the Coordinator
Major reports on Mexico and global sweatshops
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 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 20-plus 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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LETTER FROM THE COORDINATOR Garrett Brown November 2002
Every once in a while there is an event that strips away all the noise of debates about economic globalization and government policy, and one can see clearly the human victims of the new world order.
On Sunday, October 13th a grain silo worker in Denison, Iowa, opened an empty grain hopper for a routine inspection before it was to be filled with grains to be shipped to Mexico. Inside he found the remains of 11 people, seven men and four women aged 17 to 55. In June they had climbed into the hopper in Matamoros, Mexico, and were locked inside by "coyotes" (smugglers) to make the border crossing. Medical examiners are unsure whether the 11 people suffocated gasping for air, or slowly died of dehydration and overheating as the dark, stifling hopper sat for four months in Oklahoma before travelling to Iowa.
Two of the dead have been identified: 23-year-old Omar Esparza Contreras and his 17-year-old cousin Roberto Esparza Rico, both from a poor farming village called Los Conos in Aguascaliente state in central Mexico. With no work on the land or elsewhere, the two cousins, like millions of Mexicans, scrapped together the $1,500-a-person needed to pay the coyotes for passage across the border.
It can be simply stated that the cousins were killed by NAFTA and neo-liberal government policies which have ended support for farmers in rural Mexico. Since the sequential lifting of Mexican tariffs on farm products under NAFTA, the country has been flooded by cheap, subsidized US products which have destroyed the livelihoods of millions of Mexican farmers. These farmers and their children have few alternatives to leaving their homeland to enter, illegally and at the mercy of coyotes, the economy that is devouring theirs the United States.
Mexicos business-oriented National Agricultural Council has reported dramatic reductions in Mexican production of grain, oil seed and meat production. In the last three years, the price of basic grains in Mexico has fallen by 50% (due to US imports) while the cost of inputs for Mexican farmers has increased between 40% and 50%. Since 1997, the country has imported more than 50 million tons of basic grains. In 2001, Mexico imported more than six million tons of corn, one-third of which was genetically modified. Dependence of Mexico on food imports has grown to 95% for oil-rich seeds, 50% for rice, 40% for meat, 25% for corn and 20% for milk, according to the Equipo Pueblo organization in Mexico City.
The result is not only a terrifying lack of food security for Mexico, but also the deeper impoverishment of two-thirds of the 25 million Mexicans dependent on agriculture, and the forced migration like the two cousins of more than 500,000 people a year from Mexico to the US.
All this will get worse still in January 2003, when the last remaining Mexican duties on food imports will disappear, as required by NAFTA. Heavily subsidized US-produced grains, potatoes, poultry, pork, beef and dairy products are expected to destroy whats left of farm-supported society in the Mexican countryside. A new wave of forced migration and deaths in rail cars, or in the deserts and mountains of the border, will greet the new year.
The "safety valve" that the employment in the maquiladoras have been since 1965, and particularly since 1994 with NAFTA, is also in the process of disappearing. As widely noted, employment in border maquilas is declining as many transnational corporations transfer their operations to China and other "lower-cost than Mexico" locations in Asia and Central America. More than 500 factories and 200,000 jobs have vanished on the border in the last 12 months.
The process that led to the deaths of Omar Esparza Contreras and Roberto Esparza Rico also has an impact on workplace health and safety on the border, in Mexico and in the United States. The "race to the bottom" for the lowest possible production costs means that occupational health and safety is just one more cost to be minimized in the desperate effort to maximize short-term financial results to meet the insatiable profit projections of financial analysts and corporate shareholders. With the opening of China, the bottom has dropped even lower, and the people who will pay the cost of this relentless race are those locked inside rail cars, or locked inside unsafe factories and the adjacent poisoned communities in Mexico, China and the US itself.
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As noted below, for the governments of North American the health and safety complaint of the workers of Breed Technologies Autotrim and Customtrim (AT/CT) plants in Mexico are "dead and gone." The generic "Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health" formed in October was established to extinguish the last three H&S complaints filed under NAFTAs labor side agreement.
This action puts the final nail in the coffin of NAFTAs claim to protect the rights and the safety of workers anywhere in North America. The workers at AT/CT have been trying for five years to improve their working conditions and to get the Mexican government to simply enforce its own laws. They have dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" hand-delivering detailed complaints to the Mexican STPS, filing a 100-page complaint with two dozen sworn affidavits under the NAFTA side agreement, testifying in person at a San Antonio hearing at the risk of losing their jobs and being blacklisted but all for not. Not even the verification of all the allegations of the complaints by experts from NIOSH following visits to the plants, nor confirmation of the complaint items by the National Administrative Office of the US Department of Labor could win these workers any justice.
The Working Group will not address any of the specific problems highlighted by the AT/CT case which is no longer open for discussion and will bring no relief to the workers at these two plants. If the AT/CT workers rights and safety cannot be protected after these five-years worth of efforts, then the safety and rights of every worker in North America is at risk.
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GOVERNMENTS TERMINATE AUTOTRIM/CUSTOMTRIM NAFTA H&S CASE
On October 28th the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the formation of a "Trinational Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health" involving the three NAFTA signatory countries Canada, Mexico and the United States. The formation of this Working Group is the final resolution of the last three outstanding workplace health and safety complaints filed under the NAFTA labor side agreement, including the five-year-old at Breed Technologies Autotrim (AT) and Customtrim (CT) plants in Matamoros and Valle Hermoso Mexico.
On November 1st, the following statement was release by our Network on the formation of the Trinational Working Group and the termination of the AT/CT complaints. Additional information on the background and five-year chronology of the AT/CT case, including the Congressional letters, is available at the Networks website: www.igc.org/mhssn. The statement reads:
The October 28th press release from Federal OSHA announcing the second meeting of a "Trinational Occupational Safety and Health Working Group" gives the mistaken impression that something is being done to respond to workplace health and safety complaints filed under the NAFTA labor side agreement. In fact, this "Working Group" is the latest delay and detour in a fruitless, five-year effort by Mexican workers to get the Mexican government to enforce its own safety regulations in US-owned and operated auto parts "maquiladora" plants on the US-Mexican border.
The government-only Working Group was formed in July 2002 by the US and Mexican governments to terminate three pending workplace health and safety complaints filed under NAFTA, including one from two plants (Autotrim and Customtrim) of the Florida-based Breed Technologies. The Breed Technologies facilities produce leather covers for steering wheels and gear shifts at plants in Matamoros and Valle Hermoso, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.
The deficiencies of the Working Group, whose formation closes out all outstanding NAFTA health and safety complaints and ends any further action on them, include:
- The exclusion of any representatives of the workers and of their co-petitioners, including experts in occupational safety and health, who filed the complaints. The Working Group consists only of government functionaries the very same agencies whose inaction and failure to respond was the basis of the complaints in the first place. In September 2002, the Autotrim/Customtrim workers formally requested to participate in the Working Group along with representatives of supporting non-governmental organizations. This request was refused by the US and Mexican governments.
- The Working Group will not address the detailed set of immediate, medium-term and long-term recommendations sent to the US and Mexican governments by the Autotrim/Customtrim petitioners in July 2001, originally solicited by the US Department of Labor itself, on how to remedy both the specific problems of these two plants and the barriers to effective enforcement of Mexican regulations throughout the maquiladoras;
- The Working Group will not address the actual, real life obstacles to effective enforcement of workplace safety regulations in any of the three countries, which was the purported purpose of the NAFTA complaint process, and of these three complaints in particular. Instead, the Working Group will engage in abstract, generic discussions about training techniques, handling hazardous substances, management systems, websites and "sharing best practices." These topics have already been discussed for years by the US and Mexican governments in previous "talk shops" with no discernable impact whatsoever on the efficacy of regulatory enforcement in either country;
- The Working Group has held and will hold "secret meetings," gatherings which are closed to the public, closed to the media, and closed to the workers and organizations which filed the original complaints being "settled." Apart from the official, biannual press release, no one will know what has occurred behind closed doors;
- The Working Group will meet every six months, for an unlimited number of years. There are no deadlines, there are no requirement for action, there are no proposals to identify what went wrong in the workplaces where the complaints were filed; and no proposals to identify what can be done to overcome similar obstacles in the future.
The formation of a "Working Group" itself is a time-consuming deviation of the NAFTA labor side agreement, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The next step in the Autotrim/Customtrim (AT/CT) case under the torturously long NAALC complaint process was supposed to be the creation of a "Evaluation Committee of Experts" (ECE) to determine why the Mexican government has persistently failed to enforce its regulations at the two facilities. The NAALC does not provide for a "Working Group," which constitutes a detour from the established sequence of stages and also short-circuits the process which, theoretically, could have resulted in trade sanctions against Mexico.
In May 2002, 35 members of the US House of Representatives wrote to US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao condemning the Labor Departments refusal of the AT/CT workers proposal in December 2001 to convene an ECE in this case. In response to growing public pressure, the US and Mexican Labor Secretaries issued a "Joint Declaration" in June terminating all outstanding complaints, and establishing the "Binational Working Group" in July.
In August 2002, Senator Edward Kennedy and the late Senator Paul Wellstone wrote Chao stating that the Working Group is "an insufficient response to the issues raised by the Autotrim/Customtrim case," and recommending "the working group include some of the workers who submitted the NAO complaint and that the working group respond to recommendations for protecting worker safety submitted by the petitioners in this case."
In October 2002, the Canadian government joined the previously "Binational Working Group." At the Working Groups second meeting on October 7th, an agreement was reached that "while the Working Group will continue as a government-to-government body, each country will decide how to include labor and business organizations on a case-to-case basis."
The Mexican government has already rejected participation of any AT/CT workers, so "labor involvement," if any is permitted from Mexico, will consist of representatives of the official, government-dominated unions. It will be interesting to see whether the US and Canadian governments will follow Mexicos example of excluding any independent or "inconvenient" labor representatives, and what role, if any, labor and business organizations will be allowed to play in the Working Group.
The Working Group must also be viewed in the "big picture" economic and political context.
The unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the AT/CT plants and other maquiladoras cannot be blamed on "Third World subcontractors." Almost all the 2,000 border maquilas are directly owned and operated by Fortune 500 corporations who have the resources and personnel to comply with Mexican health and safety regulations, if they cared to do so. However, what US-based multinationals are seeking in Mexico is not only extremely low wages, but the elimination of regulatory compliance costs created by any meaningful enforcement of occupational and environmental health standards.
Mexico itself is a poor country, heavily indebted to US banks and international financial institutions, and dependent on foreign investment to pay the interest, let alone the principal, of these debts. Any policy such as effective regulatory enforcement which "discourages foreign investment," is economic suicide and a political impossibility. Unsafe conditions exist in US-operated maquiladoras not because Mexico lacks regulations or inspectors, but because there is no political will to enforce workplace safety rules.
The Bush Administration is a vociferous proponent of corporate globalization and unfettered free trade. On one hand, the administration must present NAFTA as a "win-win-win" success story; on the other hand, the US government is opposed to having any clauses protecting occupational and environmental health in new trade and investment agreements, such as the proposed "Free Trade Area of the Americas." Sources inside the Labor Department have reported the political objective of the Working Group is to talk and talk for the next three years, so that the US and Mexican governments can then walk hand-in-hand into the September 2005 World Safety Congress in Florida and declare that there are no workplace safety problems in the maquiladoras all thanks to free trade and NAFTA.
Given the composition, secrecy and abstract agenda of the "Trinational Working Group" it is unlikely that it will produce "tangible results, ones that benefit us all by reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in all workplaces throughout North America," as promised by OSHA head John Henshaw on October 7th.
Workers and supporters with first-hand experience of the barriers to safe workplaces have been excluded from the Working Group. The agenda does not even address the recommendations made in the AT/CT case, nor the larger issues affecting regulatory enforcement in North America supposedly the purpose of NAALC complaints and their "resolution." The secret meetings of government functionaries, themselves responsible for the problems confirmed in the NAALC complaints, will continue behind closed doors with no announced deadlines or specific goals.
Despite the promissory press releases issued by OSHA on the "Trinational Working Group," the workers of Autotrim/Customtrim have been left empty-handed, and have been abandoned by and are excluded from the "settlement" of their own complaint. The fate of the Autotrim/Customtrim workers health and safety complaint exemplifies the complete failure of NAFTA and its side agreements to protect the rights, health and safety of workers throughout North America.
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ALCOA WORKERS CALL ON COMPANY TO "OBEY THE LAW"
Another important effort of maquiladora workers to exercise their rights under Mexican law is unfolding in two plants operated by the US-based transnational Alcoa Inc. in Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuna on the Texas-Mexico border.
Workers at a second Alcoa plant voted on October 18th in favor of a democratic slate for the leadership of their local union. The October vote at Plant #1 follows a February 2002 vote at Plant #2 where a democratic slate was elected to the leadership of the union at that facility.
As part of the election campaign, workers from Plants #1 and #2 held a peaceful, legal rally outside Plant #1 on September 25th. On October 4th Alcoa management responded by firing 20 workers for participating in the legal demonstration and supporting the independent union. Despite the firings and continuing intimidation, the workers at Plant #1 voted for the democratic union slate on October 18th. Five of the workers fired on October 4th were members of the elected slate.
Alcoa workers, supported by the Comite Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO) organization are requesting support in the form of a letter to Alcoa urging the company to:
1) Immediately reinstate the workers fired for participating in the legal protest at the plant;
2) Respect the results of the election at Plant #1, and the decision of workers at both factories to be represented by an independent union; and
3) Ensure that there is no further harassment or firings of independent union supporters at these or other Alcoa facilities, including the replacement of general manager Paulino Vargas and human resources manager Jose Juan Ortiz at Plant #1.
The messages should be sent to Alain Belda, Chief Executive Officer, Alcoa Inc., 201 Isabella Street, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212-5858; or firstname.lastname@example.org; or faxed to 412-553-4498.
In the October 18th election at Plant #1, the independent "For Unity" slate won 914 votes, which was 400 more votes than those cast for a slate supported by the local leader of the government-dominated Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and over 600 votes more than were cast for a slate supported by Alcoa management.
Despite the election victory, workers at both Alcoa plants face an uphill battle to win the right to be represented by the union of their choice. As in many Mexican states, the local conciliation and arbitration board, which has the power to accept or reject applications for union registrations, continues to be dominated by members of the historical ruling party in Mexico, the PRI, and by former leaders of the PRI-dominated unions, such as the CTM.
For this reason, the workers at Plants #1 and #2 are demanding that Alcoa respect the results of these elections and "obey the law" in Mexico. The workers are seeking the reinstatement of the fired workers, including those elected to the union leadership body at Plant #1, and that there is no further harassment and intimidation by management personnel or CTM officials at either factory.
Alcoa Inc. is the worlds largest producer of aluminum. With headquarters in Pittsburgh, Alcoa has 129,000 employees in 38 countries. Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo was recently named to Alcoas Board of Directors, while Paul ONeill, Alcoas CEO from 1987 to 2000, left the company to become US Secretary of the Treasury in the Bush Administration.
The Alcoa Fujikura Division (AFL) is one of the five largest suppliers of automotive electrical distributions systems in the world. In Mexico, AFL manufacturers wire harnesses for Ford, Volkswagen, Subaru, Harley-Davidson and other firms. AFLs maquila operations, including Plants #1 and #2 in Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuna, employ more than 14,000 production workers.
Alcoas actions violate the Mexican Federal Labor Law and the Mexican Constitution, both of which guarantee freedom of association and the right of workers to democratically chose their own unions and leadership bodies. They also violate the companys own statements and code of conduct which affirm that Alcoas supports the internationally recognized right of freedom of association.
Financial analysts in Mexico have noted that Alcoa has publicly declared it is seeking to cut $1 billion in costs by 2003 in Mexico. In the maquilas, the company has tried to achieve this goal by signing "sweetheart contracts" with the CTM and other "official unions" to slash benefits for workers who already receive wages that put them below the poverty line.
Additional information on the elections and conditions at Alcoas plants is available at: www.maquilasolidarity.org and from Ricardo Hernandez of the American Friends Service Committee at email@example.com .
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SAIPAN GARMENT WORKERS WIN LAWSUIT
Workers in the garment sweatshops in the US Territory of Saipan producing clothes for brand-name US retailers won a major victory in September when all the manufacturers and retailers involved in these operations except Levi Strauss & Company settled a federal class-action lawsuit against them over violations of wage and hour, health and safety and other labor law violations. The settlement represents a groundbreaking legal opening for workers suffering sweatshop conditions throughout the global economy.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of immigrant workers mostly from China, the Philippines and other Asia countries who were lured to Saipan with the promise of high pay, but then were engulfed in a system of indentured servitude with long hours, low wages, unsafe and unhealthy conditions. The Saipan garment factories operated by local manufacturers produce more than $1 billion worth of clothing sold in US stores by retailers such as Target, The Gap, JC Penney, The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch. Levis is the only retailer named in the suit which is refusing to settle, but it stopped buying garments from Saipan when the suit was filed three years ago.
The agreement establishes a code of conduct and funds independent monitoring of factories on the island of Saipan, part of the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Each company 23 local manufactures and 19 US-based retailers will make a one-time contribution to a fund that will finance the monitoring program and compensate more than 30,000 garment workers, as well as cover administrative costs and legal fees.
The September settlement brings the total fund to more than $20 million. In addition to the code of conduct and independent monitoring program, workers will receive back wages and receive up to $3,000 if they want to return to their home countries. The parties have agreed to consider using the International Labor Organization as one of the monitoring bodies.
The monitoring system established by the settlement involves a panel of three retired judges who will oversee the process. The panel will have the power to conduct unannounced inspections of the factories and investigate worker complaints. The judges can order payment of back wages, require abatement of violations found by monitors, and, in the worst case, place manufacturers on probation for repeated and systematic non-compliance with the code of conduct which requires payment of overtime wages, safe food and drinking water, and workplace safety.
The lawsuit was filed by the Asian Law Caucus, Sweatshop Watch, Global Exchange and the UNITE garment workers union. Additional information on working conditions in Saipan, the lawsuit, and the settlement are available at: www.sweatshopwatch.org and www.globalexchange.org.
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TAKING EVEN THE SOIL OF MEXICO NORTHWARD
An invaluable resource for following events on the US-Mexico border is the "Fontera NorteSur" (FNS) on-line daily news service. FNS is an outreach program of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. To subscribe to the free daily news service go to: http://frontera.nmsu.edu . On October 18th, FNS reported:
This week, Mexico's Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente (Federal Environmental Protection Office, Profepa) officially suspended the activities of 70 companies that, in 2002, have illegally mined 450,000 tons of Baja California sand to export to the US. Stripped from areas surrounding Tecate and Ensenada, the sand is used to restore US beaches that have suffered erosion from tides, bad weather and other natural phenomena. Other sand is illegally mined and used in Mexican construction projects, according to an article in the Tijuana newspaper, Frontera (no relationship to FNS).
Despite Profepa's increased enforcement of mining regulations, the theft of BC sand still continues according to observations made by Frontera newspaper's staff. As in the past, sand-filled trucks avoid environmental officials by staying off of main highways and using back, dirt roads instead. According to Profepa, there are at least 36 areas where sand is being illegally extracted.
At one point between Tecate and Tijuana, residents of El Gandul and La Presa de El Carrizo say that every day, but generally during the early morning hours, hundreds of trucks take away sand from dry streambeds.
While the illegal removal of sand threatens the local environment it may later affect community safety. A Tecate environmental official stated that 5,000 residents of the Andalucía neighborhoods could be in danger from winter rains. This is because the course of streambeds and other paths for rain runoff have been altered by sand mining.
Source: Frontera (Tijuana), October 17, 2002. Article by Manuel Villegas.
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APHAs "GLOBALIZATION AND HEALTH NETWORK"
At the 2001 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), a "Network on Globalization and Health" was formed to address concerns about the effects of economic globalization on public health, including occupational health, and health care systems worldwide.
The key concerns of the Network are:
- privatization, deregulation and access to health care, water and other vital human services, including life-saving treatments for HIV/AIDS;
- international inequality causing declining health and income in developing countries as financial markets and technological advances forge ahead;
- effects of global trade agreements, including the pending General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), on the ability of democratically elected governments to protect public health;
debt and structural adjustment programs in developing countries, including "user fees" for essential services; and
- occupational health, environmental hazards and corporate accountability and "social responsibility" in the global economy.
The G&H Network has established a list-serve which can be joined by subscribing at: firstname.lastname@example.org . The Networks coordinators are Dr. Ellen Shaffer and Meredith Fort, who can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org , respectively.
The goals of the Network are to share information about current events and trends, report on members ongoing research, and to coordinate collaborative work on policy, advocacy and research.
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KEY ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTERS AND RESOURCES
There are several newsletters or information services that provide essential information for everyone trying to keep up with whats happening on the US-Mexico border and in other places in the world where US-based transnationals have located production facilities.
The Interhemispheric Resource Center (IEC) in New Mexico has a web-based "Americas Program" which frequent posts articles, essays, reports and discussion papers focused on key issues in the Americas and in the global economy. For example, on October 24th IRC posted an article on the eight-year record of NAFTA entitled "NAFTA: A Cautionary Tale," by Timothy Wise and Kevin Gallagher. On November 1st a discussion paper entitled "Social Movements and Economic Integration in the Americas," by Beverly Bell of the Center for Economic Justice, was posted. To subscribe and for more information, please visit: www.americaspolicy.org
Researcher and writer Dan La Botz has been editing the "Mexican Labor News and Analysis" newsletter for more than seven years in collaboration with the Mexicos Authentic Labor Front (Frente Autentico del Trabajo FAT) and the United Electrical Workers (UE) union in the US, and with the support of the Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis. The now-monthly newsletter contains a wealth of information about the labor movement in Mexico and often has a "Social Statistics" section with up-to-date information about social conditions in Mexico. The newsletter can be viewed at the UEs website (www.ueinternational.org) and direct subscriptions can be obtained by contacting La Botz at: email@example.com .
The National Network of Committees on Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) has just posted a new website with resources and links for worker training materials in languages other than English; fact sheets for workers; youth training materials; and reports of "international OSH activism." There are more than 20 local COSH groups in cities in the United States and Canada, and the office of the National COSH Network is in Chapel Hill, NC. For more information, please visit www.coshnetwork.org or call 919-933-6322.
The British Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA) has just established a "Corporate Crime and Accountability News Links" database containing links to articles, starting in September 2002, in the national and international press on these issues. The CCA is a non-profit organization funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in Britain. It began operations in 1999 to promote worker and public safety by providing advice and conducting research and advocacy on issues related to law enforcement and corporate accountability. To view the news link, please visit: www.corporateaccountability.org.
The Global Policy Forum (GPF) has a weekly newsletter which lists the major newspaper and magazine articles, reports, speeches, and other information related to global issues. The GPF was founded in 1993 as a New York City-based non-governmental organization which monitors policy making at the United Nations. The listings give a brief description of each item as well as the reference information and a hyperlink to the text. The weekly email message runs between 15 and 20 pages in length and has categories such as "Social and Economic Policy," "Globalization," "NGOs," International Justice," "War on Iraq," "9/11," "UN Reform" and similar themes. The GPF website also offers original publications analysis, reports and documents. To subscribe to the weekly listing, please contact: www.globalpolicy.org.
In October 2002, the Globalization and Labor Standards (GALS) Bibliographic Database began issuing a monthly electronic newsletter. The GALS database contains abstracts of recent law journal articles exploring international labor standards in the global economy. Taken from English-language law journals from around the world, the database provides an alphabetical list of summarized articles, and allows for full-text search of the archive of current and previously posted abstracts by subject, author, journal, date or keyword. In addition to the database and newsletter, one can join the GALS list serve to receive a monthly posting with abstracts of recent articles. For more information, please visit: www.laborstandards.org
In June 2002, "Tierramerica" began publishing a weekly electronic newsletter in English with news and features on environmental and sustainable development issues in the Americas. The Tierramerica communications project is a cooperative effort of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Inter Press Service news agency. To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, please visit: http://tierramerica.net/suscription.shtml/
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- Factor X/Casa de la Mujer hosted a two-day training at the end of September in Tijuana, Mexico, with 28 current and former maquiladora workers. The fourth in a series of trainings with Factor Xs staff and community-based "health promoters," three volunteers from our Network provided information on identifying and controlling key workplace hazards, such as chemical exposures, ergonomics and stress, as well as information on workers rights under Mexican law. The instructors were Leonor Dionne and Dinorah Barton-Antonio from the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley, and Network coordinator Garrett Brown. The event was also covered by a writer and a photographer, Susan Gard and Robert Gumpert, from the Department of Industrial Relations of the state of California.
- Network Coordinator Garrett Brown participated in the November 14-16th "Global Symposium on Strategies for a Greener High-Tech Industry" in San Jose, CA. Organized by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC), the gathering brought together more than 35 key academics and activists from Europe, Asia and the Americas to discuss how to address the adverse health effects of the global electronics industry on occupational and environmental health. Brown spoke about how the experience of our Network on the US-Mexico border could be applied in "electronics maquilas" elsewhere in the world.
- Media Coverage of the Network: Hazards magazine, the quarterly British health and safety publication, has just released its issue #80 which includes a photo spread from the August 2001 Network training in Dongguan City, China. The China training involved three international shoe companies and their contract manufacturers, four Hong Kong-based labor rights non-governmental organizations, and four dozen young women migrant workers at the three sports shoes plants. The training resulted in the establishment of plant-wide health and safety committees with direct and active participation by workers. The photo spread in issue #80 can be viewed at: www.hazards.org The November 2002 issue of Occupational Hazards magazine carried a feature on our Network and coordinator Garrett Brown, highlighting the border and Asia projects. An article on the China project will also appear in a forthcoming issue of The Synergist, monthly magazine of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
- Network Coordinator Garrett Brown and Dr. Dara ORourke, a professor at MIT, will be the guest editors of a special issue on occupational and environmental health in China of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, edited by Dr. Joe LaDou. The special IJOEH issue will feature information on working conditions, analysis of recently approved safety regulations, and evaluation of national and international projects to improve workplace safety in China. The issue will be published in the third quarter of 2003.
- In October 2002, Network Coordinator Brown was awarded "Principal Investigator" status by the Public Health Institute (PHI) in Berkeley, CA. PHI is a 40-year-old organization that has its own public health projects as well as sponsoring numerous projects led by principal investigators. Browns project to establish a "Global Workplace Health & Safety Resource Center" in Berkeley will now have PHIs support as funding is sought from foundations and other sources.
- The Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Michigan has posted an on-line video about the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. The video, entitled "The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras: Reflections, Resistance and Re/solutions, can be seen at: www.ilir.umich.edu/
- Several organizations have asked the Network to publicize the following job announcements:
- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is looking for a Spanish-speaking instructor for a series of classes on Emergency Response and Hazardous Chemicals in April 2003. The classes will occur in Los Angeles and San Francisco with local union health and safety coordinators. For more information: contact Charlie Barrett, IUE/CWA Industrial Division, 202-434-9511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Fair Labor Association is seeking applicants for a "Monitoring Program Associate" position. This is an entry-level job in Washington, DC, to collaborate in the review, processing and analysis of factory audit reports related to FLA member companies production facilities. The deadline for applications is early December 2002. More information on the position and duties is available from: www.fairlabor.org and from Margaret Hawley at email@example.com
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QUOTES OF THE MONTH
"An exodus of factories in the last two years, many of them to China, has led to a wave of soul-searching among business leaders and government officials here over Mexicos ability to compete with other low-cost exporters for the United States market
Mexican business leaders lobbied officials to crack down on Chinas investment subsidies, which they say are against World Trade Organization rules and are partly to blame for Mexicos woes
I know that China is cheating, said Rolando Gonzalez Baron, president of Mexicos National Maquiladora Export Industry Council."
-- "Manufacturing Jobs Are Exiting Mexico," by Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, November 5, 2002.
"Among those who do pay the [Chinese Communist] party attention, nearly all agree that it has lost its ideological soul and that it is now groping for new ways to justify its monopoly on power
Private business people, too, are entering the party for the first time and are prospering as never before. But the benefits of party membership and of economic boom have not been evenly shared. Factory workers and peasants the partys traditional base are feeling more and more alienated by corruption, joblessness and the fraying of the social safety net...The theory [of "three represents" which allows capitalists to join the party] says that the party can represent both the exploited and the exploiters, said an official of a leading party institute in Beijing. How do you do that? Just because you say you do?"
-- "As Chinas Economy Shines, the Party Line Loses Luster," by Erik Eckholm, November 5, 2002.
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MAJOR REPORTS ON MEXICO AND GLOBAL SWEATSHOPS
There continues to be a river of informational and analytical reports on working conditions in the worlds 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.
-"Occupational Health in Mexico," Tania Carreon, Carlos Santos-Burgoa, Sherry Baron, Sendy Hernandez," Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Vol. 17, No. 3, July-September 2002,
- "Manufacturing Jobs are Exiting Mexico," Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, November 5, 2002.
- "Fox to fight U.S. farm subsidies," Associated Press, October 22, 2002.
- "Mexicos Fox urges fair practices by NAFTA members," Reuters, October 8, 2002.
- "US-Mexico border industry transforming after blow from global crisis," Julie Watson, Associated Press, September 30, 2002,
- "Free-Market Upheaval Grinds Mexicos Middle Class," Ginger Thompson, New York Times, September 4, 2002
- "Dying for the Job: Workplace Health and Safety in the United States," interview with Lisa Cullen, Multinational Monitor, Vol. 23, No. 9, September 2002.
- "Coming to a town near you: Corporate globalization and its impact on Massachusetts workers," by Nancy Della Mattera and Jennifer Gaudet, New Solutions, Vol. 12, No. 2, Fall 2002.
- "Loose Threads: After a decade of organizing, anti-sweatshop activists say its time they pulled together," by Dan La Botz, 2002, available at: www.americas.org.
- "The Real Cost of Free Trade: America Jobs, America Wages," by Congressman Bernie Sanders, available at: www.bernie.house.gov.
-"WRC Assessment re Complaint against New Era Cap Co., Inc (Derby, NY), final report of Workers Rights Consortium investigation, 2002, available at: www.workersrights.org
- "Occupational Health in China," David C. Christiani, Xiaodong Tan, and Xiaorong Wang, Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Vol. 17, No. 3, July-September 2002.
- "Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance, Made in China," Li Qiang, China Labor Watch, October 25, 2002, available at: www.chinalaborwatch.org
- "Occupational Health Hazards Facing Chinas Workers and Possible remedies," Su Zhi, Wang Sheng, and Steven P. Levine, Transition (newsletter of the World Bank), July-August-September 2002, available at: www.worldbank.org/transitionnewsletter.
- "Paying the Price, Worker Unrest in Northeast China," Human Rights Watch report, August 2002, available at: www.hrw.org.
- "China Passes New Laws to Protect Workers Safety & Health" and "Labor in China" (first of three-part series), compiled by Jennifer Borden, World Focus (newsletter of the American Society of Safety Engineers), Vol. 2, No. 1, Fall 2002, available at: www.asse.org.
- "Equality still a far-off dream for Chinese women," Audra Ang. Associated Press, November 5, 2002.
- "As Chinas Economy Shines, the Party Loses Luster," Erick Eckholm, New York Times, November 5, 2002.
- "Chinas Communist Party Opens Its Doors to Capitalists," Joseph Kahn, New York Times, November 4, 2002.
- Peoples Republic of Products: Chinas embrace of capitalism is making it the factory floor to the world, posing a serious challenge to the U.S. economy," three-part series by Evelyen Iritani, et. al., Los Angeles Times, October 20-22, 2002.
- "China, Mexico Compete for Investment," Associated Press, October 18, 2002.
- "Fired Chinese workers sues for labor rights; Working Conditions worsen as economy tries to modernize," Jasper Becker, San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 2002.
- "When Workers Organize, Chinas Party-Run Unions Resist," Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, October 15, 2002.
- "Chinas workers pay price in death and injury for countrys export success," Martin Fackler, Associated Press, September 9, 2002,
- "Occupational Health in Industrializing Countries," Joseph LaDou, Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Vol. 17, No. 3, July-September 2002. This issue of the book-length publication includes articles on occupational health systems in 12 countries on all continents around the globe.
- "The Use of Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems in the Member States of the European Level, Experiences at company level," European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2002, available at: http://agency.osha.eu.int
- "New challenges and opportunities for Occupational Safety and health in a globalized world," Alberto Lopez-Valcarcel, International Labor Organization, April 2002, available at: www.ilo.org
- "Occupational Health Services at Work," V. Forasteri, SafeWork, International Labor Organization, 2002, available at: www.ilo.org.
- "Selected occupational risks," in the WHO-World Health Organization Report 2002, available at: www.who.int/whr/en/
- "WTO Agreements & Public Health," A joint study by the WHO and the WTO Secretariat, August 2002, available at: www.who.int
- "Globalisation and Health," series of articles in EuroHealth (newsletter of the London School of Economics), Vol. 8, No. 8, Summer 2002, available at: www.lse.ac.uk/Depts/lsehc
- "New OSH strategy for Europe takes shape," Newsletter No. 13 of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2002, available at: http://agency.osha.eu.int/publications/newsletter
- "Special Issue: Stress at Work," Newsletter No. 19-20 of the European Trade Union Technical Bureau for Health and Safety, September 2002, available at: www.etuc.org/tutb
- "ACTU Digest of Occupational Health and Safety Information," series of 15 newsletter of the Australian Confederation of Trade Unions, available from Ken Norling at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reports from workplaces around the world
- "Fourth Synthesis Report on the Working Conditions Situation in Cambodias Garment Sector," September 2002, available at: www.ilo.org
- "WRC Assessment re PT Dada Indonesia, Remediation Progress Report," Workers Rights Consortium, September 29, 2002, available at: www.workersrights.org
- "Deceptive Beauty: A look at the global flower industry," VIDEA, May 2002, available at: www.videa.ca
"From household to the factory: Sex discrimination in the Guatemalan labor force," Human Rights Watch report, 2002, available at: www.hrw.org
- "Child Labour and Labour Rights in the Sporting Goods Industry: A Case for Corporate Social Responsibility," Social Sector Group, New Delhi, India, May 2002, available at: www.cleanclothes.org
- "The responsibility of Spanish garment retailers for the social and working conditions in small production centres in Northern Morocco," Spanish Clean Clothes Campaign, March 2002, available at: www.cleanclothes.org
Codes of Conduct
- "Unity Platform on Corporate Accountability," issued by US-based global justice groups, October 29, 2002, available at: www.corpwatch.org
- "28 Words to redefine corporate duties: The proposal for a Code of Corporate Citizenship," by Robert Hinkley, Multinational Monitor, Vol. 23, No. 7&8, July/August 2002."
- "Corporate Codes of Conduct, regulation, self-regulation and the lessons from the baby food case," interview with Judith Richter, Multinational Monitor, Vol. 23, No. 7&8, July/August 2002."
- "Internationally Binding Legislation and Litigation for the Enforcement of Labour Rights," Report of the seminar organizing by the Clean Clothes Campaign, Mulheim an der Ruhr, Germany, June 2002, available at: www.cleanclothes.org
- "From North-South to South-South," Robert J.S. Ross and Anita Chan, Foreign Affairs, September-October 2002.
- "Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World Is Possible," book/report by the International Forum on Globalization, available at: www.ifg.org
- "Reducing Poverty: Is the World Banks strategy working?" The Panos Institute, September 2002, available at: www.panos.org.uk
- "Resisting the Plan Puebla-Panama," Citizen Action in the Americas, No. 2, Interhemispheric Resource Center, Americas Program, September 2002, available at: www.americaspolicy.org
- "Manual for value chain research on homeworkers in the garment industry," Dorothy McCormick and Hubert Schmitz, The Institute of Development Studies, 2002, available at: www.ids.ac.uk/ids/global/wiego.html
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END OF NEWSLETTER - VOL. VI, NO. 3 NOVEMBER 25, 2002
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