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Auto Parts: Mexico, Central America, China

May 21, 2007  |  Share

The Race to the Bottom: From NAFTA to CAFTA

July 2005

IN MEXICO, Alcoa threatens its workers: "We can hire three Hondurans for every one of you Mexicans."

Alcoa workers in Mexico, manufacturing auto parts for export to the U.S. earn a base wage of just $1.21 an hour, trapping them in deplorable living conditions.  In Piedras Negras, many Alcoa workers sell their blood plasma twice a week in order to eke out an existence.  In Acuña, Alcoa workers live in primitive one- and two-room cinderblock huts, lacking windows and potable water.

In the race to the bottom in the global economy--and moving from NAFTA to CAFTA--even these wages are too high and these living conditions too extravagant.  Alcoa has shifted 2,500 jobs from MEXICO to HONDURAS and is now threatening its Mexican workers, "We can hire three Hondurans for every one of you Mexicans."  Alcoa is trying to slash wages and benefits in Mexico by 25 percent.  Alcoa workers in Honduras earn 68 cents an hour.  Like their colleagues in Mexico, they have no rights to freedom of association or to organize.  Anyone even suspected of doing so will be fired and blacklisted.

IN HONDURAS, another multinational, Lear, already has 5,000 auto parts workers, and plans to add 3,500 more jobs in a joint venture with Hyundai.

The Lear workers earn just 65 cents an hour, face mandatory pregnancy tests, need permission to use the bathroom, face constant speed-ups, and live in poverty.  Any worker asking for her rights will be fired.

IN NICARAGUA, Yazaki's Arnecom workers in Nicaragua earn 41 cents an hour and are, at this moment, the target of an aggressive, illegal union-busting drive

Arnecom, a joint venture led by the giant Japanese corporation, Yazaki, has 3,000 auto parts workers in Nicaragua earning just 41 cents an hour, who are at this moment the target of an illegal union-busting drive--which the Nicaraguan Labor Ministry appears to be unable to stop.  To get a job at the Arnecom factory, the workers have to parade naked before management to show they are "fit" for the job.   On July 6, four of the newly-elected independent union leaders were fired.

Arnecom has also set up a pilot project in Haiti, where they can pay 30 cents an hour.

These in-depth reports concretely document the failure of NAFTA to improve respect for worker rights and to assure decent wages.  And they offer strong evidence that CAFTA will similarly fail to protect the rights of workers in Central America and the U.S.  As it is currently formulated, CAFTA will only exacerbate the race to the bottom.





CNN/Lou Dobbs Tonight, July 22, 2005 


Alcoa's Hi-Tech Sweatshops in Mexico and Honduras 


Lear in Honduras 


Alcoa Sweatshops in Honduras 


Arnecom Workers in Nicaragua Under Attack 


Alcoa Joint Venture with Chinese General 


Goodyear and Bridgestone Tire Production in China 






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