Monday, June 18, 2012

Industrialized Poverty

The House(s) That Brian Built

If there was any people NAFTA was supposed to help, surely it was the Mexicans.   It was supposed to be their admission ticket to industrialization and the great Middle Class, their path out of poverty.  As McClatchey Newspapers reports, Mexican workers have found those fancy factory jobs just another dead end.

Some four decades after welcoming foreign assembly plants and factories, known as maquiladoras, Mexico has seen only a trickle of its industrial and factory workers join the ranks of those who even slightly resemble a middle class. Instead, the poverty trap clutches them tightly. Some have earned the same wages for years. The government subsidizes credit, allowing purchases of appliances and even simple houses. But the credit sinks them into debt they can never hope to repay. Their teenage children, rather than staying in school, rush to factories themselves or join criminal gangs.

Without deep political and social reforms, experts say, the thousands of maquiladora plants that cluster at the U.S. border and around cities in the interior will remain a fixture for decades to come, and Mexico won’t build a middle class that’s big enough to fuel faster economic growth.

Mexico does all it can to ensure that workers don’t unionize, or if they do that they join so-called “protection unions” designed to assure the interests of plant owners and keep wages low.

The article illustrates the plight of Mexican factory workers by looking at one of them.

By day, Sergio Martinez labors in a modern air-conditioned factory a few miles from the Texas border, a human cog in the global supply chain that helps build pickups and tractor-trailer cabs. He wears a smart uniform at work.
At night, he comes home to a dirt-floor shack with a bare light bulb and no indoor plumbing. Mosquitoes buzz incessantly. He and his family live like poor dirt farmers.

His salary of $7.50 a day is enough to provide for the family dinner table, the cost of bootleg water and electricity, and an occasional article of discarded clothing for his wife or two girls, but rarely anything else.

And even the foreign corporations don't hide the fact that they're getting rich picking the bones of impoverished Mexican labour.

Factory managers say that by keeping unions out and bringing workers in from southern Mexico, companies that operate here are able to keep wages low.

"These people come to work hard, to suffer. They are willing to work for very little,” said Roberto Rivero, a human resources manager at the Japanese-owned Takata plant here that employs 2,400 people to piece together automotive air bags.

This is the workers' Utopia free trade fetishists like Brian Mulroney promised as they ushered in the era of corporatist economics and corporatist politics.   It was all a tissue of lies.  It still is.



mizdarlin said...

I agree with everything you have stated, and further, I predicted long ago when this business started that those in the US who lost their jobs to the maquiladoras, would no longer be able to afford to consume what was being produced, so who were there corporate bandits going to sell to?
And the gangs that their children join are taking the entire country ransom, and all for drugs that should have been legalized years ago...but that would interfere with the US taxpayers' support of privatized prisons, which need to be filled to be money-makers, and bloated police forces, who vote in blocs for whatever party is willing to support their every wish, and look the other way when they abuse or murder citizens...
The legacy of Mexico under NAFTA is becoming the legacy of the US and no one seems to see this.

The Mound of Sound said...

We set up a system ripe for institutional corruption and exploitation. This was a muffled salvo in the opening of a grand class war that rages to this day. The CEOs and their "rentier" patrons have triumphed - for now. Inequality - of wealth, income and opportunity - grows ever faster. If government doesn't respond to staunch the damage and vent the frustration, this is the sort of thing that could well turn ugly eventually.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.