Kathryn O’Donnell Howard Besser

Latinos and Labor Program 3

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Latinos and Labor Program 3: Four Dollars a Day? No Way! Joining Hands Across Borders: A program by American Labor Education Center about Mexico, Free Trade, and Runaway Corporations (1992, 28min)

“This program looks at how "Free Trade" agreements affect workers in Mexico and the United States, with a close up look at the Ford plant” (Deep Dish TV 5).

This video looks at one strike in particular, at a Ford plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, and the opposition they face from their company, the Mexican government, and Globalization. I have decided to take the audience outside of the United States for the third video, but not too far. In Mexico, the connections between Mexican labor problems and American labor problems are made evident. The audience is able to step back and see some of the bigger underlying issues going on in the international labor community in the 1980s and 1990s ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).

First, the effects of Free Trade in Mexico are discussed. The relationship between multinational corporations and Mexican workers is examined. The viewers learn that raw materials are sent to Mexico to be assembled at a low cost because Mexican workers earn 20 times less than American workers. As a result most Mexicans live in poverty. To add insult to injury, most Mexicans can’t even afford to purchase the goods they make because the prices are the same as in the United States. The multinational corporations dump toxic waste on land and in water. The workers don’t have health and safety standards on the job ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).

The audience then learns that The National Labor Federation, the CTM, supports the companies because they are part of the political party that has ruled Mexico for over 60 years. They are often sent in to break up strikes by harassing, beating, and shooting at workers. At the strike in Cuautitlan, Mexico, the CTM is sent in to break up the strike. Workers are shot at and one is fatally wounded. Social security records show that Ford hired these “thugs” two days before the strike, but Ford denies this. Due to pressure, the voters are allowed to vote for a new union. However, voters have to vote out loud either for or against the CTM. Between intimidation and fraud, CTM wins ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).

The shooting of striking workers is indeed upsetting, especially to Americans. Yet one can argue that the American laborers are being murdered through different means: chemical emissions and low standards of safety and living that shorten lives. American members of Ford unions from Minnesota and Kansas City go to show their support and scope out the situation in Cuautitlan. They fear that if they don’t support the Mexican workers, the same thing could happen to them in the future. The effects of Free Trade in Canada and the United States are addressed. In Canada, the corporations don’t want to fund health care because they say it is the government’s responsibility. In the United States, workers are upset about losing jobs to third world countries, like Mexico, where workers are paid much less ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).

Other Mexican strikes are highlighted, including the strike of the teachers. In Mexico, teachers earn $70 a week because the corporations don’t pay taxes to support education. The teachers are also upset because the curriculum they are forced to teach encourages obedience, so that the children will grow up to be good workers. This shows that the government is teaching the next generation to be more obedient so that they don’t fight for their rights ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).
At the exhibition I will screen the following excerpt:

30:52-45:46: This excerpt shows the Ford Strike in Cuautitlan, background information on free trade, living and working conditions in Mexico, solidarity of Ford workers in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, fraudulent union elections, the fight of teachers for higher pay and better curriculum, national voting fraud, and the Mexican government’s violence against protests ("Latinos and Labor Program 3”).

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