May 4, 2020
At a plant producing fabric for car seats in Juarez, a city just south of the U.S/Mexico border, many workers began showing COVID-19 symptoms in mid-March. But the plant’s owner, Michigan-based Lear Corporation, did not close the plant until April 1—after it had become obvious that the plant was the center of a coronavirus outbreak. Thirteen workers of the plant are known to have died.
Despite shut-down orders by the Mexican government for non-essential manufacturers, many U.S.-owned factories along the border have continued production. These factories, known as maquiladoras, are very profitable for their owners. Under the pretext that they produce goods for export only, maquiladoras are exempt from most taxes and tariffs. On top of that, the companies keep the wages very low, and subject their workers to sweatshop conditions.
At some plants, workers have been walking out, protesting the lack of safety against the coronavirus. At one plant in Baja California, owned by Georgia-based Cooper Lighting, management’s answer was to put chains on the doors to prevent the 800 workers from leaving the plant!
History books tell us about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York, where 146 workers were killed because factory owners had locked the exits. That was more than a century ago, but under capitalism, bosses will behave like bosses.