Workers in Ciudad Juárez are protesting Lexmark’s decision to fire about 75 workers who had submitted a formal request to form a union.
Lexmark, a Kentucky-based corporate leader in laser printers, is worth around $2bn and has the support of Mexico’s political establishment and apparently also its media and Catholic hierarchy, notwithstanding Pope Francis’s visit to Juárez on Wednesday.
The elites wish to snuff out defiance and stop rebellious contagion spreading across this industrial city, according to those inside the shack.
“We’re living on charity, and it’s tough, but we’re still here,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the protesters, as she huddled by a wood-burning stove. “We’re going forward. This is a system of modern slavery and we have to fight.”
The fight here is largely without precedent.
Ciudad Juárez, a gritty city of around one and a half million across the border from El Paso, Texas, is a global economy workshop. About 300 factories with headquarters in the US, Europe, China and elsewhere employ about 300,000 Mexicans. There are virtually no independent unions and, until now, little sign of worker mobilisation. Historically low wages are changing that.
“Conditions have become insufficient for survival,” said Elizabeth Flores, director of Pastoral Obrera, a labour and human rights advocacy group. “It has been a time bomb. This protest is an enormous opportunity.”