Temping Down Labor Rights: The Manpowerization of Mexico

For more than four years, Margarita Estrada assembled and tested computers at a Foxconn factory in the central Mexican city of Guadalajara. Preparing 120 CPUs an hour for shipping was a “stressful” job, the young woman says. Part of Estrada’s duties involved training the large numbers of new workers. Despite dire employment opportunities in Mexico, many new employees never return after a day or two. “People didn’t last,” Estrada recalls. In her stint at the Taiwanese-owned plant, Estrada’s wages went up from slightly more than $8 to about $10 a day, plus hard-to-attain production bonuses, the former worker says.

Yet even after years at Foxconn, Estrada never became a formal employee of the electronics industry giant. Instead, Spyga, a temporary employment agency, employed her and most of her co-workers on the shop floor. “There were few people working directly for Foxconn, about five of them." Estrada says. "That’s all.”

Nationwide, other problems documented by Cereal include sexual harassment, chemical exposures, accidents, union suppression and undignified treatment, such requiring U.S. high school-like passes for bathroom breaks. A Cereal investigation found Manpower and other employers routinely asked prospective employees about pregnancies, sexual histories, tattoos and union affiliations. In many cases, new hires could expect medical exams and drug tests, according to the labor rights group.
Mexican hands piece together television sets, computers, cell phones, Xboxes and assorted gadgets. Along with the Guadalajara hub, other industrial cities include Tijuana, Mexicali, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juarez, Aguascalientes, Monterrey and Reynosa, as well as the state of Mexico.

Foreign-owned, electronics factories in Mexico tend to be supplier plants for the big boys of the industry: Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Motorola and others. Subcontractors with Mexican factories include Foxconn, Flextronics, Solectron, Jabil Circuit, and Sanmina SCI, among others. These firms, in turn, sub-contract the majority of their workers through U.S. and Mexican-owned employment agencies.

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