politics

How Working-Class Women Of Color Take The Brunt Of NAFTA Deals

Last week, the Trump administration missed its deadline to submit a new NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement, deal with Mexico and Canada for Congress’s approval — and it’s got everyone in a stir. As politicians and big businesses argue over social media, there’s one impacted community that’s not receiving as much attention: working-class women who have long taken the brunt of NAFTA deals.

NAFTA started in 1994 with the aim to increase trade between the three countries, promising to make each of them wealthier in the long run. While that might be true for the 1 percent, it’s been catastrophic for those at the bottom of the economic, gender and racial totem poles. By pitting workers in all three countries against each other, NAFTA meant a race to the bottom for working-class people. Multinational corporations outsourced jobs to cheaper labor markets, which sent wages plunging everywhere. After all, said the multinationals, why pay U.S. auto workers $34 per hour when you could pay a fraction of that just past the border? That they did, moving factories to Mexico, where, as the Chicago Tribune points out, “$2 per hour workers make $40,000 SUVs.”  Meanwhile, the loss of U.S. and Canadian manufacturing jobs drove salaries down there, too, as unemployment rose.

Though NAFTA was sold to the people as a tool to reduce inequality, it only fanned the flames. And if Trump manages to push through a revised deal, it could stand to make things much, much worse.

Women in particular faced the worst impacts of NAFTA, and this was especially true for low-income Mexican women. In a sense, this could have been seen from a mile away by anyone who cared to look: women in agriculture have historically been over-represented in low level, informal and seasonal work and are consistently underpaid compared to their male counterparts. So it’s unsurprising that any policy that destabilizes the agricultural industry will have the gravest effects on women and the people who depend on them.

NAFTA has forced small-scale farmers with rudimentary tools and equipment to compete with wealthy and established agribusiness corporations. Farmers were pushed off the land in droves, unable to compete with these larger scale operations. No longer able to live off the land, they had little choice but to desert their homes in search of work.

Those lucky enough to find employment learned quickly that one miserable job replaced the other. Take for instance maquiladoras, manufacturing plants concentrated along the border of Northern Mexico. They exploded onto the scene after NAFTA was implemented, as thousands of laid off migrants traveled to border towns in search of work. The maquila industry is disproportionately made up of women, who work long and physically demanding hours assembling laptops and other electronics. Maquiladoras are notorious for workplace abuses, low pay and violence. But women who report instances of sexual harassment see their hours cut with no explanation or recourse. The bosses know they have nowhere else to go since, in the aftermath of NAFTA, jobs are hard to come by.

So how could a policy that promised to enrich everyone turn out so disastrously? Well, NAFTA did generate wealth — if you were already rich.

NAFTA let corporations slash wages, knowing that workers had no bargaining power. If they complained, the company could simply move its operations across the border. This threat was also used to prevent workers from unionizing or demanding basic worker protections. Inequality soared. In fact, more than 20 years after the policy’s implementation, the richest 10 percent in the U.S. own half of the country’s wealth. In Mexico, the impact is similar. Instead of raising the standard of living, wages have plummeted and the percentage of Mexicans living in poverty has risen.  

Faced with this landscape, many women find no choice but to migrate to the U.S. in search of work. The journey is not an easy one. Hundreds of migrants die each year in transit, facing gangs, traffickers and harsh weather conditions. U.S. Border Patrol agents often cause even more harm, pushing migrants deeper into the unforgiving desert and even destroying water bottles distributed by humanitarian aid groups — condemning many to a slow and painful death.

Migrant women face specifically gendered violence, too. As many as 80 percent of women and girls crossing Mexico to the U.S. are raped along the way. Those “lucky” enough to make it find back-breaking, low paid work in the service and agricultural sectors. There, bosses cultivate a climate of fear, knowing undocumented immigrants are hesitant to attract unwanted attention by reporting workplace abuses. Wage theft is also common. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that “women said their pay stubs routinely show far fewer hours than they actually worked.” Those who demand what they are due are readily replaced, or threatened with calls to immigration authorities. And here, too, sexual violence is a constant. Workers are routinely harassed, and often forced to sleep with their supervisors. These crimes, however, largely go unreported.

NAFTA has been an unmitigated disaster for the poor on both sides of the border. Wages have plummeted, poverty is widespread and workplace harassment is ubiquitous. But the Trump administration’s approach won’t fix it. In focusing on U.S. job losses, Trump plays into the xenophobic narrative that Mexico benefitted at the expense of U.S. workers. But immigrants didn’t take our jobs; greedy corporations did. And by pitting workers against each other, we are all losing.

Read: Her Grandmother Passed Away From A Heatstroke While Working In The Fields So This Teen Created A Safety App For Farmworkers

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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Women In Mexico Have Started Their Own #MeToo Movement

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Women In Mexico Have Started Their Own #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo Movement has arrived in Mexico.

Last week, a young activist tweeted that an esteemed writer had beaten or raped more than 10 women, with her post inspiring hundreds of others to speak out about violence and harassment in their industries.

Ana G. González, a 29-year-old political communications consultant, tweeted on March 21 that Herson Barona had “beaten, manipulated, gaslighted, impregnated, and abandoned (on more than one occasion) more than 10 women.” While she didn’t experience the violence firsthand, she said that women had asked her to speak out on their behalf.

“I knew several women that were just too afraid and not ready to come forth, but allowed me to speak for them and name this person,” González told the New York Times.

Barona denied the accusations, saying “I understand that there is collective pain surrounding the real cases of so many beaten, raped and murdered women” and “unfortunately, in public scorn there is little space for discussion, clarity or conciliation.”

His response didn’t slow down the derision he, and others who have been recently been accused of gender violence and harassment, received on the social network, however.

Since González’s tweet, more allegations have followed under the hashtag #MeTooEscritores, where women are sharing their stories of abuse in film, academia, the nonprofit sector, business, law, theater, medicine, politics and more.

Some women, fearing a backlash from their jobs or their perpetrator, are speaking anonymously or not sharing their attacker’s name. But others, who shared details in their accounts, have caught the attention of the attorney general’s office in the state of Michoacán, which is investigating information published on social media by a network of journalists that “includes acts that Mexican laws consider as crimes.”

Last year, during the height of the #MeToo movement in the US, Mexican actress Karla Souza, famous for her role as Laurel Castillo on the US legal drama television series How to Get Away With Murder, disclosed that she was raped by a director while working in Mexico. She chose to not share the name of her aggressor, which incited skepticism and criticism from many, sending a message to those who might have wanted to open up about their experience with workplace violence or harassment that they, too, could risk similar reprisal.

“When you see how these women have been treated publicly, it makes perfect sense many victims want to protect themselves by staying anonymous,” González said. “Let’s just hope this time it will be different.”

Read: Twitter Is On Fire With The ‘Me Too’ Hashtag And Latinas Refuse To Be Forgotten

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