Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Protest at Duro Bag

Conditions at Mexican plant criticized

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        LUDLOW - Two formerworkers from the Duro Bag plant in Rio Bravo, Mexico, knocked on the front door of the Duro Bag headquarters in Ludlow on Monday.

        Margarita Rincon Jimenez and Maria Francisca Orozco wanted to talk to company officials about a ballot in Rio Bravo on Friday, in which the nearly 1,200 workers are to decide whether they want an independent union to represent them instead of what workers claim is a company-backed organization.

        What the two women and about 80 other marchers found at Davies Avenue and Oak Street were a locked door and employees walking out the back door.

        “We wanted to talk to (company officials) back home,” Mrs. Rincon said through a translator, University of Cincinnati history professor Dan La Botz. “It's the same treatment. They don't pay any attention to us, and they walk away in silence.”

        Mrs. Rincon, 39, and Mrs. Orozco, 34, each worked at the Rio Bravo plant, across the border from McAllen, Texas, for three years be fore being fired last June in connection with a strike. Their secondary mission Monday: seeking support from local members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers union, which represents employees here.

        Ludlow employees walked out the back door of company headquarters and across an alley to a parking lot. All declined to comment, and company spokeswoman Jackie Isaacs did not return several telephone calls.

        “I'm surprised,” Mrs. Orozco said. “I would have hoped they would have acted differently.”

        The Rio Bravo plant is just one of thousands of U.S. factories that opened just across the Mexican border after the 1989 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

        Mr. La Botz said Rio Bravo workers earn about $5 a day. Jim Griggs, union spokesman for the Ludlow workers, said the work Mrs. Rincon and Mrs. Orozco do would pay $10.19 per hour plus benefits in America.

        A news release about the protest said Rio Bravo workers want such things as medical attention inside the plant, bathroom breaks, an end to sexual harassment, basic safety equipment on machines and sanitary conditions in the bathrooms and cafeteria.

        Mrs. Orozco said the vote in a secret ballot in a public facility is necessary rather than an election on company property. She said Mexican law allows a procedure in which workers must deposit their identification badges in boxes.

        “(Company officials) threaten if (workers) vote for the independent union, they'll be fired or the plant will close,” Mrs. Orozco said.

        Monday's activities began at union headquarters on Elm Street in Ludlow. While union officials and representatives from other unions spoke inside, union members marched and carried signs.


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- Protest at Duro Bag