Wednesday, January 28, 2009

College Term Papers

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As Reyna Elizabeth Montere states in Work and Health, Women at Risk "Revealing the Hidden Health Burden of Women Workers, "Mexican women are making a significant contribution to the national economy, but their quality of life has not enjoyed a corresponding improvement."The North American Free Trade Agreements Export-Processing Zones (EPZs) are filled with false promises and benefits. Although providing work for Mexico's numerous unemployed, the accord harms female workers on social, mental and physical grounds. That these factories are heralded as a forward movement for females is intensely ironic in its undermining of these factors. The provisions of NAFTA leave this to the Mexican governmentТs responsibility, as American and Canadian employers are legally unresponsible for the harms incurred. Moreover, were they to want to take action, it is often impossible under the terms of the agreement.

The accord heavily undermines traditional cultural gender roles without offering an opportunity for women to explore or establish a new communal identity. The idea of "machismo" in Mexican society emphasizes male dominance in the economic sector and restricts females to domestic labor. Female factory employees cite economic difficulties first and "machismo" second when asked what their concerns were regarding their employment.ii Women are also often hired based on traits generally associated with femininity. The initial draw of females as an employment base came as a result of their "docility" and "dexterity."Leslie Salzinger notes that "Gender and class positions are discursively linked."She elaborates later that, in accord with the stereotypes women are hired on, "To reframe the work as menТs work would be to define it as underpaid."Additionally men simply do not want their wives to work.iv Half of Mexican women are still homemakers. But even for those who have gotten jobs, the role of housewife is still their burden to bear. Even though they have been granted freedom of employment, the expectations that are placed upon them in the home haven't changed at all. "Gender roles simply were not considered in the NAFTA agreement. The growing needs for women to seek employment outside the home in order to support their families is a modern trend and NAFTA does not protect against the exploitation women suffer from foreign firms within The heralding of these agreements as forward movement for Mexican females is ideologically sound at best. As long as women continue to work under conditions that further images of them as docile and submissive, EPZs offer little to them.

In addition to the reinforcement of gender roles that maquiladoras create is a prevalence of sexual harassment. Leslie Salzinger notes that this occurs both from fellow male employees and employers. Among workers there is heavy flirtation, though she carefully notes that women are pursued based on their appearances and docility, while men exclusively pursue. "On its production floor, male supervisors direct objectivized and sexualized young women apparently preconstituted in the home for use on the line," she writes in regard to the relationship between supervisors and female employees. The dichotomy women face is clearly illustrated when we examine the differences between being a good worker and engaging in the gendered social interactions that accompany the rampant sexual harassment in maquiladoras.iii It is argued by Ann Nauman and Mireille Hutchinson that the "only way women can gain access to positions of power and decision making is to have recognition of their sexual identity and its place in the real world and for there to be a change in the structure of power. "Until this happens, the sexual harassment in maquiladoras and reliance on gendered roles will continue to hinder women's advancement.

The number of females employed in Mexico nearly doubled between 1970 and 1993. "But the growing rates of employment for females are a double edged sword. It is reported in a recent study that 40 percent of Mexican females are unpaid or paid under minimum wage while 60 percent have no social Within maquiladoras, management positions are held nearly exclusively by males, while women, who are generally undereducated, accept lower wages. Additionally women receive lower level positions even when compared with men of similar educational background. Men also receive, on average, two-thirds more training than women. "Even jobs procured are rarely long-term sources of employment. Maquiladora jobs on average only last three years. Low pay and hazardous working conditions are attributed to this,vii in addition to the lack of compensation for long term work and seniority. "Because women are recruited heavily in rural areas their educational levels are especially low and they are increasingly unaware of their own rights as Even among the jobs available, Ann Nauman and Mireille Hutchinson note a trend towards "masculinization of positions traditionally held by women in the workforce, "referring to a move towards computer skills in plant work. "Thus women achieve not even a significant financial benefit from maquiladora work to perhaps compensate for the compromises they are forced to grant as a result of their sex.
Unions are also often simply not an option to workers or not beneficial when they are allowed. "Unionization has been an uphill battle for Mexican workers, with government controlled unions often representing management interests and ignoring labor rights,"Ann Nauman and Mireille Hutchinson explain. Unions that are formed often have little presence in employees" day-to-day lives or are unknown to workers."Alejandro Hope, an employee of Mexico City based Grupo Economistas Asociados states unabashedly that Уwomen tend to unionize less, "as to why they are preferred for maquiladora work.iv Maquiladora workers state that they have "little faith that NAFTA will either raise wages or improve working and living conditions, as its supporters have promised. "NAFTA imposes no sanctions on a nation for refusing the right to unionize and thus, Mexico has no source of deterrence on the issue."

We cannot, however, dismiss this obvious disregard to Mexico's status as a developing nation. As Altha J. Cravey expands in his article The politics of reproduction: Households in the Mexican industrial transition, "The regulatory role of the state, which had nurtured domestic industrial capitalists and industrial workers in the old factory regime [central Mexico], has been completely revamped in favor of transnational capital accumulation. Social policy complements industrial policy in providing transnational corporations (TNCs) with a dependent and quiescent work force in the new industrial regions [EPZs]."

He furthers this by stating that employees in Mexico's older industrial zones, primarily located in central Mexico, expect social benefits within their communities."Mexico is obviously able to recognize the importance of these benefits and chooses not to in order not to compromise their relationships with the Transnational Corporations that have investments there. The United States and Canada have little ability to exercise control over the issue either. The provisions of the NAFTA agreement only require that a government follow its own labor laws. If a nation fails to follow its own rules a commission is established and sanctions may be enforced. The Mexican government simply doesn't admit that they are failing to follow their own legal provisions, and thus leaves NAFTA partners are virtually powerless. "That NAFTAs labor accords are undermined by the corruption of the Mexican government is, to some degree, out of Canadian and U.S. control.

Maquiladoras strike an issue with females much closer to their identities than job opportunities however. Pregnant women are often fired, married women are discouraged from applying and physical harm to their reproductive abilities is often incurred through their work in EPZs. Many factories require applicants to take pregnancy tests before receiving employment so that companies do not have to provide benefits that are required for maternal leaves. Additionally women are questioned regarding their sexual activity and birth control use.ii Workers employed by Zenith Electronics Corporation are hired based on their marital status (single women are almost exclusively hired) and must pass pregnancy tests to receive employment. "In 1998 the Mexican government publicly flounced the US department of LaborТs review of the legitimacy of mandated pregnancy screenings. The Department of Labor had concluded that such tests did, in fact, violate laws and should be discontinued. Mexico's labor ministry replied that requiring pregnancy tests was not in fact illegal as Mexican labor laws only applied to those already hired, not those who are candidates for employment."

If women do become pregnant and are not fired, their child often suffers health defects from lack of health care, long hours on the job and what are often harmful chemicals with which their mothers work. One plant, of approximately 200 workers, reported 4 anencephalic births and between 8 to 10 miscarriages during the period of April thru June. "Ann Nauman and Mireille Hutchinson cite a study done in 1990 which concluded that the birth weights of the children of women in Nogales maquiladoras as being lower than "internationally accepted standards and lower than those of infants born to women working in the service and commercial sectors in that city. "Additionally women working within maquiladoras often suffer from menstrual irregularities and Luisa Cabal, a coordinator for the Latin American Program at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy summarizes the importance of the issue when she states that, УReproductive autonomy continues to be systematically violated. WomenТs bodies are still the war zone in which societal discrimination and the subordination of women are explicitly manifested."

Mexican women's are also often unable to form solid nuclear families within Maquiladora-based towns. In addition to being discriminated against on their marital status, they are often so underpaid that forming a family is economically out of the question. Most employees who inhabit squatter communities live with mixed generations and extended family in an attempt to make ends meets. "When women have already established families, childcare often becomes an issue. The government and EPZ employers do not provide childcare for employees. "22% of job turnover is estimated to be a result of childcare issues. Women often lock their children in their shanties while they work, or, in some extreme cases, have left their children at orphanages as a solution."

Reyna Montere identifies the numerous problems of maquiladora workers as "childcare, housework, domestic violence, poverty and sexual harassment "and further clarifies that, though this causes high mental stress and harm, the issue simply isn't regarded in view of the economic benefits Mexico achieves in return for their labor.i The Mexican government's blatant eagerness to cater to the United States and Canada's industries is paralleled in scope by their disregard for their citizens. Their defaulting of their contractual obligations with their citizens is especially harmful to the high percentages of females employed within the maquiladora industries. By allowing the reproductive and gender identities of their female population to be repeatedly undermined, they tacitly consent to the moral obligation that accompanies this. Although heralded as a liberating step for females, the prevalence of gender discrimination keeps any benefits of NAFTA few and far between for Mexico.

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