New book takes critical look at NAFTA’s effects on Mexican women workers

Latest work by Carolyn Tuttle, Betty Jane Schultz Hollender Professor of Economics, Director of Border Studies and Chair of the Latin American Studies Department at Lake Forest College unveils exploitation of Mexican women in U.S. factories.

Titled Mexican Women in American Factories: Free Trade and Exploitation on the Border (Univ. of Texas Press, November 2012). Tuttle’s book produces new evidence suggesting free trade agreements create questionable benefit to individuals and families in developing countries.

Tuttle’s research includes an unprecedented number of interviews of 620 female factory workers in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Several Lake Forest College students accompanied her on subsequent trips over the next five years to obtain additional testimony from maquiladora workers, residents of Nogales, union leaders and directors of NGO’s. She found that many of the women suffered injustices in the workplace that were in direct violation of Mexican Labor Laws and the labor agreement put in place with the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. Violations ranged from mandatory overtime; work on legal holidays and insufficient medical benefits to requiring women to take birth control and firing them for becoming pregnant.

 “Contrary to what policymakers and economists suggest, the maquiladoras industry in Mexico has done little to create jobs that raise family incomes or improve the lives of its workers,” said Tuttle.

Moreover, “There is a dual reality that exists at the border,” said Tuttle. “Dilapidated dwellings where workers live can be contrasted to the modern factory facilities where they work.”

Tuttle also warns policymakers to be wary of new and expanding free trade agreements in South America and Central America. “I fear that these trade agreements and the outsourcing that accompanies them will only impoverish the poor further.”

Mexican Women in American Factories: Free Trade and Exploitation on the Border by Carolyn Tuttle is available on Amazon.com.