Maquiladoras are industrial plants below the U.S. border that assemble foreign parts into finished products. Unlike many developing countries which export inexpensive commodities, Mexico “exports” its inexpensive labor force in the form of maquiladora workers (Isaak, 2004). Like workers anywhere, maquiladora workers have concerns both for themselves and for their families. These workers are concerned about the exploitation of women, unhealthy working conditions, economic stability in Mexico, and organizational attachment.
At the end of the 1980s, maquiladoras employed more than 350,000 workers in 1,500 plants. As they struggled to maintain the production necessary to continue attracting more foreign investment, the maquiladoras began hiring young women. These women ended up living in slums. Unfortunately, these young women would not have found jobs elsewhere, so they had no choice but to except these deplorable conditions so they could continue to send money back to their families (Isaak, 2004). This exploitation of women is a problem for maquiladoras that must be addressed.
Working conditions, especially in regard to health, are another concern for maquiladora workers. A survey conducted in the mid-1990s found that 40% of maquiladora workplaces had no health and safety commissions. It was also revealed in this same study that one in five respondents suffered symptoms associated with illnesses developed at work. A high percentage of these workers claimed to not have safety training or access to safety information (“Maquiladora workers”, 1998). Access to safety standards similar to those enjoyed by workers in the U.S. is a concern for maquiladora workers.
Mexico’s maquiladoras are located on the U.S. border. As such, goods and services in this part of the country are generally more expensive. Coupled with the extremely low wages of the maquiladora workers, this is a recipe for disaster. The maquiladora workers’ livelihoods are tied to the stability of the Mexican economy. If the economy comes under hard times and the value of the peso decreases, the workers feel it the most. This is exactly what happened in the mid-1990s when the Mexican economy was so unstable (Davidson, 1995).
Finally, maquiladora workers suffer from a lack of organizational attachment. Organizational attachment is the commitment that workers feel toward their workplace. Absenteeism and turnover are symptoms of lack of commitment. Studies have been done to determine what causes maquiladora workers to feel so distanced from their work environment. First, maquiladoras offer very little opportunities for advancement. Second, maquiladoras often offer alternative forms of compensation rather than increased pay (Pelled & Hill, 1997). In order to decrease the symptoms of organizational detachment, the issues must be addressed.
Jobs in maquiladoras are generally considered to be desirable (Pelled & Hill, 1997). Companies looking to begin operating a plan in Northern Mexico should take the concerns of these workers into consideration before setting up shop. If the concerns of the maquiladora workers is not met, this highly mobile workforce will gladly move to greener pastures.
Davidson, M. (1995). Maquiladora workers hit by Mexican peso drop. Christian Science Monitor, 87(90), 8. Retrieved September 16, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
Isaak, R. A. (2004). The globalization gap: How the rich get richer and the poor get left further behind. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press.
Maquiladora workers report unhealthful working conditions. (1998, January). Nation’s Health, Retrieved September 16, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.
Pelled, L., & Hill, K. (1997). Employee work values and organizational attachment in North Mexican maquiladoras. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 8(4), 495-505. Retrieved September 16, 2008, doi:10.1080/095851997341577