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The strike was eventually broken by company and CTM intimidation, and in the aftermath an American reporter, Scott Lind, was detained and tortured by Mexican authorities. \(Krueger remains concerned that when the federal police arrested Lind, they were There are now over 2,000 maquiladoras in Mexico, employing more than 700,000 workers. Before NAFTA some analysts predicted that the border zone would see less industrial development after the agreement was enacted, because trade barriers would be eliminated and duty-free privileges would no longer be restricted to border for-export manufacturers. But thanks to low labor costs, expansion continues: the maquiladora workforce has increased by almost 30 percent since the free trade agreement was signed in 1994. Most of that growth followed the December 1994 peso devaluation, when the companies \(which earn their profits in dollars but pay their WORKERS WHO NEEDED AT LEAST denly had their over $6.66 PER DAY TO PAY FOR BASIC head reduced by half. NECESSITIES WERE EARNING $3.20 But wageswhich re PER DAY-BARELY COVERING THE mained constant in COST OF STAPLE FOODS. pesoswere ultimately cut in half by post-devaluation inflation. According to a 1995 informal survey conducted in Piedras Negras, workers who needed at least $6.66 per day to pay for basic necessities were earning $3.20 per daybarely covering the cost of staple foods. Teenage workers flock to the border from farm regions in the south, where the peso devaluation and NAFTA’ s elimination of agricultural price supports have hit the economy hard. Like other border cities, Rio Bravo and Reynosawhere twenty-five new plants have opened this year, employing 10,000 peoplelack the infrastructure or funds to provide housing and waste disposal for their rapidly swelling populations. Workers crowd together in the growing colonias, desert slums just a few miles away from the shopping plazas and Holiday Inns of South Texas. On a recent sun-soaked morning, Krueger stopped in Reynosa to visit Jose Solis, a soft-spoken but self-assured twenty-three-year-old maquiladora worker who lives with his wife and two sons in a tworoom dwelling made of plywood and tin. Employed by TRW, an American company that makes automotive switches, Solis works forty-two hours a week for 210 pesos \(about $28 a week, or 66 cents his four-person family. They’re barely surviving, he says. It’s been three years since Krueger first met Solis, who worked for Zenith until this year. Last year Zenith, which divides its employees into five salary grades, was demoting fifth-grade workers to fourthgrade status, and Solis was one of the leaders of a group of workers who protested. Solis says he has Krueger to thank for his new-found courage: “Once I was afraid, but now I am known [by the companies]….Ed taught us about the law, and I’ve lost my fear of reprisals.” In December he and other fifth-grade workers filed a lawsuit against Zenith; according to Krueger, Solis helped by informing other workers about what was happening and building on their support. The company settled with the majority of the workers who Finding protection in the law sued, by granting them severance packages. Solis, however, was not offered a settlement; instead, he says, he was subjected to a campaign of threats and intimidation from plant managers. Fearing for his family’s safety, he quit and went to work for TRW. Sitting in the small communal courtyard outside his house, Solis held up a special newspaper section published last spring by the McAllen Monitor, celebrating the maquiladoras with upbeat articles about the companies and photographs of busy workers. Even in the industry-sanctioned photographs, he pointed out, it’s easy to spot health and safety violationsfor instance, in photos of workers handling lead while wearing no protective clothing, or workers at improperly ventilated workstations \(all this in spite of clearly lation after violation, and he explained how at Zenith workers are now being asked to tend to five or six machines simultaneously, whereas at one time this was the job of five or six employees. Though it’s a struggle to feed his children, Solis is clearly concerned about more than his own family’s survival. “When workers begin understanding the law and what their rights are, a lot begin feeling they want to join in the struggle,” says Krueger. “[Solis] has a strong feeling internally about justice and injustice, and a love of people.” Over the years workers have become volunteers for and in some cases paid employees of CFO, which now has four OCTOBER 25, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 1/