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first week in November, standing shifts outside the door of the locked down Envisions plant, where they say they will remain until the companyor someonesettles with them. It has become more of a vigil than picket, an attempt to ensure that no more property is removed from the plant until workers get what labor law guarantees them. “All we want is our severance pay,” Liliana Medina Morfin said. “And now it seems like all that we have is locked up in that building,” she said, referring to boxes filled with Packard Bell computers and monitors. She said she knows the computers filed a counter claim with the Arbitration and Conciliation Board in Ciudad Victoria, and Matrix’s attorney, Craig Mortensen, did not return our phone calls. Standing outside the doors of the closed plant, each of the six workers knew that these jobs were gone. The work, Medina said, wasn’t like work in most maquiladoras, where workers are exposed to solvents, chemicals, or heavy machinery. At Envisions, workers sat at computer terminals and read addresses on envelopes that appeared on screens. \(Most were machineprinted envelopes that were illegible because they were printed by defective dot-matrix printers, or because ribbons or ink jets were mitted that information back to the United States, where the bar codes were printed on the envelopes so the letters could be delivered. There was no tangible product, nothing but bits of electronic information that was processed, but not really produced, on machines owned by Matrix Leasing of Midville, Utah, and in a building owned by the Arguelles family of Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Envisions didn’t do U.S. Postal Service work, one worker said, because it’s illegal to do Postal Service work outside the United States. But no one could tell me who Envisions’ clients were, -and when the company moved into Oakland, California, in 1992, it set up a bar code operation to do contract work for the U.S. Postal System. Envisions also got tax abatements and federal grants for its Oakland operation, according to the San Francisco Business Times. But the company no longer works in Oakland, like it no longer works in Reynosa. Perhaps the workers in Oakland got a better deal, although they were all temporary workers who had displaced fulltime, permanent U.S. Postal System employees when the contract was let. In Reynosa, the government’s labor lawyer, Juan Silva, insists that his hands are tied. He can advise the union, as it negotiates with the company, but he cannot represent it. And perhaps, he said, his office could help the workers pursue the company in the United States, if it is still doing business there. I asked him how he would get to the company in the U.S., and what resources were available to him. “Activistas,” he said, like Marta Ojeda and Susan Mika at the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, who have helped the union by getting out the word in the U.S. “Y el congresista,” Silva added, referring to Ohio Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown. Or perhaps, he said “even diplomatic channels.” Dismissed Envisions workers have also filed private claims, through the offices of Reynosa labor lawyer Raymundo Zepeda. According to Zepeda, the 317 union members he represents are that he is hopeful that the workers will get their severance pay. According to Varela, Zepeda has been working with a faction that A Liliana Medina Mot* and Raul Flores Louis Dubose wants her removed as union delegate. And although members of that faction told me they were holding a meeting to discuss a possible settlement with the industrial park owners, who want to end the strike so they can lease their building to another company, Zepeda later told me that all the talk of money was rumors. The one issue of business at the meeting, according to several sources who attended, including Varela, was to remove her from her position as union leader. She has agreed to go, she said, although she worries that a small group will divide up a small settlementleaving most of the 318 workers with nothing. That’s not so, according to Zepeda. There could be a settlement from Matrix. And there could be an offer from the owners of the industrial park. And, he said, workers might still have a cause of action in the United States, if only he can locate Envisions. He won’t. Because in the end, there is an earthly explanation to most ghost stories. Envisions won’t pay because it filed bankruptcy months ago in San Diegofirst Chapter 11, and when that wouldn’t stand up, Chapter 7. Bob Waller is probably in Ireland, where, like former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, he owns a home. And while half a dozen picketers guard the doors of the building Envisions rented for a year, hundreds of creditors in California are already in line, waiting for a bankruptcy judge to sign off on a payment schedule that workers in Reynosa will never see. 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 21, 1997