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Despite the winter chill in the air, the mood on the picket line outside the Matamoros Coca-Cola bottling plant was optimistic. The strikes have closed or slowed production at dozens of maquiladora assembly plants and other factories located south of the border to take advantage of lower labour costs. But if we give in, then things will stay the same.
There have already been some victories: At protest camps across the city, workers complain that union leaders are good at collecting membership dues, but not so efficient when it comes to sharing information or even copies of their collective contracts.
Despite paltry wages and shabby working conditions, widespread strikes are a rarity in Mexico. The strikes have spread like wildfire in Matamoros, a city of , which sits across the border from Brownsville, Texas and has become a magnet for impoverished workers from across the country.
Abdio Lorenzo moved to Matamoros 20 years ago from Veracruz and now employs 32 people in a company handling chemical waste. His invoices are going unpaid because of the strike, but like many locals, Lorenzo expressed sympathy for the strikers. Amlo has not commented on the Matamoros strikes, but observers say he inadvertently triggered the walkouts with a promise to double the minimum wage to The increase triggered a clause in some collective contracts in the city which index link pay rises to the minimum wage.
In turn, workers on other contracts walked off the job, demanding the same deal. Under a ragged tent pitched outside the Leche Vakita plant, strikers invoked the deal, before a rail-thin driver pulled out a neatly printed list of other demands: He had barely finished speaking when a car pulled up by the picket line, and a stocky man marched up to the drivers shouting that one of their trucks had damaged his vehicle. The drug-fueled violence which has racked the surrounding Tamaulipas state has not affected its booming economy.