Open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
When I look at the financial crisis and the bailouts on the table for the automakers, I am concerned about where this will all end.
The Big Three all have plants in Mexico and when they shut down a plant there it will bring much greater suffering than a shutdown here.
Our friends in Mexico take the brunt of any downturn. Autoworkers there used to start at US$4.50 an hour. Last summer the $4.50 was cut to $1.50 an hour; that is a 2/3 cut in pay (http://www.local707caw.ca/Mexico.pdf).
There is no way that our autoworkers would take this kind of cut.
When the Mexican auto plants were started under NAFTA, the idea was to raise wages in Mexico. But as we see, those with little or no voice take the hardest cuts – $1.50 an hour makes $12 a day. Milk is more than $4 for four litres.
We know that at those kinds of wages young children are not drinking milk.
Having just spent four months in Mexico, I know it is possible to live on $10-12 a day; but if anything goes wrong, those people are in big trouble.
There is no help from social services. And at those wages, there will be little or nothing put aside for a rainy day.
Our autoworkers have had the chance to put away a lot of money in the past.
Here is my modest proposal. When we are in negotiations with the automakers, part of the deal should be that they reinstate wages in Mexico as part of the deal.
We have an obligation to see that we are not paying poverty wages to the makers of our goods.
The car or truck you are driving may well be made for $1.50 an hour instead of $35, or more.
Ask your dealer where it was made, or there should be a sticker in your vehicle that says where it was made. Someone has to speak for those whose voice is not heard, and who will it be if it is not us?
It seems to me that this is a good time to raise our voices.
We know the system the way it was did not work well for most of the world. It brought the wealth of the many into the hands of the few, who use it for their own good.
If we believe in justice, then we need to have the moral voices (read faith communities) at the table giving direction to what should happen in the future.
We need a system where the human is more important than the bottom line.
Let our voices be heard.