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Congressmen See Conditions of Mexican Workers for Foreign Firms With AM-Stemming The Tide, Bjt

October 11, 1993

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) _ Six U.S. congressmen, most of them opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement, weren’t pleased by their firsthand look at how employees of foreign companies live in this border city.

″It’s one thing to be aware of the squalid conditions from reading,″ Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Saturday as he walked a dusty, unpaved street. ″It’s another thing to see people living in these kind of huts.″

The six members of the House Government Operations Committee listened to a handful of the 70,000 people who work in the city’s 620 foreign-owned plants, or ″maquiladoras.″

Supporters of NAFTA say it will help curb the flow of workers to the United States by luring investment to Mexico, opening foreign markets and creating jobs at home.

The factory workers live in wood and cardboard homes without running water and indoor plumbing. The workers complained of government indifference and a lack of support from their labor unions.

″There’s a lot of pressure on us at work,″ said Baltazar Carranza. ″They require a lot of conditions and the pay is very low. ... There are few benefits.″

The congressmen, four of them NAFTA opponents, began their four-day tour Friday in Mexico City, meeting with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and toured parts of Tijuana on Saturday.

″This visit leaves a very different impression from my meeting with (Mexican) government officials. Here’s the real world, and I don’t find people living in conditions that we would want them to live in,″ said Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., chairman of the committee and a NAFTA opponent.

The delegation also included Reps. Gary Condit, D-Calif; Al McCandless, R- Calif.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and William Zeliff Jr., R-N.H.

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