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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Mexico: Labor woes continue

Rubie’s is licensed to manufacture costumes under the Barbie label for Mattel and labels such as Harry Potter for Warner Brothers. Its Tepeji del Río plant is in the midst of a labor dispute.

Factory workers contend they voted for a union—Federation de Trabajadores “Vanguardia Obrera”—to bargain for better conditions. As a result, the workers say they lost their jobs, which paid about $5 a day (The New York Times, June 12, 2005).

The workers say their union signed a collective bargaining agreement with Rubie’s. Mexico’s national labor board rejected that agreement on the grounds of a previous contract with the López Mateos National Textile Union. The workers claim that union never represented them.

When contacted by The Times, Rubie’s president, Marc Beige, denied allegations of verbal abuse, forced overtime, making workers buy safety equipment and consistent use of child labor. Beige also said workers weren’t dismissed but walked off their jobs.

Mattel spokesperson Lisa Marie Bongiovanni told The Times that a May audit had turned up several violations of its code of conduct (read Mattel's Global Manufacturing Principles), including a 15-year-old worker. “Child labor is a zero-tolerance issue for us,” she said, adding that Rubie’s promised to hire only employees older than 16 and to pay overtime correctly and on time.

On June 6, after two months without pay and after the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board and Rubie’s refused to recognize the workers’ union, 53 of the 62 employees accepted severance packages from the company.


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