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The KUT Longhorn Radio Network Presents: Mexican American Experience Collection

Audio recordings including interviews, music, and informational programs related to the Mexican American community and their concerns in the series "The Mexican American Experience" and "A esta hora conversamos" from the Longhorn Radio Network, 1976-1982.

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The Role Of Women In Chicano Labor History
Program #
Politics, Society

Labor, Women's Issues
Linda Fregoso
Devon Peña
Oct 15, 1980

The Role of Women in Chicano Labor History

Devon Peña, an instructor at UT-Austin, discusses Chicana labor organizing in the Maquiladoras, assembly plants, along the U.S.-Mexico border. He begins with a brief introduction to Chicana labor history and its most prominent activists. He then discusses the women organizing in the maquiladoras. He explains that maquiladoras were part of a Border Industrialization Program designed to generate employment in the Mexican border states after the Bracero Program was terminated, and he discusses the program’s appeal for both Mexican and U.S. officials. Despite the program’s stated intention to hire former braceros, the maquilas instead hired a mostly female workforce, which they believed would be more productive and passive.

Peña then describes the history of unions in the maquiladoras. He explains that the plants are largely controlled by the Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos (CTM), a union allied with the state that often works against the interests of its workers. Consequently, women have formed independent unions to fight for better working conditions and Peña describes some of the occupational hazards Maquiladora workers face.

In addition, Maquila workers with the help of academics have organized the Centro de Orientación para la Mujer Obrera to teach themselves about self-management, cooperatives, labor history and arbitration and conciliation. Moreover, some women meet on their own to study labor law and discusses strategies to win better conditions. Peña says they have had some success using solidarity strikes to win wage increases and better conditions, but recent reforms to the federal labor law have outlawed this tactic.


Center for Mexican American Studies | Department of History | The Benson Latin American Collection

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