Strike at Tijuana maquila

“Tijuana Dusk” by Kinsee Morlan

This is big and exceedingly good news. Strikes at Tijuana maquiladoras just don’t happen. The foreign-owned factories are too corrupt — they fire anyone who complains and if a large-scale strike looks eminent, they simply close shop and move to another third-world country where they can abuse workers without worry. Read the story below and send a letter!

Rebellion in Tijuana Maquiladoras

A group of maquiladora workers in Tijuana has put a halt to exploitation and has organized to see their rights materialize. As a fellow worker who knows of the exploitation and has seen the maquiladoras’ trail of misery and contamination in Tijuana, we ask you to help flood the owners of the factory with letters in favor of the workers.

Sohnen Workers’ Struggle

We are a group of workers from Sohnen of Mexico. We have worked with the company for five, ten and fifteen years. Our work has made the owners, the Sohnen’s, a wealthy family. As gratitude to our commitment, Mr. Sohnen has orchestrated a dirty war to get rid of us and plays the fool with regards to our labor rights.

For fifteen years, millions of microwave ovens, sound systems and other electronic components have arrived broken and unusable to Sohnen’s maquiladora plant at El Pacifico Industrial Park in Tijuana. For fifteen years, more than 400 technicians have made an effort to repair these electronic components that Mr. Sohnen later sends back to California and sells them “almost like new” in Wal-Mart, Target and other stores in the United States. With our work, Mr. Sohnen has built a business that brings in an annual revenue of 500 million dollars. Before coming to Tijuana, Mr. Sohnen had a plant in California, but in 1992 he grew tired of paying the “exorbitant salaries” of the first world. For Mr. Sohnen, the culminating incident that made him want to leave the country was when a worker from Guatemala who was about to be deported demanded worker’s compensation. How dare a Latino immigrant who is about to be deported ask for his rights as a worker! As a response to such insolence, Mr. Sohnen supported the United States presidential campaign of ultraconservative and anti-Mexican Ross Perrot. At the same time, the businessman with modern ideas closed his plant in California and opened his maquiladora in Tijuana.

Fifteen years later, Mr. Sohnen has decided that his plant is no longer profitable. It is time to get rid of us. Last year, when he came back from his Thanksgiving holiday in November 2006, Mr. Sohnen informed us that he came back well rested and ready to take on new ventures. In a private meeting, he confided to some personnel the new “reorganization” plan. The central point was to get rid of the technicians through the cheapest possible means. His objective was to do it in 18 months. Through an “industrial renovation,” his strategy was to manage a maquiladora without technicians, operated with general workers – not specialized, with a minimum wage salary. His tactic was to manipulate and annoy us so we would be pressured to resign. If his plan failed, another way was to fire us and give us mere crumbs as severance. His goal was to get rid of us without making any ripples, without sound. We were to disappear without protest and that way save the company a severance fee that the Mexican Federal Labor Law demands. What is at stake here is millions of pesos in severance pay.

This is a dirty plan against us. One of the “weapons” in this dirty war has been to force us to work an extra hour every day without pay. This is to upset us so we grow tired and convince ourselves that the only option is to resign. One of our fellow workers was accused of robbery and forced out of the plant as a criminal, cuffed and escorted by police. Other fellow workers were called to the personnel office, where they were verbally harassed and then fired without cause or warning. The workers who demanded their reintegration to the workforce filed a suit against the company. Once in the Tijuana Labor Board, Mr. Sohnen’s lawyers accepted the reintegration of three workers. The workers were once again fired a couple of hours after they began work. These are the dirty games and tricks of an employer who calls himself a “humanitarian” but is just a despicable, selfish person.

We demand a stop to harassment and violations. They want us to work up to twelve hours a day, and sometimes they don’t even want to pay us overtime. Stop with the frozen salaries of 2001. Stop rising production standards that go up continuously and that above all are illegal. Stop affecting our health. We want to stop inhaling paint fumes and aerosols, adhesive fumes and sealants, chemicals and sanding residues in inadequate working areas without proper safety equipment and proper ventilation. We no longer want to be humiliated with work orders that are screamed in an offensive manner. We no longer want to be treated as delinquents. We are tired of constantly being punished.

We demand that the Mexican labor law be abided, that the working schedules be respected, that the firing and the punishing stop, and that the rising production standards end. We also demand that the fired workers be paid a severance according to the Mexican labor law.


The Sohnen Workers Coalition

Letter in support of Sohnen workers’ struggle

Barry Sohnen

Sohnen Enterprises, President

8945 Dice Road
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670

Larry Sonen

Sohnen de México, President

Calle Mazatlan # 14603
Parque Industrial Pacifico

Tijuana, Baja Caliornia, México

We are writing you because we disapprove of the dirty war you have organized against the workers of your maquiladora plant at El Pacifico in Tijuana. After fifteen years of using a labor force of hundreds of specialized technicians in the restoration of electronics, today you want to fire them, disregarding the worker’s fundamental rights granted by the Mexican Federal Labor Law.

We demand that you stop the firing of the workers and stop manipulating the legal system against them in the Tijuana Labor Board, where you accepted to reintegrate the fired workers into the work force only to fire them again hours later after their reintegration. We remind you that you are dealing with human beings, not with electronic objects. Stop trampling over the workers’ rights, stop forcing them to work up to twelve hours a day, often without proper overtime compensation. Stop freezing their salaries. Stop constantly raising their production standards and stop obligating them to inhale paint fumes and aerosols, adhesive vapors and sealants, chemicals and sanding residues in inadequate areas without proper safety equipment and proper ventilation. Stop humiliating them with work orders that are screamed in a rude and offensive manner. Stop treating them as delinquents and punishing them as such. Stop avoiding paying severance to the fired workers according to the Mexican labor law.

It is ludicrous that we have to remind you of these things, while Sohnen flaunts their role as “humanitarians” participating directive meetings of charity organizations such as Casa de Gabriel and Catherine’s Home for Children in Mexico. He who is good begins practicing goodwill in is own home. Practice your humanitarianism by respecting your own workers.


Support the workers—send the letter

1. Please send the letter in both versions, English and Spanish.

2. The workers ask you to copy and paste all the company administration e-mail addresses and send the letter to all of them. (See addresses below)

3. Please let us know you sent the letter by sending a copy to: and

4. Send the letter by snail mail to Sohnen offices in California and Tijuana. Thank you!!

Barry Sohnen

Sohnen Enterprises, Presidente

8945 Dice Road
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670

Larry Sonen

Sohnen de México, Presidente

Calle Mazatlan # 14603
Parque Industrial Pacifico

Tijuana, Baja Caliornia, México;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;



About Kinsee Morlan

Arts and web editor at San Diego CityBeat. Interested in art and the Tijuana/San Diego border.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Workers rights. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Strike at Tijuana maquila

  1. maria says:

    Wow, the American companies go down to Mexico where they can REALLY abuse the workers. I happen to know of Mr Sohnen. HE IS JEWISH! So don’t blame the white Americans for all of your woes down there.

  2. Just because he is JEWISH doesn’t mean it’s not an American companie. It is an american companie.

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