The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border


"David Bacon reminds Americans of something we often forget: that NAFTA is meant to be a multilateral agreement, and that it was supposed to bring huge benefits to Mexico. Did it? Bravo to David Bacon for his tough-minded, unsparing portrait of working life at globalization's ground zero."--Ray Suarez, senior correspondent, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and author of "The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration

"David Bacon brings to life the heroes and villains on the front lines of the battle for human dignity under NAFTA--the world's most extreme experiment in free market fundamentalism."--Sarah Anderson, Director, Global Economy Project, Institute for Policy Studies

"Built from vivid, firsthand accounts, this is an extraordinary mural portrait of a border that few North Americans know anything about: of a working class fighting for survival on the unequal playing ground of NAFTA, where labor rights are almost always dishonored and where activists often end up blacklisted, jailed, or even desparecido. Bacon wonderfully coveys the passion, urgency and historical importance of the daily struggles to humanize the cold ultra-capitalist world of NAFTA."--Mike Davis, author of "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

"David Bacon has put a human face on the devastating impact of NAFTA on workers here and abroad. Our economic future as a nation depends on the knowledge contained in this book. A must read! !Si Se Puede!"--Dolores Huerta, Co-founder, United Farm Workers Union, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation

"David Bacon represents the fine old tradition of American working-class journalism at its best. He's gone everywhere--from tiny Mexicanvillages to the baking hot fields of California agribusiness--to get the real lowdown on NAFTA's effects on the blue collar people who hardly ever get a hearing in the mainstream press."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel


I was a union organizer for twenty years. In part, I followed in the footsteps of my parents, both of whom were labor activists in the 1930s and 1940s. My father helped organize bank employees and publishing workers in New York City, a notable achievement given that few workers in either industry have succeeded in joining unions in the decades since. My mother, a librarian, must have belonged to at least three unions in the course of that career, not counting the Book and Magazine Guild, in which she was active at the time I was born.

So unions run in the blood. Strikes must have been explained to me at a very young age; I have no memory of learning about them. I always just knew—you don't cross picket lines.

The world of labor into which I was born—permeated by the radical, left-wing, socialist movement centered in New York City—was very different from today's world of work. The culture of that earlier world was based on the ideals of European immigrants, ideals that were shared with the city's African Americans and Puerto Ricans. Together, they insisted that a vision of the future that didn't involve eliminating racism was no vision at all.

My parents' generation stood by their internationalism, often paying a high price amid the xenophobia and hysteria of the cold war. Paul . . .

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