Mexican Coca-Cola workers along US border on strike over wages

Global Business

In Mexico, as the country’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador begins to turn campaign promises into law, the regions where he’s implementing policy are finding that ideology and reality take time and effort to match.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports from the U.S. border with Mexico.

Coca-Cola workers are on strike in Mexico, at the country’s border with the U.S. state of Texas. Striking workers, drone shots over the line of trucks blocking the factory entrance

They’re demanding an annual bonus increase and 20 percent pay rise, citing exploitative working hours and an unfair share of their distribution company’s massive expansion over recent years. The workers are employed at Arca Continental, a Coca-Cola distributor in northern Mexico.

“You’d look at us and think it’s only Coca-Cola that is fighting for better conditions, but everyone is fighting here,” said Juan Gaitan, one of the workers’ union leaders conducting the strike. “All the factories are striking, because we know our rights and we have to be given what we deserve.”

Juan isn’t alone. Workers from thirty other local companies, from Coca-Cola to assembly plants, have been on strike for the past three weeks.

The strikes have been brought about by a stimulus plan for the Mexico Border region introduced by the country’s new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The plan doubles the Mexican minimum wage in the border region to around $9 per day.

The border region workers already earn more than that, but say the cost of living at the border, coupled with the benefits that will be enjoyed by the companies, mean they should also see a wage boost.

The border stimulus plan also includes cutting the valued added tax rate by half – nothing new at the border- but taking effect alongside reducing income tax by a third and matching fuel prices at the pump on the other side of the border.

The plan is aimed at stimulating economies across the region, which has been plagued by cartel violence.

“Over the past 30 years, the economic growth has been in some central Mexican cities, on the Carbibbean, and in some border cities,” said the Mexican president, known commonly as AMLO – an acronym of his initials – as he announced the stimulus plan in a press conference in a border town fifty kilometers away called Reynosa.

“These are like small islands in a sea of poverty and abandonment, as we want to see growth across the board.”

Yet, the region’s Northeast Business Union, a group of top businessmen from Matamoros are concerned with the president’s policy.

“There is a lot of uncertainty here now for factory businesses who might invest in the region. We were expecting economic growth this year, given that we had managed to bring a halt to the local economic slow-down”, Alberto Casanova, the North East Business Union President said. “But now, with all of the situation of the strikes, it’s no longer seen as possible.”

As President AMLO’s campaign promises come into effect, the border region is feeling the effects of the change. But with the president showing no signs of relenting, it’s now up to local business executives and their workforce to adapt to the new status quo.