In Mexico, Amazon opens a mega-distribution center next to a slum

The contrast is striking. The huge distribution center that Amazon is preparing to open in Tijuana, a Mexican city on the border with the United States, is next to miserable wooden shacks and jail. Posted in early September, the photographs quickly went viral. Criticism is mounting on the web against the exploitation of low-cost Mexican labor to supply the American market.

“Scandalous”, “Dystopian”, “This is capitalism”… The quality of Internet users is severe against this shiny ultramodern warehouse of 32,000 square meters, which cost 21 million dollars (17.8 million euros) to the world leader in online sales. In the photos of Mexican photographer Omar Martinez, the Amazon logo measures the slum. A brutal image that reflects in a crude way the advance of inequalities in the world », Reacted the sociologist Carlos Gomez Gil, on September 9, on his Twitter account, making the eleventh Amazon distribution center in Mexico the new symbol of the ravages of globalization. In the Mexican border regions, the minimum wage caps at 213 pesos (11 dollars, or 9 euros) per day, against 15 dollars an hour on the American side.

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In a series of tweets, Charmaine Chua, an economist at the University of California, doesn’t mince words: The new distribution center is not here to serve the local market. It will employ overexploited Mexican labor to dispatch goods that will be reshipped across the border. The firm has just opened the largest warehouse in the United States (306,000 square meters) in Otay Mesa, an industrial district of San Diego, twin border town of Tijuana, taking advantage of the new free trade agreement (AEUMC) signed at the end of 2018 by Washington, Mexico and Otawa.

“Strenuous” working conditions

Mme Chua assures that Amazon benefits from a USMCA clause allowing it to import goods from Mexico to the United States, without tax or inspection, with a value of up to “800 dollars”. The economist also talks about working conditions “Painful” Mexican employees of the company, who “Work weeks of more than sixty hours “.

Allegations completely denied by the spokesperson for the firm, Marisa Vano, who repeats that it respects Mexican labor law. Our salaries and benefits strengthen local communities, and these investments help these regions thrive. Mme Vano insists that the juggernaut of e-commerce created 15,000 jobs in Mexico ”, to which will be added 250 additional positions in Tijuana.

The company’s image is already tarnished on both sides of the border. An investigation published in April by Reuters revealed that employees of a distribution center near Mexico City (center) had been subjected to compulsory overtime beyond the legal duration. Worse, some would have been forced to resign without severance pay, after contracting Covid-19. A few days earlier, in the United States, Amazon recognized that some of its American employees had been forced to urinate in bottles in order to keep up with the imposed rates.

www.lemonde.fr

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