Challenging Multinationals and Toxins in Mexico

July 1999

`MexicanThe North American Free Trade Agreement opened the door for U.S. companies to set up operations in Mexico. ELAW U.S. is working with partners in Mexico to ensure that these companies protect Mexico`s environment, respect workers` rights and are held accountable for their impacts.

On April 23, 1998, 45 women working in a U.S.-owned factory in Tijuana, Mexico were overcome by fumes from the solvent cyclohexanone, which was being used to clean conveyer belts. The factory did not have proper ventilation and the workers were not given protective gear. They were treated for nausea, numbness, headaches, blurred vision, respiratory problems and other symptoms.

Despite pressure from the company, two courageous women decided to take legal action against the factory. They turned to Carla Garcia, a young lawyer with a Tijuana group called Yeuani. To make her case, Carla Garcia called on ELAW for information about the health impacts of cyclohexanone; U.S. standards for cyclohexanone in the work place; and the parent company`s operations in the U.S. Armed with this information, Carla and her colleagues at Yeuani brought the women`s claim before the Tijuana Arbitration Board. The Board awarded the victims 100% of the compensation they were seeking.

With ELAW`s help, Yeuani recovered fair compensation for the injured women. Yeuani`s victory sends a strong message that companies operating in Mexico will be held accountable for their toxic impacts.

For more information about this ELAW Impact, please contact: Yeuani, Los Que Luchan, Calle Guillermo Prieto #2460, Colonia America, Tijuana, BC, 22400, Mexico.