Jobs Lost to Mexico - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Crystal Oko

Jobs Lost to Mexico

WINONA, MN (KTTC-DT) -- Across southeastern Minnesota this year lots of pain and anxiety, with people losing their jobs.

When it happens all of a sudden, it might feel like your world has ended.

Now consider people who knew it was going to happen ahead of time, months ago. They knew that their jobs were being phased out, because it was all part of the company's plan.

Some jobs at TRW in Winona were eliminated and moved to Reynosa, a border town across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas.

Minnesota jobs, moving to Mexico, leaving people like Derrick Pagel to ask why.

A failing auto industry, a race to the bottom and a recession-three elements of the perfect storm for employess of automotive parts maker, TRW.

Once considered one of Winona's biggest employers. Now, the root of heartbreak for hundreds of laid-off employees.

"I think it's anger and frustration," said Ben Hovell, president of the United Autoworkers Union Local 958.

The first wave of lay-offs at TRW happened in August when the first production line was shut down and shipped south to Reynosa, Mexico.

"You get upset that they actually built a plant in Mexico and you could kind of see what was going to happen with that. And they bring all these lines and all these people and then a year or two down the road it's like, oh we're shipping these down to make them cheaper. It's like well, why? We make such great products here. It's just like why?" says Pagel.

Union Local 958 president Ben Hovell says the company gave everyone an answer why.

"Well, what the company has told us is that the type of work that we're in has become more of a commodity and the competition has become tougher. And a lot of the supplier, or the people we do work for, are demanding that low cost countries be included in the bidding of the jobs. Even if we could do it for a lower price, because as of yet, we are not a low cost country, we could not get the work."

Derrick Pagel was laid-off after 9 1/2 years. Some employees that are being laid-off have been there for 20 years.

"You knew with the rumors going around that it was working it's way up seniority. It was kind of like you'd play the numbers game and check and see where you fit. And it was just hard when it got closer because you're just trying to figure out how you're going to make ends meet," says Pagel.

The numbers game was over for Pagel in December when he was laid-off in the second wave. And now, it has happened again, another blow to Winona and dozens more families not even a week ago on Friday, April 17th---now after three rounds of cuts, 320 employees have been slashed to 90. Jobs have been moved south where the work can be done cheaper.

Shipping jobs to Reynosa, Mexico will help the company cut labor costs. An average Mexican worker makes $6.20 a day.

$6.20 a day, even $6.50 or $7.00 a day by some accounts, is certainly not enough to live on in the United States, and the same in true in Reynosa, a border city that has more than doubled in size since the industrial boom, since the creation of assembly factories, called maquiladoras.

Reynosa's cost of living is only slightly less than in urban areas here in the U.S., making life difficult for those who work in maquiladoras.

"And so at the end of the day, it's not helping the people in that country and it's not helping us," says Hovell.

So if this isn't helping Mexican workers, and it's not good for American workers, why did Congress approve the North American Free Trade Agreement?

NAFTA was signed in the 1990's, lifting trade barriers with our Canadian neighbors to the north and to the south, with Mexico.

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