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Black & Decker in Mexico

Black & Decker is a corporation that defines itself as a "global manufacturer and marketer of quality power tools and accessories, hardware and home improvement products, and technology based fastening systems." Black & Decker and its subsidiary DEWALT are known for their drills and household appliances. The corporation's hundreds of products are sold in more than 100 countries, and manufactured by maquiladoras which are managed directly by Black and Decker in eleven countries. The corporation's headquarters is located in Towson, MD.  At the end of December 2005, Black & Decker employed approximately 27,200 workers in 44 manufacturing plants around the world, of which 24 were located outside the United States in ten other countries. Its main manufacturing and assembly sites at this time were in the United States, Germany, Italy, England, Mexico, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Taiwan and Japan.  In recent years, the company has closed plants in Maryland and Fayetteville , North Carolina as part of a restructuring plan to reduce manufacturing costs in its power tools segment. These plant closures imply moving production from those factories to the "low-cost location" of Reynosa. The following table demonstrates the importance of Mexico in the financial composition of Black & Decker. The numbers in millions of US dollars show the total value in property, plants and equipment.

2005

2004

2003

% between 2003 and 2005

United States

$328.30

$380.20

$340.00

- 3.4%

Mexico

120.00

110.70

109.00

+ 10%

Other Countries

220.50

263.70

211.20

+ 4.4%

$668.80

$754.60

$660.20

+ 1.3%

Source: Black & Decker. Percentages: CFOmaquiladoras.org

Black & Decker and its Workers  

In Mexico, Black & Decker has two leased plants in Reynosa for its power tools segment. The Black & Decker workers make dozens of products in Reynosa, such as jigsaws, planers, cordless drills, floodlights and screw drivers for the DEWALT brand, and lawnmowers for the Black & Decker brand. They also repair products that clients returned to the company. In the cities of Mexicali and Nogales , the company has other operations for its hardware and home improvement segments. Some of their products, such as the cordless 5-tool combo kit DK5PKIT2 cost up to $599 US; however, the workers only receive a salary of less than $500 pesos (less than $50 US) per 48 hour workweek.

This 5-tool combo kit: cordless hammerdrill, self-tightening chuck, circular saw, cordless reciprocating saw, variable speed jig saw and flexible floodlight, cost $600 US plus taxes in the United States. The kits are made by Black & Decker workers in Reynosa, Mexico.

Black & Decker has a Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct approved the 12 th of February 2003, and a contact sheet for the company where one can report problems. The Code is very basic, however, both its English and Spanish versions include in its Basic Principles and Practices the following: "Employees have the right to join any legal organization for the purpose of collective bargaining or to refrain from joining any such organization, and employees will not be penalized for exercising this right." One serious problem is that the Spanish version of the Code of Ethics that is distributed to the company's employees in Reynosa does not include the above mentioned principle, nor does it include others such as the Fair Dealing principle which states that: "When interacting with the corporations employees, competitors, suppliers or customers, each employee should strive to act with integrity and honesty and avoid taking advantage of anyone through any unfair-dealing practice." There should not be any reason to give a condensed version of the Code of Ethics to the employees.   However, the most serious problem is that Black & Decker has signed a "protection contract" with a "ghost" union that in fact does not exist. The workers are dissatisfied with this situation because they would in fact like to establish a real union. However, last year, the management placed a spy in a meeting workers held outside the company in order to fire the following day several workers that questioned the ghost union. The legal case for reinstatement of two of these workers continues.

 

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