Comité Fronterizo
de Obrer@s


For the labor rights and all human rights of the maquiladora workers

Spanish Version

What is the CFO



The Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO-Border Committee of Workers) is a grassroot organization that supports union democracy and workers rights in six cities along the Mexico-U.S. border. With support from the CFO, thousands of maquiladora workers have won significant victories, including:

  • Substantial wage hikes;
  • Improvements in working conditions;
  • Election of rank-and-file activists to local union executive committees;
  • Severance packages for laid-off workers that meet the requirements of Mexico 's labor code;
  • Restoration of benefits that have been withdrawn by maquiladora firms.

The CFO consists of workers whose consciousness has already been raised and who want to help our coworkers. We are all current or former maquiladora workers. We are active in three of Mexico 's border states: Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. Our main office is in the city of Piedras Negras in Coahuila. To contact us, we recommend you to read first How to communicate with the CFO.  

The CFO was established in 1986 as an independent Mexican organization, although its efforts date back to 1978 as a binational Quaker project. It is set up as an asociación civil, the Mexican equivalent of a nonprofit organization. The CFO is an inclusive group that respects the political, religious, and sexual preferences of its members. It is indepent of the government and of all political parties.


The main purpose of the CFO is to educate, organize and empower maquiladora workers to advance towards our overriding goal: to improve working conditions and the quality of life for workers in the maquiladoras, especially for women and their families.


The Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s works to improve labor conditions in the maquiladoras and the quality of life of maquiladora workers, especially women and their families. As a worker-controlled organization that educates, organizes and empowers other maquiladora workers along the Mexican border with the United States , we organize for the defense of basic human and workers' rights, union democracy, and the protection of the health, life and welfare of each of us and our communities.


CFO's objectives include: to increase knowledge, self-confidence, and empowerment among maquiladora workers; to foster union democracy and advance independent unionization; to help both female and male workers understand the impact of the maquiladoras on health, for themselves, their families, and their communities; to forge links of solidarity and strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations around the world; and to expand rank-and-file organizing to other cities with maquiladoras.

What Problems Do We Address? The maquiladora industry -export-oriented assembly plants along Mexico 's northern border - is one of the world's first laboratories for "free trade." This industry has boosted Mexico 's export income- but its human costs are excessive. Maquiladora workers, especially women, live in poverty and are constantly victimized by the climate of abuse in the maquiladora workplace. Extremely low wages, health risks on the job, constant violations of Mexico 's labor code, a lack of respect for the workers' dignity, an absence of the freedom to form and join unions of our own choosing, and environmental degradation are the most important problems we face.  

What is our focus? The CFO has always supported, given advice to, and accompanied maquiladora workers with whom we have established contacts. This support has consisted in first listening to the workers, gaining their confidence, and helping them to organize themselves according to their needs. The workers, both women and men, speak to us about all of their problems, not only in the maquiladoras, but also in their communities and their families. For this reason, we are covering such problems as labor, union, health, security and hygiene, gender-discrimination, domestic violence, conflicts between neighbors, family and personal issues. When a women worker empowers herself in order to defend her rights in front of a powerful global corporation, she also changes the world around her.  

However, more and more we have realized that the focus of our work should be to help workers to create their own workers organizations or independent unions.  

In order to reach this objective, we need to first develop the workers' knowledge, their capacity to talk about and defend their rights, to organize themselves and negotiate with managers, and their resistance in front of those who do not want the workers to become aware of their rights: the owners of the maquiladoras, the governments and the corrupt unions. With all of this and the increase in support the workers are asking of us, we have realized that we, the CFO, need to focus on the most strategic work and training areas.  

Recently, we have been focusing on:

Grassroots and union organizing, and training of women worker leaders

•  Supporting workers of some of the many corporations that own maquiladoras in three of the border cities. The problems faced by workers in some of the maquiladoras are described in the Workers and the Maquiladoras section of our website.

•  Training women leaders from these corporations in union organizing and women's human rights workshops. Our information sheets which include excerpts from the Mexican Federal Labor Law (Spanish only), and other educational materials and publications are available in the Resources section of our website.

A CFO's complementary project, the Maquiladora Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity & Justice Maquiladora Co.), continues to receive support from us. However, in accordance with the initial objective of the project, the daily management of the maquiladora is now done by the women who work in the maquiladora sewing shop.  

We have also helped hundreds of workers resolve health and occupational security issues in their workplaces; however, we do not have a particular work area for these specific themes. At the same time as we continue to address the health of the workers, helping them with specific issues, we also link these health issues to the necessity of organizing independent unions.  

Take a look also at our report: Health and Safety Rollback in the Maquiladora Industry: Declining Health and Safety Reflects Intensified Attack on Labor Rights  

During four or five years, we made and effort to contact and help women workers in Ciudad Juárez. We also co-sponsored events to demand a solution to crimes against women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. With the help of various supporters, we maintained a CFO group in this city; unfortunately, the distance from other border cities in Coahuila and Tamaulipas has made it difficult to follow-up with the work in Ciudad Juárez.  

To know more about the CFO perspective concerning the situation women face in Ciudad Juárez, please consult the pages: Women in Juarez, which we have developed in the last three years, and which are available on our website

Our Achievements


  • Wage increases in various maquiladoras.


  • Correct payment for overtime.


  • Fair severance packages for laid-off workers, that meet the requirements of Mexico 's Federal Labor Law.


  • Distribution of profit-sharing (also stipulated undes Mexico 's labor code), which maquiladora firms never used to do.


  • Put a stop to taxing of cash bonuses.


  • Longer rest breaks.


  • In several companies, an end to pregnancy tests. (see more)


  • Democratic elections for union representatives.


  • Eliminating health and safety risks from dangerous chemicals and working at excessively high heat.


  • Installation of adequate ventilation and exhaust fans.


  • Appropriate safety equipment


  • Putting a stop to inappropriate and abusive treatment by supervisors, foremen, and managers.


  • Adjust equipment on production lines to a reasonable pace and production quotas.


  • Achievement of vacation and personal leave as situpulated in Mexico 's labor code.


  • Preventing managers from taking away seating and other equipment and tools we need.


  • Learning to identify health and safety risks on the job and how they can be eliminated.


  • Joining together so we can all defend coworkers who are mistreated by supervisors and managers.


  • Providing schools supplies to children of CFO members at the beginning of each school year.


  • Getting the word out about our struggle in the media - explain the reasons behind our efforts.


  • Publication of a report about how workers have been affected by NAFTA.


  • Speaking out a forums and meetings sponsored by international organizations, social movements, and labor organizations from around the world.


  • Helping hundreds of people from other countries to understand the realities of globalization.


  • Forming alliances with unions and nongovernmental organizations from all over the world.



Help We Can Offer  

The CFO can assist individuals and groups of maquiladora workers with
advice and technical assistance on various topics, including:


  • Training in the provisions and requirements of Mexico 's Federal Labor Law.


  • Worker's legal rights regarding overtime, vacation leave, working hours, individual and group suspensions, layoffs, and resignations.


  • Collective bargening agreements and individual contracts.

















  • Work rule and unions


  • Rest periods


  • Discounts


  • Accidents



  • Child care









    es producido en colaboración con el
Programa de la Frontera México-Estados Unidos
del Comité de Servicio de los Amigos (AFSC)

Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO)
Monterrey #1103, Col. Las Fuentes
Piedras Negras, Coahuila
C.P. 26010, México