Common complaints heard throughout the electronics industry in Mexico include inadequate severance pay, skimping on benefits, low pay, and the seemingly never-ending temporary contracts that go from month-to-month or even fifteen days stretches. Nationwide, other problems documented by Cereal include sexual harassment, chemical exposures, accidents, union suppression and undignified treatment, such requiring U.S. high school-like passes for bathroom breaks. A Cereal investigation found Manpower and other employers routinely asked prospective employees about pregnancies, sexual histories, tattoos and union affiliations. In many cases, new hires could expect medical exams and drug tests, according to the labor rights group.

For more than four years, Margarita Estrada assembled and tested computers at a Foxconn factory in the central Mexican city of Guadalajara. Preparing 120 CPUs an hour for shipping was a “stressful” job, the young woman says. Part of Estrada’s duties involved training the large numbers of new workers. Despite dire employment opportunities in Mexico, many new employees never return after a day or two. “People didn’t last,” Estrada recalls. In her stint at the Taiwanese-owned plant, Estrada’s wages went up from slightly more than $8 to about $10 a day, plus hard-to-attain production bonuses, the former worker says.

Yet even after years at Foxconn, Estrada never became a formal employee of the electronics industry giant. Instead, Spyga, a temporary employment agency, employed her and most of her co-workers on the shop floor. “There were few people working directly for Foxconn, about five of them." Estrada says. "That’s all.”

In 2007, Estrada was laid off and offered $300 in severance pay. Suspecting the amount fell below Mexican legal standards, she knocked on the doors of Cereal, a Jesuit-founded labor advocacy and watchdog group. After some back and forth with two sets of employers, she eventually walked away with nearly $2,000 in severance pay.

In Guadalajara and the Mexican electronics industry in general, Foxconn's employment set-up is the norm.

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