Cover Image

The Children of NAFTA

Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border

David Bacon (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 356 pages
ISBN: 9780520244726
March 2004
$26.95, £21.00
Food, televisions, computer equipment, plumbing supplies, clothing. Much of the material foundation of our everyday lives is produced along the U.S./Mexico border in a world largely hidden from our view. Based on gripping firsthand accounts, this book investigates the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on those who labor in the agricultural fields and maquiladora factories on the border. Journalist David Bacon paints a powerful portrait of poverty, repression, and struggle, offering a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth examination of border workers published to date.

Unlike journalists who have made brief excursions into strawberry fields and maquiladoras, Bacon has more than a decade's experience reporting on the ground at the border, and he has developed sustained relationships with scores of workers and organizers who have entrusted him with their stories. He describes harsh conditions of child labor in the Mexicali Valley, the deplorable housing outside factories in cities such as Tijuana, and corporate retaliation faced by union organizers. He finds that, despite the promises of its backers, NAFTA has locked in a harsh neoliberal economic policy that has swept away laws and protections that Mexican workers had established over decades. More than a showcase for NAFTA's victims, this book traces the emergence of a new social consciousness, telling how workers in Mexico, the United States, and Canada are now beginning to join together in a powerful new strategy of cross-border organizing as they search for economic and social justice.

1. Grapes and Green Onions
2. Putting Solidarity on the Table
3. Tijuana’s Maquiladora Workers
4. Han Young
5. Build a House, Go to Jail
6. The Strategic Alliance
7. Duro Means Hard
8. Mexico’s Wars over Privatization
9. Transplanted Expectations
10. The World of the Border Has Changed

Epilogue: The Confrontation to Come
David Bacon is a journalist and photographer. He is an associate editor at Pacific News Service and a regular contributor to The Nation, The Progressive, Z, The American Prospect, and the L.A. Weekly. His photographs documenting the lives of the workers discussed in the book were recently exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California as well as in Germany and Great Britain. His work can be seen at
“[Bacon’s] books . . . are sharp, analytical, and urgent.”—Utne
"An exceptionally well-written, compelling story of struggle and of hope. The book can serve to promote countless discussions regarding neoliberal globalization, class struggle, and the efforts to create a different world for not only the people of the Global South, but those of us in the Global North as well. This book is to be applauded, as are the companeros and companeras—on both sides of the border—who, often in the face of overwhelming opposition, tyranny, and tragedy, have not and will not forget the class struggle."—Bill Fletcher, Jr. Monthly Review
“This is a useful book about an important subject. . . . this book is quite illuminating. . . . the author merits our everlasting thanks.”—Gerald Home Political Affairs: A Journal Of Ideology, Politics And Culture
"An invaluable book for anyone interested in the human mechanics of globalization."—Publishers Weekly
“The stage seems to be set for a new debate during the 2004 presidential campaign over trade not only with Mexico but also with China and other countries where ordinary workers are the last to benefit from so-called free trade. David Bacon's firsthand account of the failings of NAFTA and his passionate advocacy of workers' rights and democratic institutions should be a part of that debate.”—Sanford D. Horwitt San Francisco Chronicle
“Bacon gets beyond the often demagogical debate and delves deep into the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement on working people on both sides of the Rio Grande.”—Derrick O’Keefe Seven Oaks Magazine
“This excellent history focuses particularly on the Mexican connections. But Bacon's reach is broad—he is an activist as well as a journalist and photographer. He writes movingly of the courageous union organisers who are the central characters of this story and of the social movements and strikes provoked by NAFTA in both Mexico and the US.”—Nancy Lindisfarne Socialist Review: Monthly Mag Of The Socialist Workers Party
“A real contribution to our understanding of the changing human face of the economy.”—The Dispatcher
“A powerful account of recent workers’ struggles that span the U.S.-Mexico border.”—Sarah Norr Z Magazine
"David Bacon reminds Americans of something we often forget: that NAFTA is meant to be a multilateral agreement, and that it was supposed to bring huge benefits to Mexico. Did it? Bravo to David Bacon for his tough-minded, unsparing portrait of working life at globalization's ground zero."—Ray Suarez, senior correspondent, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and author of The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration

"David Bacon brings to life the heroes and villains on the front lines of the battle for human dignity under NAFTA—the world's most extreme experiment in free market fundamentalism."—Sarah Anderson, Director, Global Economy Project, Institute for Policy Studies

"Built from vivid, firsthand accounts, this is an extraordinary mural portrait of a border that few North Americans know anything about: of a working class fighting for survival on the unequal playing ground of NAFTA, where labor rights are almost always dishonored and where activists often end up blacklisted, jailed, or even desparecido. Bacon wonderfully coveys the passion, urgency and historical importance of the daily struggles to humanize the cold ultra-capitalist world of NAFTA."—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

"David Bacon has put a human face on the devastating impact of NAFTA on workers here and abroad. Our economic future as a nation depends on the knowledge contained in this book. A must read! ¡Si Se Puede!"—Dolores Huerta, Co-founder, United Farm Workers Union, President, Dolores Huerta Foundation

"David Bacon represents the fine old tradition of American working-class journalism at its best. He's gone everywhere--from tiny Mexican villages to the baking hot fields of California agribusiness--to get the real lowdown on NAFTA's effects on the blue collar people who hardly ever get a hearing in the mainstream press."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

"David Bacon's new book blows away the ideological fog that has surrounded the North American Free Trade Agreement for a decade."—Jeff Faux, Economic Policy Institute

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