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What happened when factory jobs moved from Warren, OH to Juarez, Mexico

The cost of cheap overseas labor has impacted not only workers in the US but in Mexico also. This article takes a look at two people struggling to make ends meet for their families.

February 27, 2017

Chris Wade reached into the darkness to silence his blaring alarm clock. It was 4:30 on a frigid winter morning in Warren, Ohio, and outside a fresh layer of snow blanketed the yard.

Thank God, Wade thought to himself. He would be able to get out his plow and make some quick cash.

Money never used to be a problem for Wade, 47, who owned a house with a pool back when he worked at Delphi Automotive, a parts manufacturer that for years was one of the biggest employers in this wooded stretch of northeastern Ohio. But 10 years after taking a buyout as part of Delphi's ongoing shift of production out of the United States and into Mexico and China, the house and the pool were gone.

Berta Alicia Lopez, 54, is the new face of Delphi. On a recent chilly morning, she woke before sunrise on the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, and caught an unheated bus that dropped her an hour away at the Delphi plant.

Lopez earns $1 an hour assembling cables and electronics that will eventually be installed into vehicles — the same work that Wade once did for $30 an hour. A farmer's daughter who grew up in an impoverished stretch of rural Mexico, Lopez is proud to own a used Toyota sedan and a concrete block house.

She frequently thanks God for the work, even if it is in a town troubled by drug violence, even if she doesn't see many possibilities for earning more or advancing.

The two workers live 1,800 miles and a border apart and have never met. But their stories embody the massive economic shift that has accompanied the rise of free trade.

In the United States, that shift has contributed to the loss of jobs that once helped workers buy homes, pay for health insurance and send children to college. In Mexico, it brought jobs — though they didn't create the kind of broad, middle-class prosperity they once had in America.

President Donald Trump has pledged to bring factory work back. But it may be too late to turn back the clock on the powerful forces shaping the lives of Wade and Lopez and two cities, one American and one Mexican, that remain inextricably linked by the geography of global economics.

To hear Trump tell it, free trade deals and globalization have produced clear winners and clear losers.

Delphi had been reducing its U.S. workforce for years before it moved most of its operations overseas in 2006.

"Every time I see a Delphi and I see companies leaving, that wall gets a little bit higher, and keeps going up," Trump promised at a campaign rally in Ohio a few days before the election. "We are going to fight Delphi and other companies and say, 'Don't leave us, because there are going to be consequences.'"

He has pledged to tax imports from Mexico and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated most tariffs on the continent and, in Trump's view, enriched Mexico at the expense of middle America.

But the real legacy of NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, is more complicated.

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Tags:   US Manufacturing News    Mexico    Manufacturing    US    NAFTA
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Jobs Moved from US to Mexico
Jobs Moved from US to Mexico