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Cross-Border Justice Movements and Maquiladora Workers

Robert Huesca


This article reports the findings of a study of a self-help organization of maquiladora workers, focusing on its cross-border efforts to effect social change. The findings of this study are preceded by an abbreviated review of scholarship of the maquiladora industry, which provides a contextual grounding for the empirical research. The article also includes a review of scholarship of globalization and cross-border movements, which constitutes the conceptual framework for assessing the findings. The study used qualitative, ethnographic methods to explore questions emerging from both of these research domains. Specifically, this study documents a particular case of cross-border strategies for advancing the interests of working people in the context of global capitalism on the Mexico-U.S. border. It explains how cross-border movements emerged in this context, what factors facilitated and impeded progress, what consequences resulted from them, and what lessons can be derived for other settings. The findings affirm many of the general contentions found in the maquiladora, globalization, and cross-border movement literatures, but add descriptive richness to them. The major contributions suggest that scholars of cross-border movements have derived somewhat static theories of social change processes and call for more dynamic conceptualizations if we are to understand their complexity more clearly. Adopting a dynamic, process approach to theories of cross-border movements will illuminate the advances and setbacks of different kinds of organizations as they face the daunting task of advocating the interests of subordinate groups within the arena of globalization.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229