Many of the respondents echoed a common theme: Fear of the looming threat of automation, and of losing jobs to China. In follow-up interviews, respondents shared more about their experiences and their views on globalization.
These interviews have been lightly edited and condensed, and one was translated from Spanish.
‘Americans should be seeking “first world” jobs’
Luis Arturo Torres Romero, 37, has worked for 19 years in factories in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
The son of an artist and a nurse who has struggled to make ends meet, Mr. Torres Romero put himself through college by working the night shift as an assembly operator at a factory that made consumer electronics. Now, he’s a development engineer for automotive electronics.
I would have never been able to finish college if there weren’t those kinds of jobs in a maquiladora. Now I have a good life, I can afford certain luxuries. I no longer live worried about money. I no longer wonder what am I going to eat tomorrow.
That kind of activity can’t fulfill you as a human being: doing something over and over like a machine. The staff turnover is very high. A lot of us didn’t even have a contract. We were outsourced by employment agencies. If there was a production spike, they would hire people, but if it lowered you would get fired.
Those jobs no longer have a future. Machines will make them cheaper. Those jobs are being automated. Americans should be seeking first-world jobs. They should focus on making education accessible to more people to focus on higher-ranking positions.
‘We’re competing against everybody just like you’
Raquel Gerardo, 22, grew up in Tijuana in a family that depended on the maquiladora industry for its livelihood.
Ms. Gerardo’s parents met while working together in a factory. Her…