Roses for Rosa
Roses for Rosa is a campaign to raise funds to help factory workers who have been injured in offshore factories. Many of these workers do not receive a fair settlement from their international employers or adequate medical care for their injuries.
Partners for Responsible Trade provides workers with access to quality medical care, supplies and services such as prosthetics, wheelchairs, braces, surgeries, medical tests, prescription reimbursements and other medical care.
Roses for Rosa was started to help purchase prosthetic hands for Rosa Sarmiento Moreno. Rosa lost both of her hands in an accident in a factory in Reynosa while making big screen T.V's for sale in the United States and other developed countries. Rosa's story is below.
Partners for Responsible Trade was able to purchase Rosa one prosthetic hand in February of 2015 thanks to the help of our generous donors. But Rosa is not alone. There are thousands of injured factory workers like Rosa in offshore factories that need our help.
Rosa Sarmiento Moreno was a working Mother of eight. She lives just across the border from McAllen, Texas in Reynosa, Mexico. Rosa was injured in an accident in a factory where she worked in February of 2011. Her hands were crushed by a machine she was operating that assembles flat screen television sets. The machine, a two ton press, crushed her hands and was fused shut for several minutes while co-workers frantically tried to release its grip. When they finally got her hands free, the metal plate that she was positioning when the machine malfunctioned was welded to her hands. She had to take it with her. The company nurse told her to go to the plant infirmary for treatment. But Rosa, and her friend who was helping her, said no she needed an ambulance. The nurse refused to call one. Calling an ambulance would have required an incident report.
Companies operating factories along the Mexican border (maquiladoras as they are known) are notorious for concealing workplace accidents. Rosa’s friend drove her to the hospital that Rosa requested, after arguing with the nurse who wanted Rosa to go to a private hospital where the incident would not be reported. All the while the metal plate from the machine remained welded to her hands. Rosa fought for consciousness, because she was afraid that if she lost consciousness she wasn’t sure where she would end up. As a result of the accident, both of Rosa’s hands were amputated at the wrist.
At the time of Rosa’s accident she was making about $1.50 (U.S.) an hour in the HD Electronics Factory where she worked. She had not been trained on the machine she was working on that night. Her supervisor moved her to that machine, from another one she normally used, to speed up production as the previous machine operator was slow. She says she heard a strange clicking noise in the machine shortly before the machine malfunctioned and crushed her hands.
Poor employee training and inadequate machine maintenance are common in international factories operating in Mexico. Production is everything; worker safety is barely a consideration. While recovering from her amputation Rosa fought for her rights under Mexican law, and she got them. Rosa received one year’s salary- about $3,200.00 (U.S.) for the loss of her hands. This amount is not even enough to buy one quality prosthetic hand. Rosa did not feel this was a fair amount from a company that might make millions, or even billions, of dollars a year. She continued to seek a better settlement and she was asked why was she making such a scandal? One person told her to go the U.S. Border Bridge and hold out a cup- she would get enough money to support her children.
The company Rosa worked for assembles parts for LG big screen televisions to be sold primarily in the United States and other developed countries. Most of the products assembled in Mexican factories along the Mexico/United States border are eventually sold in the U.S. and other developed nations. Many Americans who buy these products are not aware of the low wages and dangerous working conditions in these factories.
UPDATE ON ROSA'S STORY
February 2nd 2015 was the start of a new life for Rosa Moreno. She arrived in Dallas just shy of the 4 year anniversary of the accident that took both of her hands. Full of optimism and hope, she was ready for a new beginning. It was Rosa’s first time in the United States. Dallas was a big city and everything was new and different to Rosa. Susan Kapp of the University of Texas Southwestern School of Prosthetics fit Rosa with her first body powered prosthetic hand. This hand was designed by Kapp specifically for Rosa’s small frame and the suspended socket allows her to have increased mobility. Rosa looks forward to receiving her left hand prosthesis in the future.
During the week Rosa learned how to do many things with her new prosthesis with the help of Margaret Wise and Judy Sotelo. These were simple things, but Rosa had not been able to do these tasks independently for the past four years. It was a joyful and liberating experience for Rosa to be able to cook, brush her hair, and dress herself. Rosa was provided with a number of assistive devices and tools to make her everyday life easier. Many of these were made specifically for Rosa by Judy and Margaret.
Carlos was injured in the same factory where Rosa Moreno worked in Reynosa Mexico. He was making electronics for the U.S. market. His injury occured in 2008, just three days shy of his 19th birthday. He had been working in the factory only 2 days when the machine he was operating malfunctioned and caused his injury. He was hired on Monday and was injured on Tuesday morning. On Monday he filled out his application and did paperwork and received only a few hours of training on the machine he was to be working on.
Carlos indicates that he was not supposed to be working on the machines yet as he was a new hire, but since he had worked on a machine in another factory previously, they went ahead and started him on the machine.
Carlos' job was to put the LG logo and serial numbers on 50" flat screen television sets. According to Carlos, as he was operating the machine, the security feature malfunctioned and the sheet that he was positioning crushed his right arm and cut off four fingers on his left hand.
When the accident happened all he could do was sit down and scream as he realized that he had lost his arm and his fingers. All of the surrounding workers ran in confusion when they saw Carlos' injury. There were two workers who came to help him. They ran to get the HR people, the nurse and his supervisor. He gave them the information to contact his Mother and his family. They told him to wait for an ambulance but he said it would take too long so someone took him in their truck to the Red Cross office. The Red Cross office refused to help him because he had insurance so they applied preliminary first aid and wrapped his stump. He was then taken to the Social Security hospital where his final amputations were done.
At the time of his accident, Carlos was making about $62.00 a week, however he never received even his first paycheck.
Today Carlos has no right arm prosthesis and his left prosthetic hand is held together with common household electrical tape and is no longer functional. Carlos needs a new left hand prosthetic and, if possible, a right arm prosthesis. Carlos is now married with two children and owns and operates a small pet food supply store in Reynosa.
Partners for Responsible Trade Inc. is raising funds to purchase Carlos his prosthesis so that he can be more independent and better run his small business.
UPDATE ON CARLOS' STORY
Over the weekend we accompanied Carlos to his final fitting for his prosthetic hand. Carlos has had the same prosthetic hand since his accident occurred over 7 years ago. The fingers have since fallen off and are held together with electrical tape. Thanks to generous donations from the public we were able to replace Carlos’ worn out prosthesis with a new one.
Despite the severity of his accident, Carlos was able to recover in the years following his accident. He is now married and has two young children. Carlos and his wife operate a small pet supply shop in Reynosa.
We hope that by sharing stories like Carlos’ we can create awareness among consumers about the conditions in offshore factories. Carlos’ story is not unique and these types of tragedies occur often.
It is time for consumers of products made in offshore factories to ask questions about where their products are made. It is time for us to ask corporations what the wages are in their factories and what kind of compensation they are giving to injured workers. It is time for us to ask how much effort they are putting into ensuring their worker’s safety in their offshore factories. It’s time for all of us to demand a living wage and a safe working environment for all workers everywhere.
On November 11th, 2014 Eleuterio was on his way to work at the Andrew factory in Reynosa, Mexico on a bicycle before his shift. He was hit by a car at the front entrance to the factory that was driven by the HR manager who was coming to work as well. As a result of the accident, Eleuterio had to have several pins put in his knee. He is currently unable to walk and is receiving medical care at the Social Security hospital. Eleuterio’s accident is considered a work related accident, as the Mexican Federal Labor Law states that workers are considered to be on the clock for one hour before and one hour after their scheduled shift. Additionally, he was hit on the factory premises.
Eleuterio worked for Andrew for 10 years before the accident and is a father of 3 children. He is currently living on a disability payment, however the factory has not yet responded to compensate him for his injuries. He cannot walk and fears that he may not be able to walk again, since there has been additional movement of his knee bones since his surgery. As a part of our Roses for Rosa fund that helps injured factory workers, we provided Eleuterio with a new wheelchair and reimbursement for medication and transportation to his medical visits, which is not covered by his insurance. We learned of Eleuterio’s story from Claudia, one of the promotora’s in Reynosa that works with us. Claudia is working to ensure that the factory responds appropriately to Eleuterio’s accident.
Juan worked for the Kimball Corporation factory in Reynosa Mexico for 4 years. Juan's job involved lifting and moving heavy items in the factory. After four years of doing this repetitive and difficult work, without a brace or other assistive equipment for lifting, he now has several herniated discs in his back. Although Juan is still very young he is unable to work and walks slowly with the assistance of a cane.
Juan is also experiencing pain in his legs possibly caused by extensive nerve damage in his back. His pension for disabiliy has expired. The company has determined that his injury was not work related and has refused to compensate him for his inablity to work.
Partners for Responsible Trade Inc. has provided Juan with a Back Brace to help him walk more comfortably. Also, with the help of his Promotora, Bety, we hope to hold the company accountable for his injury so that he can get the ongoing pension from the Social Security administration that he needs.
Daniel was injured in a factory accident in May of 2014 when he was only 18 years old. Daniel worked for Reciclados y Servicios del Noreste in Reynosa and his job involved melting rubber/plastic in a recycling machine. As he was placing rubber into the machine, the machine caught his jacket and pulled his hand in. When he pulled his hand out of the machine all of his skin was gone from three of his fingers and only the bones remained.
The Doctors in the hospital in Mexico where Daniel was treated put all three of his injured fingers into his stomach until they could operate on them. He had his hands in his stomach for several weeks. They then wrapped skin from his leg around all three of his fingers. Typically the fingers would later be separated into individual fingers by a plastic surgeon, but the doctors in Reynosa told Daniel that they will not be doing that. They have done all they are going to do for him. This has left him with a disfigured and unusable hand while he is still a teenager.
He keeps his hand wrapped in gauze when he goes out in public to avoid people’s stares. Daniel has still not received a settlement from his employer. Partners for Responsible Trade Inc. has arranged for Daniel to receive a donated surgery from Fresh Start surgical gifts in San Diego. The purpose of these surgeries is to help Daniel regain functionality of his hand and improve his quality of life.
UPDATE ON DANIEL'S STORY
On May 2nd 2015, we arranged for Daniel to travel to San Diego for reconstructive surgery on his right hand at Rady Children's Hospital. Fresh Start Surgical Gifts donated a surgery to attempt to separate and make Daniel's hands more functional. An amazing team of Doctors, nurses, and volunteers worked to help Daniel regain functionality of his hand. Unfortunately due to the severity of his injury, they were unable to separate his fingers, and thus they will remain permanently joined. They were able to de-bulk his skin which will allow for more movement of the fingers.
While in San Diego, Daniel and Victoria Ruddy were asked to be guest speakers at San Diego City College. We spoke with Chicano Studies students about the realities of offshore manufacturing.