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Not So Green

Nov
17
2003

Not all press is good press. At least that’s what one McAllen, Texas, resident seems to have thought when she saw a story in her local newspaper, The Monitor, about San Francisco Green Party mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez. His parents, who are justifiably proud of their son’s achievements, “run a fishing lure maquila in Reynosa,” across the Rio Grande from McAllen, according to the Monitor.
“Given what I know about the Green party’s stance on such matters, Mr. Gonzalez’s dad would be regarded as one who exploits the working man. Is this what San Francisco wants in a mayor?” the McAllen woman, Ludivinia Garcia, wrote. In response to a message asking about her interest in the San Francisco election, she had this to say: “I did not even know Mr. Gonzalez was a candidate for mayor let alone Mr. Newsom. I only obtained Mr. Newsom’s name from the article itself and did a little searching on the web. As to my motivations, they are simple. I was simply thunderstruck by the apparent hypocrisy of Mr. Gonzalez’s remarks in light of his parent’s business. I say let the voters of San Francisco be well informed and decide who will be their mayor.”
As Garcia’s tone indicates, Maquilas, also known as maquiladoras are controversial. The factories hire Mexican workers, mostly women, and pay them wages well below those permitted in the States and far, far below the $8.50 an hour minimum that Gonzalez has helped make the law here in San Francisco. Unions don’t like them because they pay low wages and don’t offer benefits. Lefties look at abusive maquiladoras — conditions can and do vary — as evidence of rapacious, often racist, capitalism at its worst. That’s why a bunch of progressive organizations are gathering in Miami this week in protest against the extension of the sort of tax breaks and tariff relief that could make maquila-like factories proliferate throughout Latin and South America.
Gonzalez spokesman Ross Mirkarimi said he and the candidate were “thrown off” by questions about the factory. “They don’t run anything,” he said of the Gonzalez family which he said has an investment in the maquila which generates less than $18,000 a year in income. “They don’t run it at all,” he said. “They have some investment interest. Whether it’s an owership or not, I don’t know.” The family’s interest in the factory predates NAFTA and other trade agreements that have subsequently made maquiladoras popular among U.S. corporations, according to Mirkarimi.
There’s irony aplenty here. Some – the city’s business interests — will argue that it’s increases in the minimum wage like the one Gonzalez helped enact that spur the need for maquiladoras. U.S. workers simply aren’t competitive. The Left, including the Green Party, claims the factories are another way in which corporations shirk their responsibilities by locating factories in countries – not just Mexico but all over the world – where they can pay lower than living wages and oppress workers.
Now, none of this would really matter if Matt Gonzalez hadn’t decided to frame the campaign – as he did over the weekend – as an ideological battle pitting his values against Democratic opponent Gavin Newsom. City residents will suffer under Newsom, Gonzalez said because his values are askew.
“If Supervisor Newsom is elected, many people will suffer,” Gonzalez said in the Chronicle story. “He doesn’t have our values.”

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