Workers fired from Lexmark, a laser printer plant in Ciudad Juárez, are waging a lonely battle in a city where fighting back against corporations is rare.
If Karl Marx could visit the freezing, rickety shack by Bulevar Independencia, he might reconsider the inevitability of labour trumping capital.
There is gravel underfoot, the tarpaulin roof flaps in the winter wind and frost dampens the cardboard walls. Traffic roars past, oblivious, and the handful of occupants inside subsist on donated beans and tortillas.
Tattered banners proclaiming “libertad sindical” (union freedom) and “justicia a la clase obrera” (justice for the working class) adorn the walls. This is the nerve centre of Ciudad Juárez’s worker rebellion.
Opposite the shack – behind security cameras, guards and gates – is the factory that fired them after they tried to form a union.
Lexmark, a Kentucky-based corporate leader in laser printers, is worth around $2bn and has the support of Mexico’s political establishment and apparently also its media and Catholic hierarchy, notwithstanding Pope Francis’s visit to Juárez on Wednesday.
The elites wish to snuff out defiance and stop rebellious contagion spreading across this industrial city, according to those inside the shack.
“We’re living on charity, and it’s tough, but we’re still here,” said Susana Prieto Terrazas, a lawyer representing the protesters, as she huddled by a wood-burning stove. “We’re going forward. This is a system of modern slavery and we have to fight.”