They live in what Mexicans call a “jacal,” a homemade shanty of scrap wood and tarpaper. Boulders keep the corrugated tin roofing on in case of high wind. An outhouse is a few feet away. Next to it is a washing machine set on pallets in the open air. A broken stove also lies outside, hollowed out and jerry-rigged to serve as a barbecue. A makeshift electrical line brings power from a neighbor’s house. A homemade pipe brings water from a different direction
Forty percent of Mexico’s 47 million workers are covered by union contracts, but few feel any benefits. “There are workers who don’t even know they belong to a union,” said Maria Xelhuantzi Lopez, an expert on collective bargaining at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.