Image: Electrolux in Juarez
J.r. Hernandez  /  AP
Electrolux, which closed its plant in Greenville, Mich., last March, is one of several U.S. companies that have moved to Mexico. The $100 million factory sits in the desert on the edge of Juarez.
updated 9/3/2006 4:02:36 PM ET 2006-09-03T20:02:36

The Becks, the Ralphs, the Hoisingtons. They do not know the Espinozas, the Lozanos or the Sotos. They live nearly 2,000 miles apart in Greenville, Mich., and Juarez, Mexico.

But their lives, and those of many others in both places, are connected — even if they are only abstractly aware of what binds them.

The jobs lost in Greenville when a refrigerator factory closed became jobs gained in Juarez when a new plant opened there. Juarez is poised to become one of the great manufacturing centers of the world in the 21st century. Greenville, meanwhile, is trying to reinvent itself, looking to other sources of economic activity.

It's an all-to-common story, on Labor Day and every day: A big corporation closes a factory to save money. Americans lose their jobs to workers in cheap-labor countries, where workers are thought to be exploited. An American town, usually rural, often somewhere in the Midwest, falls into decay. Fathers and mothers struggle to provide, and children suffer.

But the truth about places like Greenville and Juarez is more complex. The loss of a job sometimes forces a worker to learn and grow and take chances. And what seems like exploitation is a windfall and boost upward.

It is neither perfect, nor easy, for people on both sides of the border. Some will make more of their opportunities than others. In the end, only one thing is certain: The citizens of Greenville and Juarez will have plenty of company, coping with the tides of globalization.

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