Monday, October 15, 2007

Act Now - Email

Many people over at the P.I.'s Soundoff discussion board have asked what they can do to help. Union leaders from both SITRACIMA and SITRACHOI have asked for our help in pressuring the brands to send their own representatives to Guatemala:

"Please send an email to Lauren Cooke (, LCI Customer Relations (, Daryl Brown (, Frank Kelly (, Roberta Karp (, Holly Thomas (, Fernando Pinsiri (, Betsy Thompson (, and Julie Lorigan ( asking them what they are going to do in response to this letter requesting their presence during negotiations. Factory management from Choishin has shown no interest in negotiating with our unions, complying with any past agreements they have signed, or responding to the FLA's independent investigation and the Coverco report. This makes the brands' presence here even more crucial.

Thank you for your support—your involvement is very important to us.


The letter referred to can be found here.


Good work to everybody who participated in the actions over the past two weekends, and good luck to the unions in their protest today. If you haven't already, check out the coverage in today's P.I.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Update From Guatemala

I received a call from Doña Gloria this morning in which she was very angry and worried. For the last few days Choishin has re-contracted workers from OUTSIDE Cimatextiles/SITRACIMA, despite the fact that management promised on many occasions that if there were a need for personnel at Choishin they would give priority to the list of approximately 147 affiliated SITRACIMA members. The only thing I am aware of that can be done is Gloria is going to write up a small "nota" and take it to the management. We are awaiting communication from the attorneys at FESTRAS to see what else can be done.

You guys are such a CRUCIAL part of this fight! These women have not lost hope due to your international solidarity and support! You are on the right track and have done so much planning for the upcoming events and I have 100% faith in you all that we can get some people to turn out, draw attention to this fight in the press, and get the brands attention so they come to Guatemala to negotiate directly with the unions!!


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

FLA Report Released

The Fair Labr Association has released the results of the independent investigation it commissioned regarding Cimatextiles and Choshin. The complete report, press release, and executive summary of the report are all available on the FLA website, under Statements and Press Releases. It agrees with nearly everything we've been saying about violation's of workers' rights. It denies the gun incident due to lack of corroboration, which sucks but isn't unexpected. And it says that the 6/6 agreement doesn't legally bind the company to reopen the factory, but implies that while legally the factory doesn't have to reopen, it should in order to fulfil the spirit of the agreement. It's good to read, to realize nearly everything we've said about this case is verified by a neutral observer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Here are some updates based on a phone conversation between Angelina and the Liz Claiborne reps:

The Future of Cimatextiles
The president of the company that operates the factories announced late last week that Cimatextiles is not going to reopen. Ever. It is going to be converted to a finishing, packing, and laundry facility for Choishin. Inasmuch as there are jobs in that facility, the president said preference would be given to people from Cimatextiles, but those jobs would not be for sewing operators, but for lower level jobs in finishing, packing and laundry. When asked what the implications of this for the union leadership who have remained on payroll during these three months might be, Daryl and George (of Liz Claiborne) said they were unsure. About the closure of Cimatextiles, Daryl said "this is downsizing; it could be worse."

Agreement to Re-Open
Daryl and George consulted their representative in Guatemala, Fernando Pinsiri, on the agreement signed between management and unions, and Pinsiri told them there is no specific commitment in the agreement to reopen on 9/1, so therefore if the factory doesn't reopen they are not reneging on any commitment.

Closure of Choisin?
George talked to Pinsiri about the closure of Choishin. Pinsiri says this is a false rumor. According to Pinsiri, management had been trying to explore the option of "proposing" some vacation time for Choishin but since then received more orders and now has enough orders that they don't need to do this. Choishin is operating (supposedly) at 90% capacity at this time.

George asked Pinsiri about the blacklisting that union workers have encountered and Pinsiri said there is no blacklist. Rather, he said the problem was that there was such a large surplus of labor in Guatemala in general, and so workers have trouble getting jobs, and they might assume that the reason is because they're being blacklisted, but that's not true, "there is no specific list," it's just that jobs are scarce. Here Angelina insisted that that was not believable to us after having heard many workers' testimonies about being turned away specifically and explicitly because of their union affiliation, and in one case a worker being shown her name on a list on a computer screen. She insisted that there was more here than simply an excess of labor and a shortage of jobs, and that many workers had had the blacklisting experience specifically at Hansol, a factory from which Liz Claiborne also sources. They said they would "look into it."

Severance Pay Discrepancies
George talked to Pinsiri about the severance pay still owed to some workers, and Pinsiri said that the reason for the differences of opinion (about how much money is owed) was because management calculated the compensation on the basis of base pay, not incentives, and the workers wanted the calculations to be based on incentives. Pinsiri said that Guatemalan law supports the calculation that management did; Angelina responded saying that the workers had told us that the Guatemalan Minstry of Labor had issued a judgment siding with them in this matter, saying that the incentive pay had to be calculated into severance. They said they would "call the Guatemalan Minister of Labor" to see if he could get them "something in writing" about this.

- - -

To end the post with some uplifting news, Travis and Michelle stumbled upon a protest led by factory workers from 6 different factories. They will be attending another protest with these workers; hopefully more news to come from them soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Act Now - Phone Calls

We need to continue to call the brands! The following is an updated version of names, phone numbers, and talking points.


Action is needed now to tell the U.S. brands Liz Claiborne, Talbots, and Macy's/Charter Club that these violations of workers' fundamental human and labor rights must stop.

Talbots: Betsy Thompson, (781) 741-4066,

Liz Claiborne: Daryl Brown, VP of Human Rights Compliance (201) 295-7895

Macy's: Holly Thomas, PR Director, (646) 429-5250,

Demand that the U.S. brands use their influence to:

1. Uphold the Cimatextiles factory's agreement with the union to reopen the factory on September 1st, and to rehire union workers immediately.

2. Ensure that the Choi Shin factory is reopened and union workers are rehired immediately.

3. Send high-level representatives to Guatemala to directly monitor the situation and meet with the unions.

4. Guarantee that any fired workers are paid their severance and back wages in the full and correct amount.

5. Continue monitoring Cimatextiles and Choi Shin factory's management to ensure that no more Guatemalan labor and human rights laws are violated.

Thank you for your solidarity

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Hola Compañer@s!

We worked all day yesterday with FESTRAS (the union federation Sitracima and Sitrachoi are affiliated with) and union leadership to get the letter out to the brands and the international labor organizations and we are excited about the responses that should start flooding in!

As far as labor organizations:
- Rob from the Solidarity Center, STITCH, and USLeap have both sent out letters of concerns to the brands

And we are hoping for a prompt reply from the brands.

It seemed to be a great way to unite FESTRAS, union leadership as well as the UWGP, in a true display of collective action and solidarity!

Please see this google document to check out the English cover letter to the brands, as well a letter from FESTRAS (Spanish) and a full report on the unions´ cases (Spanish):

That´s all for now!

the fauxkawk trio

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An open letter to the brands

21 August 2007

Dear Liz Claiborne Inc., The Talbots Inc., and Federated Department Stores,

We are University of Washington students and alumni, currently working in Guatemala in solidarity with the workers of factories Cimatextiles and Choi Shin. We aim to document their struggle to defend their rights in these factories by taking video and audio testimony. We are in collaboration with international labor organizations and with students who visited the workers of these factories over the past three years.

It has been nearly 3 months since the Cimatextiles factory in Villa Nueva, Guatemala temporarily suspended operations through a negotiated agreement with the legally recognized union, Sitracima. Yesterday, the legally recognized union of the Choi Shin factory, Sitrachoi, was informed by factory management that Choi Shin would also temporarily suspend operations.

We have attached a letter from union leadership and the FESTRAS federation with which they are affiliated. Regarding this letter, which was written shortly before the closure of Choi Shin, we inquire, what action your company is taking to:

1) Re-establish orders to Cimatextiles to ensure the re-opening of the factory on 1 September 2007, which was committed to in the 6 June 2007 agreement between the union and the company,
2) Re-establish orders to Choi Shin to ensure that the factory re-opens immediately,
3) Prioritize the rehire of union workers,
4) Communicate with the company, Sitracima, Sitrachoi, and FESTRAS unions regarding the details of the placement of your orders and the re-opening of the Cimatextiles and Choi Shin factories.

Ensuring the agreement reached between your supplier factory and the union representing its employees is no doubt necessary to uphold both your code of conduct and your image as a responsible corporate citizen. We have confidence that you will do what is necessary to maintain your commitment to workers’ rights in your source factories.

We ask that you immediately send appropriate-level representation to ensure the above points are met.


The University of Washington Guatemala Project

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Greetings from Guatemala!

The interviews have begun! A while ago, actually. We’ve been so busy and in such intimate contact with the workers that we haven’t had time to write up a blog entry. But here we are!

First of all, the black list is a HUGE concern of the workers. Not only have Cimatextiles workers and Sitracima members been turned away from employment at other factories, but they have told us of their spouses being turned away as well. The effect of the black list on worker morale is devastating, and they desperately want to work but will be unable to find it in any other maquila. Villa Nueva (the city where the factory is and where the workers live) is dominated by maquilas, therefore the black list is a large barrier for anyone from Cimatextiles looking for work elsewhere.

Also, some workers report that when they apply at other factories, they face gruelling and humiliating inspections in which they must strip naked to be searched for tattoos or other “undesirable traits”. At these non-unionized maquilas they face racial and sexual slurs, abuse, and other violations of their dignity.

Back to Cimatextiles: From the time of the formation of their union, Sitracima, management has used anti-union tactics to gain the support of unorganized workers who feared union affiliation. These non-unionized workers are now being given preference by management and are called upon to continue work at the supposedly closed factory. In addition, employees of Choi Shin, the neighboring sister factory, are secretly working in Cimatextiles. So much for “closed for remodelling!”

Cimatextiles has been undergoing renovation during this “closure.” By building a wall around the cafeteria where workers eat, and installing industrial washing machines, management is expanding operations at Cimatextiles. We fear Cimatextiles is making these changes with the intention to register with the Guatemalan government under a different name, thereby changing the legal status of the factory. This action could nullify the legally binding agreement which requires the rehire of union workers when the factory is scheduled to reopen on September 1. Bottom line: Cimatextiles is doing what it can to avoid hiring unionized workers.

This is in direct contradiction to information given to the workers by management, who state the reason for closure is that there is no work. There is some truth to this: Liz Claiborne is no longer producing at Cimatextiles. Instead, Liz Claiborne is now producing at a factory in Nicaragua owned by the same company. That’s right: Liz Claiborne ditched Cimatextiles in favor of non-union labor!

Despite these manipulations by management, the workers of Cimatextiles repeatedly say: we want this job. Work is better at a unionized Cimatextiles than at any of the other sweatshop in Villa Nueva!

¡Viva Sitracima! ¡Viva Sitrachoi!
fauxhawk trio

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Please do not leave us alone in Guatemala"

Listen to the workers of Cimatextiles and Choishin describe their experiences as union members, what they would like to say to us, and what they would like to say to Liz Claiborne, Macy's Charter Club, and Talbots.

This Monday

Take action to support Guatemalan union workers!

WHO: You, in solidarity with Guatemalan women workers whose unions are being busted by clothing brands Talbot's, Liz Claiborne, and Macy's/Charter Club

WHEN: Monday, August 20th, noon-3pm

WHERE: Westlake Park in downtown Seattle (on Pine St. between 4th & 5th Ave)

WHAT: Meet at Westlake Park at 11:30am to join is in a rally to demand that U.S.-based clothing brands Talbot's, Liz Claiborne, and Macy's/Charter Club stop union-busting in Guatemala.

The rally will consist of powerful visual representations of the women workers whose rights are being violated daily, informative testimony about their struggle, and creative street theatre action that will illustrate the plight facing courageous women who have been blacklisted for standing up for their legal and human rights as workers!

Please come to learn more and to sign letters of urgent concern, which will be delivered to the brands at the close of the event.

WHY: Despite their historic status as defenders of labor rights in Guatemala, the future of the unions SITRACIMA and SITRACHOI is in jeopardy. The unions, whose leadership and membership are formed entirely of female workers, produce clothing for the U.S.-based brands Talbot's, Liz Claiborne, and Macy's/Charter Club.

Workers at the Cimatextiles and Choi Shin factories in Guatemala are facing severe violations of their labor rights and collective bargaining agreement, with factory management having closed one factory illegally. Although factory management has pledged to reopen the factory and reinstate the jobs of union workers on September 1st, union leaders report that new non-union workers have already been hired and are working in the allegedly "closed" factory. Additionally, factory management still owes workers promised payment, union leaders have received death threats, and union members have been blacklisted from other employers in the garment industry. Workers have been spending nights in the factory for nearly two months to guard their livelihoods. U.S.-based brands have minimized the concerns of workers or have been unresponsive.

With your support we can show Talbot's, Liz Claiborne, and Macy's/Charter Club that they cannot remain silent while workers' rights are violated in their factories. Please come out to show your support!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

On the Ground

Estimad@s Compañer@s!

We finally have the long awaited opportunity to sit down and hash out how everything that is going ¨on the ground¨. We are in contact with Doña Gloria and Doña Gilda. We have quickly learned the difficulties that come with a project like this, but are extremely optimistic and excited to begin.

Doña Gloria and her 10-year-old daughter are ill and as a result have been making frequent trips to the clinic. We have been extremely sympathetic to these health concerns which have made organizing a meeting with Gloria a bit difficult. However, we have arranged to pick up Gloria tomorrow after her doctor’s appointment and meet with her to discuss the details of arranging the interviews. We also hope to pick up the final draft of the letter which is written by the workers, addressed to the brands, and will be cc’d to USAS, Solidarity Center, Workers’ Rights Consortium, STITCH, and US-LEAP. This letter is important because the previous organizations will not take direct action on the brands until they receive it.

Gloria reported that she and Gladys are still sleeping in the factory and that there are now armed security guards which patrol the factory every 30 minutes. It has also been difficult to arrange a meeting with her since she needs to support both Gladys in the factory and her sick daughter. She is looking for a way to stop sleeping in the factory, but doesn’t know how to do so without looking like she’s giving up. She also reported that they have a meeting with the lawyer, this Friday at 10 am in the factory. She is very appreciative of our group’s collaborating with her and the other union workers, and it seems to be lifting her spirits.

Gilda has also been busy for obvious reasons but we are contacting her this afternoon to confirm a meeting for Friday. Gilda and Gloria have both reported on rumors that the factories were sold to another international company in order to change personnel and be able to renew the 10 year tax holiday. When a new factory opens they have “10 años de gracias de impuestos”, which allows them to operate for the first 10 years without paying export taxes. This period of time has expired for both factories, which leads the women to believe that they changed owners in order to renew this tax-free period.

Gilda also reported that the conditions are deteriorating at ChoiShin and mentioned specifically concerns about being paid on time, being able to eat breakfast outside the factory before opening the doors, and having adequate time to eat lunch.


We're transferring to the workers over $1300 raised by student activists in Seattle. The money should be in their hands by Thursday, and will be used by the union to support workers without income during the factory's closure.

Well, that´s all for now and we need to get back to work but we are really excited to begin and appreciate all the hard work from the Seattle side!

The Fauxhawk Trio

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Greetings from Guatemala!

I just want to convey how utterly psyched I am after meeting the workers. We met them outside the factory gates. When we first pulled up, there were a few people standing outside, but then a bunch of them, probably 20 or 25, filed out of the gates. I was overwhelmed with how many workers came to meet with us. They were all inside the factory because they haven't received their severance pay, and have been showing up every day to demand it.

Our professor got on the phone with Fernando Pinsiri, the rat brand representative, and asked if she could come into the factory to meet with him. He said no, and suggested he would come outside to meet us. When a worker went into the factory to ask where he was, she saw him scurrying away as management told her that he was in a meeting. Oops.

After we were there for a while, the security barred the gates so the workers couldn't even go back inside to demand the severance package which management is legally obliged to pay under the agreement signed by management on June 6. When we realized we weren't getting anything from factory owners or management, we all decided to pile on the bus and head to one of the worker's house. Even when we squished everyone we could into the shuttle, we had to take two trips because there were so many students and workers together, talking about life and struggle. The shuttle made it in spite of the waterlogged and poorly maintained roads to the worker's house.

We talked in her courtyard under a leaking roof before moving into her kitchen. We had some really good conversation, and some really emotional testimony from the workers about the crisis. We took video, so look forward to seeing it soon!

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Toast

We would like to propose a toast to SITRACIMA, the Guatemalan union whose workers made the Liz Claiborne and Charter Club / Talbot's clothes hanging in this store. These workers made history in 2001 when they became the first union in Guatemala's apparel industry, one of only a handful of unionized clothing factories in the world. In three months, these women will have no union, no jobs, and no livelihood if Liz Claiborne and Macy's / Talbot's continue to tolerate violations of wokers' rights in their factories. To Liz Claiborne and Macy's / Talbot's we say: "Stand up for workers' rights! Support union factories, not sweatshops!" Here's to another six years for the courageous women of Sitracima!

Anniversary Action Photos

Reading the toast to the women of SITRACIMA inside Seattle's downtown Macy's store.

Telling people in Westlake about SITRACIMA's struggle.

Security guards from Westlake telling us to stand away from the Talbots entrance.

Continuing the protest outside Talbots.

Handing out fliers.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

Today SITRACIMA celebrates it's 6th anniversary! We will be celebrating downtown today with birthday cake and a sparkling cider toast. All are welcome.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Save Me From My Materialism Garage Sale!

That's right, we are holding another garage sale this weekend! This time it's at 6822 16th Ave N.E., one block east of Roosevelt High School. For directions or info on how you can help, call Stacey at 206-372-7893.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Press!

See today's UW Daily for coverage of the protest (here). And, in case you missed it, the front page of yesterday's Seattle P.I. (here). Help keep this story in the news by sending letters to the editors of both papers!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Quick Ways To Continue Support

1. Call Macy's, Talbots, and Liz Claiborne.
2. Sign our online petition.
3. Come to the garage sale June 23rd an 24th [6822 16th Ave NE].
4. Email a U.S. senator or representative.

Talking points for calling the brands:

1. DEMAND that threats, intimidation, and attacks against union leaders immediately stop. [Say that a union leader was surrounded by a group of men and received death threats. This violates countless laws and basic human rights, and the lives of these women are literally in the brands' hands.]

2. DEMAND that Cimatextiles be immediately reopened and that enough business is redirected to the factory to ensure that it operates at full capacity. [Say that Cimatextiles and Choishin are two of the only unionized factories in these brands' supply chains, and that they are not following their company codes of conduct if they don't stand up for factories in which the right to freedom of association is actually respected.]

3. DEAMND that the union workers of Cimatextiles (SITRACIMA) be immediately reemployed and receive all the benefits they are entitled to under law and from past agreements. [Say that the companies should act to stand up for union workers and one of the few factories in which freedom of association and other priniciples in their codes of conduct are respected. Also, note the fact that the factory closed illegally, the workers haven't received the severance agreed to with management, and that company codes of conduct, and Guatemalan and international laws are being broken.]

4. DEMAND that new orders be immediately redirected to Choishin to ensure that the factory operates at full capacity. [Say that work orders have decreased and that the companies should stand up for unionized workers and factories in which their codes of conduct are actually respected.]

5. DEMAND that the union workers of Choishin (SITRACHOI) remain employed and that their rights are respected. [Say that the companies should stand up for unionized workers and factories in which their codes of conduct are actually respected.]

Contact information:

Liz Claiborne Inc: Dial 212-626-3442 and ask to speak to CEO Bill McComb.

Talbots: Dial 781-749-7600, ask to speak with Consumer Relations.

Macy's: Dial 646-429-5255, ask to speak with Holly Thomas, PR Director

Update From Union Leaders

We spoke with the union leaders on Friday; they had a crisis because the workers have still not been paid their severance pay as promised. The workers showed up to be paid and when the company started the procedures to pay them, they were calculating the amount owed the workers at a much lower rate than the workers believed they were due.

The workers have now gone two weeks without receiving any payment and the company keeps putting off paying them. People are desperate, were yelling, and there were moments when it seemed violence might break out. A union leader said the Jefe de Personal was making comments that were tantamount to incitement, saying things like "Aqui se va armar un gran relajo" (Hard to translate, something like 'major stuff is going to go down here') which instead of calming people down, made them more upset. Then the company said that workers could receive their payment right then (at the lesser amount that the company was offering according to its own calculations), or else nothing. Some workers (by one estimation about 80) agreed to receive the lesser amount because they needed the money and felt it was so uncertain that the company would ever come through on its promises that they should just take what they could get; others refused on principle. Then the company announced they wanted to suspend the entire payment process.

At some point then the workers went to the offices of the Labor Inpsectorate (we spoke with a union leader as she was on her way home from that meeting). She said the Labor Inspectors had interviewed them. In a meeting yesterday -- they have been having meetings because the company keeps putting off paying the workers, in violation of the deal they made with the union, and yesterday the workers held a public manifestation to demand payment -- one of the Labor Inspectors said that he, too, was receiving threats in conjunction with this case. So it's not only the workers, but now government officials investigating the case that have been threatened.

The head of the Sitracima union received a threatening text message on her cellphone the night of June 13. She did not want to repeat to us what the message said because she said it had extremely obscene words on it and she was riding on a bus. But she still had the message on her cell phone yesterday and another worker had seen it.

While workers from Choishin have not been under as much pressure as those at Cimatextiles, they believe they are headed down the same path because they have begun to see decreasing orders. A union leader told us that three lines in Choishin are currently producing clothes only for the local market (not for export), and that in the warehouse she has seen a lack of material waiting for production. So they know the orders aren't coming in, and they are very concerned that they are going to be next.

She also expressed her gratitude to us for all the actions we are taking on their behalf and her eagerness to keep in touch.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Save me from my Materialism Garage Sale!

We are holding another benefit garage sale this weekend. We hope to raise a lot more money, but we need help! Please check out the garage sale wiki:

You may also:

1) Donate stuff
2) Help staff the sale

Drop off things at 5325 27th Ave. NE (the corner of 27th and 54th, by McDonald's in U-Village) or Call lauren (206) 718-6898.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

More Pictures

Here are some pictures, taken by Kiri, of the protest.

Rod rallies the students before the mock trial.

Marching to Talbots for the mock trial.

Marching to Macy's for the sleep-in and the outside protest.

Rod being pulled up by Macy's security guards.

Back to Westlake Park.


We rallied for a few minutes and after receiving text messages from the detained students, decided to return to Macy's until our compañer@s Rod and April, and our legal observer Larry Hildes, were released.

Aimee stayed on the megaphone, with support from members of UW SLAP, SU, UWGP, and Amnesty Intnernational, to keep the pressure on Macy's to release our compañer@s.

They were eventually released.

After the protest, the group retired and held a small cook out and garage sale, and, raised $400. We will send the money directly to the union to support the women as they face uncertain challenges in the wake of a deal rife with uncertainty and distrust. We will continue fundraising this coming weekend.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Phone update

Angelina talked with our primary contact at SitraCima. Here are some updates she wrote up and emailed out.


Here are the details of what's up with them:
1. The union has committed to staying in the factory at all times, including these overnight sleeping shifts, until every last worker receives her severance pay as promised. They have been sleeping in the factory every night since May 14.

2. Aside from all the prior history, there are reasons to suspect bad faith on the part of management. As everyone who's met with the women in Guate will remember them explaining, one of the ways management has opposed the union in the past is by buying off some workers to be loyal to them and criticize the union, so as a result of this at various times there have been groups of workers who opposed the union within the factory. These groups were reactivated this past week. The union leaders and management were in negotiations midweek, but then the union leaders said they could not definitively agree to everything in the agreement until they'd presented the plan to the General Assembly of their membership today (Saturday) for a vote. Between the time the deal was struck and today, the Chief of Personnel went and told the workers in their anti-union groups that he himself had achieved all these things in one day, and that the union was going to claim it had been in some "negotiations" but that was all a lie, this was his proposal. These rumors spread quickly in the factory, and (this part I don't quite understand) workers in these anti-union groups filed a complaint against the union in the Labor Inspectorate. So now four Labor Inspectors are coming out on Monday to inspect the union to find out about its alleged misdeeds. (?)

3. Some of these ani-union workers have been threatening our contact, the SitraCima leader. Everyone knows they work closely with management, but management has been careful not to themselves threaten her. At least this week. More commonly, she is insulted, sometimes really grossly, but sometimes the comments are threatening.

4. The union had approx 150 members prior to this crisis and now has 60.

5. Our contact emphasized that it was very important to the women in the union that they were not only fighting for their wages, jobs, etc. but also for their dignity. It offends them very deeply that management would attempt to justify their dismissal by saying they do poor quality work. They are proud of the work they do and want to be treated with respect. It's about that as much as it is about economics.

6. There is still supposedly no work to be done in Cimatextiles, but according to the workers all that work has now just shifted over to Choishin, where they've added on a night shift (and brought in workers from other factories) to handle all the additional work. The night shift works from 7 pm to 5 am.


The above was written by Dr. Angelina Godoy, from a phone conversation with our contact at SitraCima, and posted by Travis.


Yesterday, we demonstrated in front of Macy's and Talbots downtown. We met at Westlake Park around 2:30, across the street from Macy's and Talbots.


We marched to Talbots and held a mock trial with nine foot tall puppets.


The crowd gave a guilty verdict.


Then we headed to Macy's. The group split up into two: the outside protesters, chanting and holding signs, and the inside protesters, who "slept in" with signs, blankets, and sleeping bags.

Rod Palmquist, front, was one of the illegally detained.


Carrie Vincler holds the bullhorn on which Rod Palmquist speaks. April Nishimura, who was also illegally detained, walking away from the security guard who would, moments later, violently twist Rod's arm behind his back. Rod did not resist.


Those of us who were inside filed back out to rejoin the rest of the crowd. As April was following everyone to make sure no one was left behind, a security guard nabbed her and detained her for 90 minutes. She was not harmed. Our legal observer, Larry Hildes, later went into Macy's to challenge the students' illegal detentions. Smalls returned to twist his arm, and illegally detained Hildes, as well.

We chanted for workers' rights and the release of our compañer@s.


We returned to Westlake Park to rally.


Palmquist, Nishimura, and Hildes were released due to sustained protesting and chanting by their compañer@s outside of Macy's. None was booked, charged, or fined.

We are exploring the possibility of legal action against Macy's, for their security guards' overzealous and violent suppression of the protest.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wikipedia Entry & Phone Call Update.

I've started a Wikipedia entry about SITRACIMA. It's still under construction, but expect more detailed information soon.

Also keep your eyes on the Liz Claiborne, Macy's and Talbots wiki pages.

I was with Dr. Angelina Godoy on Wednesday, 30 May, at about 1:00pm when she called the women at the factory. The first conversation was with the leader of SITRACIMA. It was brief because the phone cut out, but Angelina called back and established contact with the leader of SITRACIMA's sister union, SITRACHOI. She spoke with the SITRACHOI representative at length.

The current situation for SITRACIMA is as follows: the women did not work last week after management imposed a mandatory, 5 day "vacation." (This may be illegal under Guatemalan labor law.) They are returning to the factory now, but have no work to do. The workers believe that the owners of CimaTextiles and ChoiShin (the factories at which the members of SITRACIMA and SITRACHOI work) have moved the orders formerly produced at CimaTextiles to other factories owned by the same firm (Modas Choi & Shin), including ChoiShin. ChoiShin has hired a new night shift (nonunion, of course), most likely to take up and produce the garments formerly sewn at CimaTextiles.

The women at CimaTextiles are being paid their base wages. This is not sufficient because the women typically supplement their normal wages by working overtime and producing over quota for bonuses. These "supplemental" earnings are in fact absolutely necessary to the livelihoods of the women, and constitute a significant portion of their incomes. I don't know whether they are earning enough to feed their families right now, but they are definitely facing significant financial pressure.

To encourage the women to quit, the factory owners continue to offer the women a severance package, which many of the women are tempted to take. How many have already taken the owners up on that offer, I do not know.

On Monday, May 28, the Labor Inspectors, the factory owners, the Guatemalan Vice Minister of Labor, the union leadership and union legal council met to discuss the situation. What exactly happened is unclear, but the workers reported that the President and Vice President of the firm which owns the factories were arguing and insulted the worker's legal council. The meeting dissolved without resolution. There is another meeting scheduled.

The workers believe the Labor Inspectorate is biased. They said that whenever the factory owners suggested a compromise, the Inspectors would remain silent or endorse the plan; if the workers suggested a different plan, the Inspectors would criticize and fight it.

The owners claimed during the meeting that there was no work for the workers at CimaTextiles, and kept saying "why should we pay people who are doing no work?" The rhetorical question hides an important fact: the factory owners cannot legally fire these women. Guatemalan law provides a method for closing a factory and laying off workers. The factory owners have participated partially in that method, and were told by the Ministry of Labor that the conditions required to close the factory were not met, that it would be illegal to close the factory. This clearly explains the motive behind the de facto pay cut ownership gave the women.

Our contact also told Angelina that there were rumors floating around that the leader of SITRACIMA was targeted to be assaulted (agredida). She asked Angelina to call back to check on her well-being. I haven't spoken with Angelina since then, but I presume that if she was not well, Angelina would have notified us.

This concludes the information Angelina and I received from SITRACIMA and SITRACHOI at approximately 1:00pm on May 30 2007.



Dr. Angelina Godoy leads a human rights seminar to Guatemala each summer. The students of this seminar met with the women of SITRACIMA the past two years; the next class, which leaves for Guatemala on 23 June, will meet with these women.

The union sent an urgent plea for help on 17 May to Dr. Godoy, which she forwarded to the her current and former students. The response was immediate: the students began organizing, writing letters, contacting the media, contacting their representatives, and contacting the brands which buy from CimaTextiles (the factory at which the women work). These brands are Liz Claiborne, Talbots, and Macy's house brand Charter Club.

These are pictures sent by the union workers to Dr. Godoy.

the factory gates

union leaders speaking with the workers

union leaders speaking with the workers

women fainted after facing intimidation, threats, rumors of violence, blacklisting throughout the industry, and the impending loss of their jobs. many are single mothers.



in a country where police violence frequently goes unpunished, their presence instills fear as much as it comforts.

the union has provided a modicum of stability for the workers

An open letter to Representative Jim McDermott

Dear Representative Jim McDermott:

We are writing in regard to an urgent labor rights situation unfolding in a Guatemalan apparel factory located in the city of Villa Nueva. Workers at the Cimatextiles factory, owned by the South Korean company Modas Choishin, were informed on Saturday, May 19 that the factory would suspend operations for three months, in violation of the terms of Guatemalan law. These workers are represented by SITRACIMA, one of only three unions within Guatemala’s apparel industry, which is made up of some 200 factories. Not only has the suspension of work been procedurally illegal, it has been accompanied by actions of increasingly serious intimidation and harassment against the union members, including acts of physical aggression, temporary deprivation of liberty (locking them in the factory), and threats of violence.

We are students, alumni, and faculty at the University of Washington. Many of us are involved with the UW human rights seminar that takes students to Guatemala and in which meeting these very women is integral to the lesson plan. This summer is the program’s third; if the women are able to meet in July, this may be the last class to speak with these women, and the last class to see the fruits of their struggle. The women have contacted us directly and asked us to take urgent action on their behalf. This crisis deeply affects us. As your constituents, we ask you to support these women.

The gravity and frequency of the acts of intimidation constitute a clear violation of workers’ right to free association, established in Articles 34 and 102 (q) of the Guatemalan Constitution. The Guatemalan Labor Code prohibits, in Article 10, retaliations against workers for attempting to exercise their rights, and in Article 62, forbids attempts to force workers to withdraw from unions. At the level of international law, the ILO Conventions 87 and 98 clearly establish the right to organize and bargain collectively, as does Article 22 of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

In addition to breaches of these most basic human rights, there have been numerous violations of the procedures outlined in Guatemalan Labor Code for the suspension of employment contracts. In particular, Article 73 of the Labor Code specifies that employers must make a written request to the Ministry of Labor for permission to suspend contracts, and that the Labor Inspectorate must then determine whether the causes of suspension are valid. We understand that officials from the Labor Ministry have not received written notice from the company in this case. Company representatives stated that due process was followed, but the Labor Inspectorate has not verified that claim.

As a party to the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement , the Guatemalan government has an international obligation to enforce its own labor laws (DR-CAFTA, Article 16.2.1(a)). As of this point, the Guatemalan government has not enforced these laws. Consequently, the crisis situation has continued within Cimatextiles, where workers are taking turns sleeping overnight to prevent the closure of their factories and permanent loss of their jobs despite threats on the part of ownership.

In response to this situation, and as a productive step toward resolving the crisis, the SITRACIMA union is calling for the creation of a “High Level Commission” of stakeholder groups. The proposed Commission would include representatives of the US Embassy in Guatemala, the South Korean Embassy in Guatemala, the Guatemalan Ministries of Labor and Economy, the US brands LCI (Liz Claiborne) and Talbots, the Korean Choi Shin Corporation, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the independent COVERCO labor rights monitoring organization, the labor federation FESTRAS, and the Textile Apparel Commission VESTEX.

In support of this proposal, we urge the United States Government to direct its Embassy in Guatemala to facilitate the creation of the proposed High Level Commission and take part in its efforts to resolve this dispute. Furthermore, we ask you to encourage the Korean embassy and the relevant Guatemalan ministries to join the commission.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Brandon Ballinger
Masha Burina
Dr. Angelina Godoy
Stacey Fernandez
Amanda M. Fulmer
Kalila Jackson-Spieker
Alyssa Kahn
Martina Kartman
Alexandra Larsson
Jillian Leslie
Jessica Michelle Nance
Phil Neff
Rod Palmquist
Veryl Pow
Khadyja Reinhardt
Tim Richards
Maya Sparks
Ariana Taylor-Stanley
Travis Thomas
Carrie Vincler
Nick Wong

Opening Salvo

This blog will document the plight of the workers at the CimaTextiles factory in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, and the activism in solidarity with those women.


The workers at the Guatemalan factory CimaTextiles formed a union in 2001. They won a collective bargaining agreement in 2003, and since then have struggled to protect their gains. The corporation which owns the factory, Choi & Shin Co., Inc., consistently tries to break the union's back, and has since its inception. etc. etc. Here is the union's wiki. Here are the pictures from the protest. Here is the urgent action.

This section is under construction. Thank you for your patience.