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.


1 comment:

Ben said...

How did the rally go at Westlake today? Is there anything else students can do? Someone to call, letters to write, etc?


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.