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!

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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.

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