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

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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.

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