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!


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.