Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 22:14:24 -0600 (CST)
Via Workers World News Service
March 8-13 actions to support Guatemalan sweatshop workers
By Molly Charboneau, Workers World, 4 March 1999
An international week of actions is set for March 8-13 to protest Phillips-Van Heusen's closing of its only unionized garment plant in Guatemala. The actions, which include distributing leaflets at retail outlets, are scheduled to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8. They will take place while President Bill Clinton is in Central America on a three-day visit that includes Guatemala.
The effort is part of a broader student-labor-community "No Sweat" campaign aimed at improving wages and conditions of garment workers in factories like those run by PVH-- factories owned by U.S.-based companies that super-exploit workers in Third World countries for dollars a day.
During February, meetings, demonstrations and sit-ins at campuses such as Duke, Princeton, the University of Wisconsin, Georgetown and New York University have demanded the schools adopt a strong stance on ending sweatshop conditions in factories where university-licensed apparel is made. Because a phony code orchestrated by the White House doesn't guarantee any real rights for workers, activists are demanding the university administrations go further.
As a result of these struggles--including takeovers of the presidents' offices at Duke and Wisconsin--some schools have signed a strong licensing code calling for full public disclosure of information on apparel factories and commitments to living-wage standards for workers.
"Campus bookstores like the one at NYU have a huge selection of T-shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel with school logos that they sell at fairly high prices. We want to pressure the universities to make them stop profiting from garments sewn by workers toiling under sweatshop conditions," said Shelley Ettinger, who represents Federation of Teachers Local 3882, the NYU clerical workers' union, in the No Sweat Coalition on that campus. "We hope this pressure helps support the sweatshop workers' own struggles for decent wages and working conditions and union rights."
On Feb. 26, the NYU coalition will host Claudia Ochoa Barrios and Dora Morales, two former union leaders at PVH Guatemala, at a 5:30 p.m. meeting at Judson Memorial Church, 241 Thompson St., near NYU.
PVH became a No Sweat target when it callously closed Camisas Modernas, its only unionized Guatemala factory, in December. The company sold $910 million in apparel in 1997. It is the leading marketer of men's dress shirts.
Under Van Heusen, Gant, Geoffrey Beene, Izod, Bass and other labels, PVH markets apparel at JC Penney, Marshall Fields, Lord & Taylor, Macy's and other prominent retail outlets. However, PVH only pays non-union workers $5 per day in its sweatshop operations abroad.
More than 500 workers at Camisas Modernas waged a six-year struggle to win a union, a contract, and a wage of $9 per day---almost double the non-union rate. Their 1997 organizing victory made them the best-paid workers in the country's maquila sector.
Now PVH is trying to undo that victory by closing the plant and outsourcing their work to poverty-wage, non-union sweatshop contractors.
"What PVH is doing in Guatemala is smashing the human rights of workers and throwing us back into sweatshops that pay starvation wages and treat us like animals," said Camisas Modernas workers in a statement on the factory closing. Meanwhile, PVH Chief Executive Officer Bruce Klatsky is a member of a White House-initiated task force to end sweatshops--and a board member of Human Rights Watch.
More information about PVH and the March 8-13 week of actions is available from the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project at firstname.lastname@example.org or (773) 262-6502.
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