From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Sat Aug 4 11:06:03 2001
Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 22:40:10 -0500
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: pkmurphy <pkmurphy@LOOK.CA>
Subject: Fw: Update: Attacked Maquila Workers Reach Settlement in Guatemala

From: Maquila Solidarity Network <>
Sent: Thu, 02 Aug 2001 14:39:37 -0400
Subject: Update: Attacked Maquila Workers Reach Settlement in Guatemala

Attacked Maquila Workers Reach Settlement in Guatemala

Maquila Solidarity Network, Liz Claiborne Campaign Update, 2 August 2001

Note: Our apologies for the delay in sending out this action alert update. Our computer was recently infected with a virus and we wanted to clean all our systems before sending out any e-mail messages.

Two weeks ago we sent you an Urgent Action Alert about forced resignations of and physical attacks against union members at two Liz Claiborne supply factories in Guatemala. We are pleased to report that your letters and other solidarity actions in Guatemala, the US and Canada have helped achieve an agreement allowing workers who were pressured to resign to return to work, committing the company to respect the workers' right to organize a union, and, hopefully, ending the campaign of violence and intimidation. Thank you for your support.

While we are relieved that workers have been allowed to return to their jobs, and that there have been no new acts of violence to date, we continue to be extremely concerned about the workers' safety and about whether their employer will respect the agreement.

Action Requested:

We urge you to write letters today to the Guatemalan Ambassador and Liz Claiborne, acknowledging the positive role they played in helping achieve the agreement, and urging them to take action to ensure that the workers' rights are respected, that there is no further violence or intimidation, and that those responsible for the violence are prosecuted. (We've included sample letters below that you can adapt. Please send copies of your letters to MSN at:

MSN Coordinator Lynda Yanz will be in Guatemala tomorrow delivering a message of solidarity from Canadians to the workers, and meeting with their union. Thanks again for your support for this critical struggle.

Sample Letter to the Guatemalan Ambassador:

His Exellency Mr. Carlos Jimenez
Embassy of Guatemala
130 Albert St., Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax: 613-233-0135

Dear Ambassador Jimenez:

I am writing to thank your government for taking prompt action in facilitating an agreement between union leaders and management at two maquila garment factories owned by Choi & Shin's. The agreement allowed workers to return to their jobs and commits the employer to end violence and intimidation of union members and respect their right to organize a union.

While I am pleased that your government was able to facilitate this important agreement, I continue to be concerned about the safety of the union members who have returned to work. I would therefore urge your government to investigate, charge and prosecute the individuals responsible for the violence against union supporters at the factories, and ensure that the agreement reached with the assistance of the Guatemalan government is honoured by the employer.

Thank you again for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Yours truly,

[It's more effective to send your letter by fax, but if you don't have access to a fax machine, you can send it by e-mail to:]

Sample Letter to Liz Claiborne:

Mr. Paul R. Charron, Chairman and CEO
Liz Claiborne Inc.
1441 Broadway
New York, NY 10018
Fax: 212-626-3416

Dear Mr. Charron:

I am writing to thank your company for taking positive steps to stop violence and intimidation against union members at the Choishin and Cimitextiles factories in Guatemala, and for your letter expressing your company's support for the workers' right to freedom of association.

While I am pleased that workers who were pressured to resign have been reinstated, I continue to be concerned about their safety, and about whether your supplier, Choi & Shin's, will fulfill it promise to respect the workers' right to freedom of association.

I would therefore urge Liz Claiborne to continue to pressure Choi & Shin's to ensure that there is no further violence, intimidation or discrimination against union supporters, that the workplace is a safe and secure environment for all workers, and that Choi & Shin's fulfills its signed agreement to respect the workers' right to organize a union.

Thank you again for your prompt action on this important matter. I will be following the situation closely to see if your supplier makes good on its promises.

Yours truly,

[It's more effective to send your letter by fax, but if you don't have access to a fax machine, you can send it by e-mail through the Liz Claiborne website at:]


Based on information received from the US/Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP).

On July 25, a week after violent mobs attacked unionists in the Cimatextiles and Choishin factories in Guatemala, both of which produce for, among others, Liz Claiborne, the union leaders and the factory management came to an agreement to end the worst violations of the workers' rights. The meeting, held at the office of the Maquiladora Association of Guatemala (VESTEX) between the union and the factory management, was called by the Guatemalan Labor Minister to find a solution to the violent intimidation against union organizing in the factories.

The Government of Guatemala was apparently motivated by the possible impact of the dispute on its U.S. preferential trade benefits, which are legally conditioned on respect for worker rights.

The four-point agreement states:

  1. The company will respect right to organize a union.
  2. All workers will be reinstated without any loss of previously held status and the company accepts the responsibility to create a safe environment for the return to work of all of the union leaders. MINUGUA, the United Nations body that oversees the Guatemalan peace process, will be permitted to enter the plants to verify compliance on the part of the company.
  3. The company will prosecute the perpetrators of the violence against the unionists according to their own internal regulations and Guatemalan labor law.
  4. On July 26, the company would publicly announce in the factory that they will not close because of the formation of a union.

The Labor Minister also announced that the papers confirming the legal recognition of both unions, SITRACIMA and ITRACHOI, would be available as of Thursday, July 26.

Liz Claiborne Sends Workers a Message

In another big step for the unions at the Choishin and Cimatextiles factories, on Wednesday, July 25, the factory management distributed a letter to the workers from Liz Claiborne, stating that Liz Claiborne supports the right of workers to choose to join a union or to not join a union. The letter also stated that Liz Claiborne will continue business with the Choishin and imatextiles factories as long as this is respected and the quality of the production remains satisfactory. Liz Claiborne has voiced its support for sanctions against those who participated in the violent intimidation.

Union Leaders Return to Work, Will they be Safe?

On Thursday, July 26, 23 workers returned to work for the first time since they had been attacked by a mob of non-union co-workers armed with bottles, rocks, and blank pieces of paper and pens on which to sign resignations. This mob attack was apparently orchestrated by factory management and supervisors, who had threatened to close the factory and said workers would be permanently blacklisted if the union was allowed to form.

To ensure the union leaders' safety, MINUGUA also arrived and entered the plant with the workers. No further violence has been reported at this time.

Crucial Test

This case is a key test for the Guatemalan Government's commitment to the enforcement of the rule of law. For Liz Claiborne, it is a test of their pilot project on independent monitoring and what conditions are needed for worker rights to be respected in the factories that produce their clothing.