Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just Garments

A provider of many jobs, although not good jobs, in El Salvador is the maquiladora textile industry. Thousands of Salvadorans are employed in sweatshops sewing garments for export. A 1999 article from the National Labor Committee illustrates that wages paid in Salvadoran maquila factories are not livable and certainly won't lift workers out of poverty.

One factory tried to break the sweatshop mold. Just Garments operates a unionized factory in El Salvador which attempts to pay a living wage to workers and respect worker rights. However, this model has not allowed Just Garments to compete effectively. The factory, which has never made money, may close if it cannot raise $20,000 from friends and supporters before the end of the year. Go to its web site to learn more.

One small way to help would be buying Just Garments' T-Shirts from Crispaz, or Just Garments khaki pants from No Sweat Apparel.

The current state of maquiladora production does not help workers in any country. This week a textile plant in Edenton, North Carolina announced it is closing and moving 200 jobs to El Salvador. Meanwhile textile jobs in El Salvador are being lost to even cheaper sources of production in China.


Anonymous said...

I salute Just Garments for trying to change the standard, and trying to "treat" the maquila workers as free human beings with rights. If all companies were like them, we'd be off with a better world. But alas, the majority of corporations are psychopaths with no concern over their workers (just stockholders). Unfortunately China has the capacity to easily outtsource El Salvador by offering even cheaper labor (something that brought the companies here in the first place), making things like Unionized maquilas in El Salvador a problem for the company's best interests...

wally said...

One huge question always remains. If the maquilas were shut down for not paying any more than they do, where would the people employed by the maquilas work? I also have a question maybe one of your readers can answer. My understanding is that goods produced here in maquilas can not be sold in El Salvador without first being exported and then imported, adding to the cost of the product. Can anyone verify that? It only makes sense that if the product is made cheaply because of the willingness of the Salvadoran workers to work for low wages, they should reap some benefits of that by buying it at the low price it was produced at, rather than not being able to afford it after it is re-imported. That would increase the orders for the company by increasing it´s market, and maybe even make it feasible to operate more maquilas, thus more jobs, which seems to be the thing this country needs the most.

Anonymous said...

In the most recent budget the Salvadoran government had to admit that the products that are made in the Zona Franca were being sold in El Salvador, although the law states such products are for export only. In this way the companies get around paying taxes. There is no discount given to the workers. The extra cash ends up in the pockets of the owners.

Anonymous said...

The bigger question that remains for cases like Just Garments, where they have unionized and began paying better wages, is how will they compete? Is there a market of consumers that are willing to pay more for a product that's produced using "humane" working conditions? In other words, will consumers demand products that are produced by anti-sweatshops?

Keep in mind that large companies only provide what the consumer demands. If the consumer begins to assess his/her purchases based on this notion, perhaps the multinationals would be pressured into looking at other supply options.

Only time will tell, but regardless, I applaud the effort of this blog.