Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A vision of what could be

The New York Times published an El Salvador Journal piece headlined "At Salvadoran Factory, Helping Troubled Youth Makes Business Sense." It is the story of a T-shirt factort in Ciudad Arce, El Salvador, where workers, including several dozen ex-gang members, sew t-shirts and make a living wage with benefits such as day care and education:

Mr. Amaya said he spent seven years in the gang before he joined an evangelical church and was allowed to leave. He began working at the League plant two years ago. There, his boss, Mr. Bolaños, brims with ideas: “Our goal is to get people back in society, get them back on track,” he said.

Every worker spends half an hour on a computer each workday practicing English through an online course. The factory pays for high school equivalency classes and has just arranged with a local university to offer a two-year engineering degree. The company subsidizes a clinic, day care, breakfast and lunch, adjusts schedules for employees studying for a college degree, and has even set up a plan to lend money to people who want to raise tilapia in tanks at home for extra income.

The efforts raise labor costs — to some $500 a month for each worker overall, compared to the average wage of about $300 a month in garment plants. But the benefits eliminate turnover, Mr. Bolaños said, which ultimately generate savings.

“Other companies are barely making it because they are training people every month,” he said. His efficiencies mean he could sell to a customer demanding the tightest margins. “If I worked for Wal-Mart, could I do this? The answer is yes.”  (more).
WBUR also published a story on the League Collegiate Wear factory which you can read here.

This factory is only one isolated instance, yet it shows what might be possible.


Observador said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Observador said...

The idea that this is a unique case in the Salvadoran garment/textile sector is highly misleading. A number of business owners that run similar operations highlight the hiring of ex-gang affiliates for quite some time. In some cases, general managers may rely on specific organized crime ties among their staff to dissuade extortion, or control other aspects of their labor situation, as it corresponds to the surrounding communities in which the factory or business is situated and interacts with.

I agree that this is a heartening story, but the Liberty Collegiate Wear example is by no means unique--or, its unique only in that it garnered attention in the U.S. press. The gang dynamic has so penetrated every aspect of the social and economic apparatus that its going to take more than informal private sector interventions like these that may lack proper oversight on re-insertion, or even the skills necessary to do so effectively without dangering others in the workplace.

Observador said...

Let me rephrase: These private sector interventions into the gang apparatus are laudable, but not isolated. Policymakers persuaded by pieces like that in the NY Times might be mislead to assume this is Liberty Collegiate Wear is an isolated occurrence. It is not.