PUSHING BACK...Women Workers Speak Out on Free Trade
STITCH presents a new publication that explores the impact of free trade on women workers in Central America and the United States . In their own words, these courageous women talk about their lives and their struggle to survive in—and challenge—an economic system that is stacked against them. This publication is completely bi-lingual (English and Spanish) and includes stories of women working in export clothing factories, healthcare, and agriculture.
On treatment in the factories….
To make changes, you have to leave fear behind. We knew that we could be fired and we took the risk. But when I talked to other workers I explained that the boss fired people every day without reason, only because they were going to complete 500 hours of work and they would start earning a regular salary. The supervisor would go to the line where the person was working and say in front of everybody, with complete arrogance, ‘I don’t like your work and you’re leaving now.’ It hit me like a whip, even though they didn’t say it to me. When we came in to work, we said to ourselves, ‘Who will it be now?’
On being a woman in the Union ….
Through the union, I’ve gotten a lot of training. At times, I've had to stand up to the men to get them to respect our right to equality. Sometimes, we women make a proposal that they don't accept and then we have to take it to the general assemblies so that they authorize us to carry it out. Machismo is an obstacle we still haven't been able to overcome. I've always struggled to keep moving
ahead and creating space for women to participate fully. I’ve really liked being able to help other women workers who sometimes don't even know how to sign their names.
Women have had a very difficult situation because in the past, we barely had access to education like we do today. Very few of us really have any formal schooling. So I set out to help my fellow co-workers and strengthen the union. I have been able to sign up more women, which has been really satisfying for me. My struggle is to keep on signing up more people in order to build up the organization.
On Privatization of Services…
Since they privatized basic services like electricity and the telephone, they haven't raised benefits, haven't raised salaries—nothing has gone up but the prices. The only people who benefit are the investors, the people who have monopolies on basic services. There are so few of them that everyone knows who they are. It's the same people who benefited from privatizing pensions and from dollarization.2
One of our members told me, ‘I've got to take out this light bulb because I can't pay the electricity bill this month. But I can't take out my eye. I can't take off a hand, you know?’ With privatization, health care is treated as a business and not as a human right. The investor’s only concern is, ‘Is there a profit or not?’ So, in our country, it is like killing us because we cannot afford it.
For the full story of these courageous women, order your copy of “Pushing Back” today!
Women Behind the Labels
In order to understand the full impact of the globalization of the economy on workers, it is not enough to ask the opinions of leaders of developing countries. We must ask the people sewing the garments and picking the fruit for the U.S. market. In 1998, STITCH launched a documentation project to make these voices heard. The result is Women Behind the Labels, a collection of eight interviews with women leaders organizing for justice in the apparel and banana sectors in Guatemala and Honduras. These short and accessible interviews cover a broad range of topics, including working conditions, family relationships, personal histories and the emotional decision to organize. Each interview includes a short introduction to the woman who is telling her story and some background on the relevant plant, industry, and country. We envision this booklet to be used as an educational tool for activists, teachers, union educators and rank and file members.
Click here to order a copy of Women Behind the Labels.
Printing generously donated by the Public Service Alliance of CanadaDescription: 42 pages, 8.5" x 7".
Excerpts from Women Behind the Labels
ON WAGES AND UNION BUSTING:
ON BEING A TRADE UNIONIST:
ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN THE BANANA INDUSTRY: