CISPES Anti-Sweatshop Campaign
CISPES is doing something nobody has ever tried to do before: create a Violation-Free Zone in one of El Salvador's most notorious Free Trade Zones.
CISPES and its Salvadoran labor allies are going to turn this Free Trade Zone into a Violation-Free Zone, where workers' rights are respected... and workers can organize unions to defend their own rights. This is the only permanent way to improve wages and working conditions. Corporate pressure campaigns are certainly necessary, but when US consumers shift their attention to a new corporate abuser -- as they necessarily will -- the corporations are free to start exploiting their workers again.
Our plan for creating a Violation-Free Zone involves US AID, which built several of El Salvador's Free Trade Zones... but failed to ensure that labor rights were ever enforced there. On October 11, AID told CISPES representatives that they were interested in helping create a Violation-Free Zone. Now we are pressuring AID to do that, by:
AID has a legal responsibility to see that labor rights are observed in the Free Trade Zones that it funded.
We plan to extend this model... first to other Free Trade Zones, and then to the whole country. Our vision is that some day, you will be able to look at a "Made in El Salvador" label on a T-shirt or a pair of jeans, and buy that garment, knowing that it was made without exploited labor.
In 1995, right-wing President Calderon said he wanted to turn El Salvador into one big Free Trade Zone. CISPES and its Salvadoran labor allies intend to turn all El Salvador into a Clean Clothes Zone.
Of course, this strategy also depends on supporting labor organizing in El Salvador. And part of that is CISPES's campaign to stop the Christmas firings.
STOP THE CHRISTMAS FIRINGS!
Every year, as Christmas approaches, sweatshop managers in El Salvador fire hundreds of workers.
Why? Because in El Salvador, the Christmas bonus is a legally guaranteed part of your year's pay. So every December, the sweatshops save a few bucks... and make Christmas miserable for thousands of young women and their children.
What could be more cynical?
Well, the Salvadoran government is more cynical. It lets sweatshop managers get away with breaking the law. According to Salvadoran workers:
And this is on top of the factory workers' 14-hour days, forced overtime, two bathroom breaks a day, physical and sexual abuse, dirt, lint, noise....
This year it's going to be different.
For more information, or to find the CISPES chapter nearest you, call CISPES at 212-229-1290.
"CROSS BORDERS" SOLIDARITY FUNDRAISING DRIVE
CISPES is raising funds for several groups in El Salvador -- all of which are working for labor, political, and human rights.
How can people contribute?
You can earmark your donation for one of these projects if you wish, and you can make it tax-deductible by writing a check to the
CISPES Education Fund Box 1801 New York, New York 10159
For more detailed descriptions of these projects, write or call CISPES, 212-229-1290, firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTHER CISPES CAMPAIGNS
It's happening right now. CISPES is bringing garment organizer Ana Maria Romero and telephone union leader Wilmer Erroa to the States for a month of meetings and fundraising.
Ana Maria worked in the GABO factory (in the San Marcos Free Trade Zone), where management physically attacked and harassed workers and cheated them out of their already extremely low pay. Last year, a woman worker died after GABO managers refused her permission to leave work and get medical attention. This August, the factory owner illegally shut the factory and fled the country. The Union of GABO Workers, STIT-FEASIES, has not given up, and is seeking international support for their struggle.
Wilmer is the Secretary of Relations for ASTTEL, the Salvadoran Association of Telecommunication Workers. ASTTEL is fighting the battle of its life against the government, which is trying to privatize ANTEL, the national phone company. Privatization will mean that the poor lose the little phone access they have, and ASTTEL -- the country's strongest union -- is destroyed. ASTTEL has mobilized thousands of working people in a brilliant community outreach campaign. Public opinion in El Salvador now runs 57% against privatization. Now ASTTEL is taking its cause to the people of the United States.
Their schedule is:
Ana Maria Romero
From January 8 to 19, CISPES activists and labor activists will join forces for a ten-day delegation to El Salvador -- visiting unions and checking out the political scene. Cost is approximately $1300, depending on air fare, plus any money you can raise to support the unions' work. For information or an application form call Jennifer Mertens at CISPES, 212-229-1290, email@example.com.
The March 16 elections will choose a new Assembly, mayors, and city councils, and the FMLN looks good in the polls. However, the voting system is rigged, and the ruling ARENA Party has refused to honor last-election promises to reform it. Observers will be needed to "defend the vote." Cost is approximately $1300, depending on air fare, plus any money you can raise to support the unions' work. Tentative delegation dates are March 8-19. For information or an application form call Jennifer Mertens at CISPES, 212-229-1290, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CISPES is also gathering materials the FMLN has requested, including: typewriters fax machines portable or large sound systems two-way radios complete computers, 386 or better, with or without hard drives 1.44mb disk drives hard drive controller cards RAM memory 1 MB video cards for SVGA and/or VGA monitors network cards for Novell, preferably NE1000 or NE2000, hard drives, a tape back-up drive, either external or internal, a professional/developer's version of FoxPro, preferably with manuals; and they are looking for computer people, before and during the elections -- mural painters, trainers for door-to-door campaigns -- if they are familiar with El Salvador.
Contact CISPES (above) if you have HIGH-QUALITY materials or volunteers.
STOPPING SWEATSHOPS HERE AT HOME
UNITE, the US garment workers' union, is organizing a strong "Stop Sweatshops!" campaign which you can reach at www.uniteunion.org. Click the "Stop Sweatshops" button on UNITE's homepage.
One target of the campaign is GUESS, which buys garments from West Coast sweatshops. UNITE is urging consumers to boycott GUESS products and to let the company know how you feel about exploitation, at www.guess.com.
Of course, there are plenty of international anti-sweatshop campaigns too, like the Nike campaign. An excellent clearinghouse for these is the Nicaragua Network's Campaign for Labor Rights, which puts out frequent alerts to people on their list. You can reach them at email@example.com.