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Unraveling the Garment Industry

Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women’s Work

Ethel C. Brooks
Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Unraveling the Garment Industry
    Book Description:

    Unraveling the Garment Industry investigates the politics of labor and protest within the garment industry. Focusing on three labor rights movements—against GAP clothing in El Salvador, child labor in Bangladesh, and sweatshops in New York City—Ethel C. Brooks examines how transnational consumer protest campaigns effect change, sometimes with unplanned penalties for those they intend to protect.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5411-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Acronyms
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxxiv)

    Since the middle of the 1990s, the globalization of manufacturing has given rise to the globalization of industrial protest. Movements to improve working conditions have organized cross-border campaigns, bringing together labor activists and consumers in the United States and Europe with labor organizers, workers, and activists in manufacturing sites to protest labor violations in factories that subcontract production for large, multinational retailers. Like the corporations they oppose, the tactics of transnational campaigns increasingly work to affect a product’s image and the way it is marketed and consumed; furthermore, antisweatshop campaigns themselves employ third world women garment workers—their bodies, labor,...

  5. 1 Children, Schools, and Labored Questions
    (pp. 1-25)

    The labor of women and children is at the center of production within and protest against the new sweatshop. As both producers and consumers—and, since the late 1970s, as activists—women and children throughout the world have been increasingly crucial participants in the political economy of globalization. The urban spaces in which they work, furthermore, can be seen as a challenge to dominant paradigms of the global city. Cities like Dhaka (Bangladesh), San Salvador, Brooklyn, and Queens produce and reproduce the discursive and material formations of globalization just as centrally as do Tokyo, London, and New York.¹ Because of...

  6. 2 Organizing in Times of (Post)War
    (pp. 26-53)

    If globalization has become the trope of the post–cold war period, the new sweatshop has symbolized its worst abuses. From the perspective of the shop floors of garment factories throughout the world, the politics of globalization works to frame interrogations of current productive and labor-market practices. Here I will examine the phenomenon of cross-border, consumer-oriented protest campaigns that push for labor rights on behalf of women workers in garment factories in El Salvador and the United States.

    This chapter’s title both questions the notion of “post” in the Salvadoran context and references a 1980s song from Nicaragua by Luis...

  7. 3 The Ideal of Transnational Organizing
    (pp. 54-81)

    The consumer campaign carried out against celebrity talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford and U.S.-based megaretailer Wal-Mart targeted working conditions at factories producing Wal-Mart’s Kathie Lee line of clothing. The campaign was a joint effort of the NLC and UNITE, the U.S.-based Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees.¹ When it burst into public view in the summer of 1996, the Kathie Lee campaign seemed to be a model of transnational organizing among labor activists and garment workers whose shop-floor organizing attempts had been thwarted by the neoliberal rewriting of national and international trade laws, creating hyper-exploitative subcontracting regimes throughout...

  8. 4 Disciplining Bodies
    (pp. 82-113)

    The notion that the global economy is both the site and the object of post-Fordist labor regulation mobilizes a spatial and conceptual shift from the terrain of the national to that of the transnational. This shift produces transnational discipline as an erasure of all that has come before; the project of making the new global worker is fundamentally different from earlier Fordist disciplinary projects that produced national forms of subjectivity. In this chapter, I move away from notions of the erasure, replacement, or supplanting of disciplinary forms to engage with site-specific practices of regulation and discipline both within the global...

  9. 5 Women First?
    (pp. 114-137)

    On a summer day in June 1995, Judith Viera stepped up to the podium in Miami at the founding convention of UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees, to tell her story. Viera described her coworkers’ struggles to form a union at a factory in El Salvador. Armed guards denied entry to anyone without an identification card and, Viera said, carried out full body searches of those they did allow to enter, the majority of whom were women between the ages of fifteen and thirty years old. Viera described the regimen of severely limited bathroom visits and forced...

  10. 6 Living Proof
    (pp. 138-162)

    Can living proof be the basis on which we claim transnational subjectivity? If a person provides living proof of her existence, can she then claim citizenship? In this chapter, I address the questions of subjectivity and agency that have run throughout the preceding chapters by focusing on the living proof provided by women’s everyday experiences as garment workers. “Living proof,” in this instance, is what I am calling the offering of life stories, subjectivities, bodily materialities, and practices by women as acts of courage and political claim staking. By theorizing the living proof offered by garment workers in production and...

  11. Epilogue: Gender and the Work of Branding
    (pp. 163-172)

    This study began as an attempt to examine and document the relationship between cross-border protest campaigns for labor rights and the various garment factory floors that have been the focus of transnational organizing. I began with a number of assumptions about the effects of the campaigns in individual garment factories, on labor relations in the industry, and in the lives of the women who were working in the factories. I believed at the outset that the campaigns could give birth to a new politics that would be able to contest globalization by highlighting the everyday lives and struggles of women...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 173-176)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 177-202)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-218)
  15. Index
    (pp. 219-244)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-246)