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Making Sweatshops

Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 347
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  • Book Info
    Making Sweatshops
    Book Description:

    The only comprehensive historical analysis of the globalization of the U.S. apparel industry, this book focuses on the reemergence of sweatshops in the United States and the growth of new ones abroad. Ellen Israel Rosen, who has spent more than a decade investigating the problems of America's domestic apparel workers, now probes the shifts in trade policy and global economics that have spawned momentous changes in the international apparel and textile trade.Making Sweatshopsasks whether the process of globalization can be promoted in ways that blend industrialization and economic development in both poor and rich countries with concerns for social and economic justice-especially for the women who toil in the industry's low-wage sites around the world. Rosen looks closely at the role trade policy has played in globalization in this industry. She traces the history of current policies toward the textile and apparel trade to cold war politics and the reconstruction of the Pacific Rim economies after World War II. Her narrative takes us through the rise of protectionism and the subsequent dismantling of trade protection during the Reagan era to the passage of NAFTA and the continued push for trade accords through the WTO. Going beyond purely economic factors, this valuable study elaborates the full historical and political context in which the globalization of textiles and apparel has taken place. Rosen takes a critical look at the promises of prosperity, both in the U.S. and in developing countries, made by advocates for the global expansion of these industries. She offers evidence to suggest that this process may inevitably create new and more extreme forms of poverty.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92857-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911 called attention to the sweatshop conditions under which women worked stitching clothes. One hundred forty-one workers, 125 of them women and girls, mostly immigrants, were burned to death or died after jumping from a window in the building, in which there was only one fire escape; the elevator was broken.¹ This tragedy was the first of many such fires to call public attention to dangers suffered by women employed in sweatshop conditions. This disaster, like similar ones that have happened since, called attention to employers who lack concern for...

  6. 2 Free Trade, Neoclassical Economics, and Women Workers in the Global Apparel Industry
    (pp. 13-26)

    To understand the globalization of the American apparel industry, it is necessary to locate the process in its historical context. A policy of trade protection endured in the United States throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, supporting the dynamism of America’s early industrial growth. The transition to a free trade agenda had its roots in the early 1930s but was not put in place until after World War II. After the war, the policy of trade liberalization, primarily the reduction of tariffs and opening of markets to trade and investment, began in earnest. Trade liberalization succeeded—but only after...

  7. 3 Roots of the Postwar Textile and Apparel Trade: The Reconstruction of the Asian–Pacific Rim Textile Industry
    (pp. 27-54)

    The story of the liberalization of American trade in textiles and apparel begins with the defeat of the Japanese at the end ofWorldWar II. In 1945, the country was occupied by the U.S. military under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). The occupation was to last until 1952. Unlike the occupation of Europe, Japanese reconstruction took place under the direct authority of the American military, which acted on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and was directly answerable to the American president. The purpose of the occupation was to permit the...

  8. 4 The Emergence of Trade Protection for the Textile and Apparel Industries
    (pp. 55-76)

    While Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan were rebuilding their textile industries and looking for export markets, on the other side of the world U.S. textile and apparel producers were gearing up for a political battle to protect their markets from East Asian imports. The battle emerged in Congress just as the cold war in East Asia was beginning—in the late 1940s during Truman’s administration. The emergence of a protectionist movement for textiles and apparel might be dated to the debut of Eisenhower’s presidency, when intense debate in Congress brought textile protectionism to the attention of the public and the...

  9. 5 The U.S. Textile Industry: Responses to Free Trade
    (pp. 77-95)

    The progressive opening of world markets to textile and apparel exports began soon after the end of World War II and is still going on. Whereas the reciprocal trade approach defined the earlier decades of struggle between trade liberalizers and protectionists, by the middle of the 1980s the neoliberal trade paradigm began to dominate trade policy for the textile, apparel, and other industries. In 1995 the World Trade Agreement, and its Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, superseded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Embodying the neoliberal perspective, the WTA began eliminating all protective quotas on imports of textiles and...

  10. 6 The U.S. Apparel Industry: Responses to Capital Flight
    (pp. 96-118)

    The textile and apparel industries in the United States developed separately. Until quite recently, each had a distinct history, different types of production, and unique traditions. While America’s textile industry had its roots in early-nineteenth-century New England, and later in the South, the U.S. apparel industry developed during the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century in New York City.

    Apparel manufacturers were largely from southern Italy and eastern Europe. The Jewish and Italian immigrants who became the owners of small manufacturing and contracting firms first came to the United States during the period from 1880 to...

  11. 7 The 1980s: The Demise of Protection
    (pp. 119-128)

    Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the White House marked a turning point in the liberalization of trade and the development of free market initiatives. His administration challenged the legitimacy of trade protection and undermined the power of the trade protectionists. Indeed, during his administration the protectionist agenda was eliminated as a force in the formation of trade policy and replaced by the neoliberal agenda. As a result Reagan began to implement the new free trade agenda. He started with the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act. Bush continued with the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, and Clinton with the North American Free...

  12. 8 The Reagan Revolution: The Caribbean Basin Initiative
    (pp. 129-152)

    The first act of America’s trade liberalization was played out in the Far East; the second act took place in Latin America—in selected countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and, later, Mexico.¹ U.S. apparel manufacturers had begun to produce apparel in some of the Caribbean and Central American countries and in Mexico in the 1970s, but Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiatives, the first in 1983 and particularly the second in 1986, dramatically accelerated the growth of assembly operations in the Caribbean and Central America. If the U.S. textile and apparel industries opposed America’s efforts to rebuild the textile industries in...

  13. 9 Trade Liberalization for Textiles and Apparel: The Impact of NAFTA
    (pp. 153-176)

    In the fall of 1993 Congress ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect on January 1, 1994. Since that time, NAFTA has facilitated the growth of a vertically integrated textile and apparel complex in Mexico increasingly owned and controlled by U.S. textile and apparel transnationals. This new investment has ushered in a dramatic rise in low-wage apparel production in Latin America and has contributed to the demise of Mexico’s indigenous apparel industry. Efforts are now being made to establish “full package” apparel capacity, which incorporates all the processes of clothing production—from fiber to fabric...

  14. 10 Apparel Retailing in the United States: From Mom-and-Pop Shop to Transnational Corporation
    (pp. 177-201)

    Only twenty-five years ago, mom-and-pop clothing stores flourished alongside large department stores and discount chains. Today, however, the highly concentrated, vertically integrated U.S. retail transnationals—like Wal-Mart, Federated Department Stores, and the Gap—selling vast quantities of apparel, have put many of the smaller stores and even some of the larger department stores out of business. New forms of corporate retailing have played a crucial role in the globalization of the textileapparel complex. Today, transnationals compete for retail market share and market power, both nationally and internationally.

    For the past twenty years or so, retailing has been driving the thrust...

  15. 11 Finally Free Trade: The Future of the Global Apparel Industry
    (pp. 202-219)

    One year after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Uruguay Round of trade talks led to the ending of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its replacement by the World Trade Agreement. The GATT, which had endured for more than fifty years, was terminated in 1994. The following year, the Multifibre Arrangement, which had regulated textile and apparel imports to the United States since 1974 under the GATT, ended and was replaced with the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC).

    The year 1994 ended a forty-year period of regulated trade for the U.S. textile...

  16. 12 The New Global Apparel Trade: Who Wins, Who Loses?
    (pp. 220-252)

    By now, Americans are aware of the globalization of the U.S. apparel industry. They know about the loss of apparel jobs in the United States, the reemergence of sweatshops at home, and the growth of new ones abroad. They understand that “free trade” means low-wage imports, and that it has led to the development of substandard working conditions in apparel factories, whether these factories are in Latin America, Asia, or the United States. At the same time, they hear from neoliberal advocates of free trade, experts who claim that sweatshops, though inevitable in the short run, will lead to economic...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 253-310)
  18. Index
    (pp. 311-337)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)