MSN is proud to present a growing collection of profiles and interviews with women labour rights organizers in Mexico and Central America who have been playing central roles in key struggles. With different backgrounds and experience, these women offer unique approaches to advancing women's and labour rights. They share a passion for their work and the perseverance to overcome the fundamental challenges to workers' rights and the specific challenges facing women both at work and in their communities.
Many of these interviews have previously been featured in MSN's newsletter, Maquila Solidarity Update.
Yannick Etiene is an organizer for the May First Union Federation and a member of the Haitian social movement Batay Ouvriye. MSN had the opportunity to speak with Yannick in Washington DC in October 2012.
In June 2010, Blanca Velasquez, the Director of the Worker Support Centre in Puebla (CAT, for its Spanish acronym) was in Toronto for a conference on "Building Solidarity with the Democratic Labour Movement in Mexico" organized by Canadian unions and international federations. Blanca spoke about the ongoing organizing efforts at auto parts factories in Puebla owned by Johnson Controls. After the meeting, Blanca discussed her experience as a woman leader in the labour rights movement.
On September 12-15, representatives from women worker organizations from around the world gathered in Seoul, South Korea to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Korean Women's Trade Union (KWTU) and to exchange and assess innovative organizing strategies. Sandra Ramos, founder and director of Nicaragua's Maria Elena Cuadra Movement of Working and Unemployed Women (MEC), a long-term MSN partner, and Ana Enriquez from MSN both attended the meeting, and then participated in a three-day exchange program to explore innovative organizing strategies in that part of the world.
Shortly after Christmas 2005 Mexico City-based actress Inti Barrios was informed that her brother, labour rights activist Martin Barrios, had been jailed for his work on behalf of garment workers. During the following weeks Inti spent a lot of time among the maquila workers who supported her brother, listening to their stories. After Martin was released Inti looked for a way to give thanks to the workers and labour organizations that had stood in solidarity with him. To do so she resurrected a fashion show she had put on back in 2002, which explored the stories of workers who manufacture blue jeans.
During the hectic week of the Jerzees Nuevo Día Honduras factory inauguration, Evangelina Argueta, the coordinator for maquila organizing in the Choloma region for the Honduran General Workers' Confederation (CGT), took time out for an interview with MSN in San Pedro Sula. Evangelina has been at the forefront of many organizing efforts over the year, including the recent historic victory won by the Jerzees de Honduras workers.
The struggle for workers' rights in the Philippines faces many challenges. Threats, violence, arrests and assassinations of union and labour and human rights advocates are commonplace, tolerated by authorities and carried out by police and security forces. MSN recently spoke with Cecille Tuico, a researcher and organizer with the Workers Assistance Centre (WAC) about the labour rights situation in the Philippines and how the crisis is affecting workers.
The following is an edited version of an interview by US journalist David Bacon with Julia Quiñonez, the coordinator of the Border Committee of Women Workers. The CFO is a grassroots organization that's led by women and men who work in the maquiladoras. The CFO works in three Mexican states, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. Its purpose is to educate and organize workers around their labor rights. The organization also focuses on discussing the impact of free trade on workers.
Between Blue Waters, A History of Violence by Socorro Chablé tells the story of Reyna Ramírez, who started working in maquilas in Puebla, Mexico when she was just 13. Working for years in the unhealthily maquila environment eventually took a toll on her body and she developed throat, respiratory problems, headaches and muscle aches.
Now Reyna heads the Collective of Defiant Women Workers, a Puebla NGO which helps women maquila workers, with a particular focus on health issues. The group is collaborating with the Hesperian Foundation and using several of their publications on workplace health to develop training courses for maquila workers.
A 2005 publication from the Clean Clothes Campaign profiling women activists and the gender issues inherent in global struggles for garment workers rights. From the introduction: “The women action researchers, consumer activists, union organisers, and others highlighted here have taken risks and championed different approaches that have con¬tributed to the movement that in all its shapes and forms has brought us to where we are now in the struggle for justice for garment workers. These women demystify what it takes to be gender aware. They demonstrate that gender awareness is not a confusing proposition at all. Put simply, keeping women workers’ needs central to what guides their work is what keeps them on the path of supporting worker empowerment.”
Stories from pioneer union organizers in the maquilas and banana plantations of Guatemala and Honduras who have inspired campaigns against sweatshops across North America. Provides first person accounts of life in the maquilas.